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.
Cook added: “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.”
Sheffield batsman Root, meanwhile, earned an England incremental contract after appearing in yesterday’s one-day international.
The Yorkshire batsman, 22, has played one Test against India, in which he made 73, six one-day internationals with a batting average of 54.75, and two Twenty20 internationals, taking him past the 20-point threshold to earn a contract.
National selector Geoff Miller said: “Congratulations to Joe who has made his international debut in all three formats in a short period of time and has made important contributions for England so far this winter.”