Lions lose Kiwis decider
New Zealand A have been crowned winners of the Royal London One-Day Triangular Series after a superb innings from Hamish Rutherford underpinned a seven-wicket victory under the Duckworth-Lewis method over England Lions.
Set a target of 220 from 36 overs, following rain at New Road, opener Rutherford set the tone with 10 fours and two sixes in his 95 off 84 balls before Tom Latham's unbeaten 48 completed the job with 21 balls remaining.
The Lions, who had been so impressive in victory against Sri Lanka A on Monday, struggled in this winner-takes-all clash, and only half-centuries from Jonny Bairstow and Tom Smith helped them to 255-8.
That they reached something approaching a par total at all will be of some relief after slipping to 89-5 after losing the toss against a Kiwis side featuring seven players with Test caps to their name.
Much of the damage was done by Matt Henry (3-56), who accounted for Ravi Bopara, captain James Taylor and Jason Roy after Scott Kuggeleijn had made the breakthrough by removing James Vince.
Vince's opening partner Alex Hales and Bairstow, who clubbed a century against the same side in a losing effort last week, steadied the ship but the former departed for 37 after being caught behind off Ish Sodhi.
That brought together Yorkshire's Bairstow and Lancashire's Smith, and the two set added 91 in 17.2 overs. Bairstow plundered eight fours in his 77 off 84 balls before edging Doug Bracewell behind.
Smith would finish on 71 not out off 87 deliveries, with four boundaries and a maximum, while a late cameo from Toby Roland-Jones (29no off 26 balls) helped the Lions finish with a flourish.
However, the heavens opened and once they had stopped, the Lions may have felt they had been given a helping hand by the Duckworth-Lewis regulations as New Zealand were given significantly less overs to chase down only a fractionally lower total.
A 109-run opening partnership eschewed that notion as Anton Devcich and Rutherford laid the platform for New Zealand, and although the former perished for 49 before Dean Brownlie departed quickly afterwards, it mattered little to the overall proceedings.
Rutherford was particularly impressive, bringing up his 50 with a six off Stephen Parry in the 15th over, and he continued to put England's bowlers to the sword before falling five runs short a well-deserved century after missing a drive off slow left-armer Parry.
That ended a partnership of 80 with Latham, whose run-a-ball 48 not out helped New Zealand past the victory target.