England Open With Defeat
England lost their World Cup Group C opener against New Zealand by six wickets in St Lucia on Friday.
England paid the price for failing to heed the mistakes made during their build-up to the World Cup and suffered a costly six-wicket defeat to New Zealand in their opening match.
A paltry 209 for seven having been put into bat in the heavyweight Group C encounter was not enough to test the Kiwis, who coasted home with nine overs to spare.
Captain Michael Vaughan had stressed the need to analyse and absorb the lessons learned from their warm-up defeat to Australia in St Vincent a week earlier when England let a promising position slip and suffered a comprehensive defeat.
But despite working all week to eradicate the mistakes made against Australia, England's demise was almost a carbon copy.
England recovered from a shaky start to reach 133 for three with 15 overs remaining following an 81-run stand between Kevin Pietersen (60) and Paul Collingwood (31).
But despite a hard-hitting stand of 71 from the final 11 overs between Paul Nixon (42 not out) and Liam Plunkett (29 not out), the loss of four wickets for five runs in the middle order restricted England to a modest total.
With the Beausejour Stadium averaging around 240 per innings, England's total was always going to be under-par, and so it proved with New Zealand recovering from the loss of three wickets inside the first five overs to claim a convincing triumph.
Both sides entered the match knowing the outcome was key to their World Cup ambitions with points gained against fellow qualifiers being carried forward to the Super Eight stage.
England struggled early on with Ed Joyce edging behind to the first legitimate delivery of the day and Ian Bell falling in similar fashion trying to force the pace after hitting a frustrating five off 19 balls.
With Vaughan chopping onto his own stumps, England needed a major partnership to put them on course for a major total, which was almost provided by Collingwood and Pietersen.
A century-maker on his previous appearance against New Zealand in Brisbane, Collingwood proved the perfect foil for Pietersen's maiden World Cup innings and they guided England to within sight of a competitive score.
But just like the match against Australia, when England lost six for 30 in 10 overs, any momentum gained was quickly lost by another middle order collapse.
Collingwood had already had one reprieve when Scott Styris failed to claim a sharp return catch and two balls later he fell for a determined 31 when he edged an attempted late cut behind.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming immediately recalled strike bowler Shane Bond to dramatic effect with Pietersen's superb innings, which included four fours and a six, ending just three balls later when he attempted to hit over the top but picked out long on instead.
Three balls after that Bond also claimed the scalp of all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who pushed hard at Bond's slower ball and chipped the ball straight to cover to suffer the humiliation of a golden duck.
Jamie Dalrymple became Styris' second victim when he also edged behind and England were in danger of capitulating completely when Nixon and Plunkett came together at 138 for seven.
Nixon's selection for the World Cup had been roundly criticised after seven single-figure scores in 10 matches during the Commonwealth Bank series but he produced a timely innings of 42 off 41 balls to at least take England past 200.
That total looked even better with Anderson claiming two wickets and Plunkett grabbing another to remove Lou Vincent, Fleming and Ross Taylor inside the first five overs of New Zealand's reply.
Throughout those nervy overs, the one player who was a picture of composure was Styris, who calmly batted his way through the storm and took control of the match.
His unbeaten 87, which included nine fours, provided the mainstay of the innings as he intelligently forged a 53-run stand with Craig McMillan (27) and an unbroken 137-run partnership which sealed the game.
But for Monty Panesar striking with his second ball of the World Cup, beating McMillan in the flight and inducing him into chipping to the deep, England's defeat would have been far more comprehensive.
Instead, Oram joined Styris and England's performance gradually deteriorated as their defeat became imminent with New Zealand's cause being helped by a series of overthrows and misfields.
It will be one of a series of issues to be addressed by England's management before they re-appear at the Beausejour stadium for their second match against minnows Canada on Sunday.
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