sport

Cook's praise for Kiwi pair

England were ambushed by 'wounded soldier' Martin Guptill as New Zealand won the first one-day international by three wickets.

Alastair Cook's tourists appeared to be on course for an opening victory at several stages, but in the end Guptill and New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum (69no) were triumphant and jubilant at Seddon Park.

England failed to capitalise as they had hoped, put in to bat first, on three individual half-centuries from Ian Bell (64), Jonathan Trott (68) and Joe Root (56).

Instead, Mitchell McClenaghan - who was unable to complete his final over because of a series-ending side strain - finished with four for 56 as England ran out of steam on 258 all out.

Then Kane Williamson (74) gave the run chase early substance before McCullum upped the ante down at number six.

But it was Guptill, after initially retiring hurt on three with a hamstring strain, who returned to remarkable effect at number nine to hit 24 runs from just 10 balls as he and McCullum sealed victory with seven balls to spare.

There were four fours and a six in his unbeaten 27 and Cook said: "When you get seven wickets, the normal next man in is a bowler.

"But it was an opening batter who hits it as well as that, and he played very well."

McCullum did even more damage, hitting six fours and three sixes from 61 balls.

"He's obviously a very dangerous player," added Cook.

"Whether he bats at the top of the order or coming in there at six, he's very hard to bowl to.

"The trick is to try to get him out early."

The whole match was a case of what might have been for England.

"We got ourselves in position to win that," said their captain.

"But they got themselves over the line, and we couldn't quite manage to put the pressure on them.

"We just kept losing wickets at crucial times, and never really got the partnership towards the end of the innings - which could have got us up to 280 or 290.

"We batted well up front, but probably loaded a little bit too much towards the end - put a bit too much pressure on our big hitters.

"But we got into an okay position to launch; then the guys at the end didn't quite come off.

"I think both sides would have felt disappointed losing that game.

"Both sides kind of got themselves in position to win, and someone had to stand up and grab it by the scruff of the neck - and those two did it for New Zealand."

Cook conceded his team were slightly short of match sharpness, several of them coming back after a mid-winter rest.

Asked if they will improve, he said: "I hope so. We need to if we want to win the series.

"You always are a little bit (rusty), when you haven't had a practice match or a (training) session as a side.

"But it was more match hardness, which we were missing a little bit today."

There were no such problems for the Kiwis, whose resilience was exemplified by Guptill.

"To see Martin coming out and being able to strike the way he did was fantastic," said McCullum.

"What he did tonight really showed some fighting qualities.

"We'd discussed once he'd come off that he'd look to come in at either nine or 10. We knew that running was obviously going to be limited for him, but he's still obviously a very clean striker of the ball.

"There were plenty of times today when we were not out of the game but definitely behind the eight-ball.

"I thought we showed some fighting characteristics. It's a really important trait for us that we do keep scrapping like that."

In defeat, James Anderson achieved a piece of England cricket history by taking his 529th international wicket.

That is the most by any Englishman, surpassing Ian Botham - who was in attendance, watching from a broadcast commentary box.

"That's a fantastic stat to have, and record to have, and he thoroughly deserves it," said Cook.

"I think he's in really good shape. The last three years, he's led the attack, and he's an outstanding bowler.

"I'm glad to have him on our side. I thought the way he bowled up front again today was very good."

McClenaghan will have a scan on his side tomorrow while Guptill will miss Wednesday's second match. He will be assessed again tomorrow, when New Zealand are planning to call up at least one replacement player.