sport

Pace pair put Cook in happy mood

Alastair Cook had his pace attack to thank most for helping England to their first ODI series win in New Zealand for more than 20 years.

Not since 1991/92 have England got the better of the Kiwis here in a 50-over series.

While no one could compare this overdue victory with November and December's historic first successful Test tour of India for 27 years, also under Cook's captaincy, it is still another notable achievement.

England did it the hard way too, going 1-0 down in the first match of three in Hamilton but recovering to post comfortable wins in Napier and then at Eden Park.

Both times, it was the new-ball bowling of Steven Finn and James Anderson which put them in control.

Today, Finn took the honours with figures of three for 27.

He and Anderson reduced the Kiwis to 11 for three - and despite another fine hand from their captain Brendon McCullum (79), the hosts could never recover sufficiently to post a testing target.

"It's been quite a long time since we won a one-day series in New Zealand, so we will enjoy tonight," said Cook, after his team had coasted past 185 all out with five wickets and more than 12 overs to spare.

"We've shown a lot of character.

"We were disappointed with ourselves in that first game. Then we had two must-win games, and we held our nerve and raised our standard."

Cook points out that, although many pundits expected England to add this ODI series to their Twenty20 triumph here, New Zealand can be formidable opponents in their own country.

"We came into this series, and everyone was saying 'you're expected to win quite easily'.

"We were saying 'we'll have none of that - because it's 21 years since we won a one-day series here, and the Kiwis have just beaten South Africa in one'.

"We can be mighty proud of the way we've gone about our business this week."

There is no doubt Finn and Anderson were the key.

"I actually thought they were better today than they were in the last game," added Cook.

"There's not actually very much the batter can do if they bowl like that.

"They're taking a big punt to take a risk to try to score some runs."

It all augurs well for future assignments, including next summer's Champions Trophy back in England.

"If we can bowl like that, we're going to be a very hard side in English conditions to get away," said the captain.

"Steven Finn and Jimmy set the tone perfectly, and the other guys backed them up really well."

Finn was bowling off his new shortened run-up for the second time, and Cook said: "I think it's helped him get a little bit more rhythm.

"He would admit himself at the start of this tour, and at the start of the India tour, he didn't quite have the rhythm he'd have liked.

"But something's just clicked this last couple of games, and he's bowled beautifully."

Cook's opposite number McCullum could hardly help but be impressed too.

"I thought England bowled outstandingly early on," he said.

"They extracted some pace and bounce at the start that probably wasn't seen for the remainder of the game.

"It put us under that early pressure ... and to be bowled out for 185 on such a good wicket was never enough.

"It's a missed opportunity. After going 1-0 up in the series, riding on the back of such a good performance in South Africa as well ... clearly it's disappointing in the dressing room."

McCullum stressed that Ross Taylor's dismissal, caught behind off Stuart Broad after a contentious DRS ruling, was not the reason for defeat.

But it did not help their cause while they were hinting at recovery, and the Kiwi captain was at a loss to understand why the third umpire was unable to overturn Chris Gaffaney's original decision when 'Hotspot' revealed no evidence of contact with the bat.

"I would have thought the lack of an edge on 'Hotspot' was conclusive enough evidence.

"If you nick the ball it shows up on 'Hotspot', and if you don't nick it it doesn't."

Rod Tucker upheld his colleague's verdict, because of a convincing bat-on-ball sound on video replay.

McCullum added: "I wondered whether there were fireworks ... which could have been going off at the same time!

"But that wasn't the losing of the game. We were outplayed in many different areas... it was just a bit frustrating at that point."

He was unable to keep wicket because of an abdominal strain but expects to be fit in time for the start of a three-Test series next month.

While the hosts seek to recover their composure for that challenge, Cook is already fancying England's chances.

"Certainly we can take a lot of confidence from the way we bowled at their top order.

"We know we can put them under pressure again with the red ball."