Dawid Malan’s series-clinching century against New Zealand pushed him into pole position to open in England’s World Cup defence next month, before Rachin Ravindra landed 18/1 bets for Sporting Life readers.
Jason Roy was once again missing due to back spasms, meaning he has been sidelined for all four games against the Black Caps, and Malan produced a gem of an innings to lay claim to his top-order spot.
He made a superb 127 from 114 balls at his old home ground of Lord’s, steering England to a score of 311 for nine that the tourists never came close to matching.
They succumbed for 211, going down by exactly 100 on the night and 3-1 overall, as Moeen Ali spun his way to figures of four for 50.
It is only a matter of days since Malan was being floated as a potential fall-guy should Harry Brook find himself parachuted into the squad for the tournament in India, but he has picked his moment expertly, following knocks of 54 and 96 with his fifth ODI ton.
Now, rather than finding himself squeezed out of the trip entirely, he seems likelier to slide into the first-choice XI.
Roy, England’s long-established opener, was left kicking his heels in the dressing room once more and may now be sweating over his place. He was one of the stars of England’s 2019 triumph but his fitness issues have emerged at the worst possible time as the final squad announcement nears.
Captain Jos Buttler, who admitted at the toss that Roy is frustrated by his struggles, suggested England could add the Surrey man to a second-string side that faces Ireland next week in a bid to get him up and running.
His absence opened the door for Malan and he played his part impeccably, scoring 14 boundaries and three sixes as he occupied the crease for 40 overs with a combination of touch and timing that eluded his team-mates. When he finally departed, reaching for a cut and nicking Ravindra, it was an ill-fitting end.
By then he had eased past 1,000 ODI runs in his 21st appearance – claiming a share of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott’s joint record. With an average of 61.52 and a strike-rate of 96.52, he has a formidable track record by any reckoning.
England rested Ben Stokes after the exertions of his record-breaking 182 on Wednesday evening but Brook was unable to make a go of his chance at number four, allowing Roy some respite.
Brook was dismissed for 10 when he hit a Ravindra drag down straight to mid-on and, with 37 from his three outings this series, has failed to amplify his case. Joe Root’s struggle for rhythm also continued, twice dropped in single figures before losing his stump for 29 aiming a slog sweep at Ravindra, who finished with four for 60.
Tim Southee paid a heavy price for his handling error in the 14th over, leaving the field for X-rays which revealed a fractured and dislocated right thumb. Like Roy, his World Cup place now hangs in the air.
Buttler was the best of the rest for England, chipping in a lively 36, before New Zealand took five for 68 in a busy final 10.
Just 48 hours earlier New Zealand had fallen short by a massive margin of 181 batting second and would have been eager to show greater resolve this time.
England, though, refused to let them into the game. Buttler took care of the dangerous Devon Conway in the fifth over, flinging off his right glove and running the opener out with an opportunistic effort behind the stumps, then held on to Will Young as David Willey found an outside.
Having failed to bring the required power to the powerplay, and with news of Southee’s fractured thumb emerging, an air of resignation appeared to take hold. Twice in a row a Buttler bowling change paid off in the first over, Brydon Carse firing one into Daryl Mitchell’s off stump with a nipping delivery approaching 90mph and Moeen darting an off-break down the slope and right through Tom Latham.
At 88 for four, and with two injured tailenders, it looked like game over. Ravindra – tipped at 18/1 to be top New Zealand batsman by Richard Mann – completed a productive evening in north London by smashing 61 from number seven, but by then Moeen had already done enough.
He had Henry Nicholls lbw thanks to Buttler’s insistence on calling for DRS, then picked off Kyle Jamieson and Matt Henry with successive deliveries. Ben Lister defied a hamstring strain to block the hat-trick before Sam Curran ended Ravindra’s spree with a yorker.