Jonny Bairstow completed back-to-back centuries to power England to a sixth ODI series win on the spin with a seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in Christchurch.
Bairstow followed his 138 in Dunedin with a blistering 104 from 60 balls at Hagley Oval as the tourists cantered past New Zealand’s 223 all out in 32.4 overs in the the fifth and deciding match.
The Yorkshireman moved from 50 to 100 in just 20 deliveries as he sealed a 58-ball ton – the third-quickest by an Englishman – striking six sixes and nine fours, including three maximums off spinner Ish Sodhi in the 18th over.
Bairstow, who eventually fell hit wicket, had earlier taken a stunning one-handed boundary catch amid a disciplined bowling performance from England as they dismissed the Black Caps in 49.5 overs.
Chris Woakes (3-32) and Adil Rashid (3-42) shared six wickets as New Zealand laboured without Dunedin match-winner Ross Taylor, who missed the game with a thigh issue.
Kane Williamson’s side tumbled to 93-6 in Taylor’s absence, before Mitchell Santner (67) and Henry Nicholls (55) revived the innings with a stand of 84 for the seventh wicket.
However, Bairstow and Alex Hales (61) – the latter playing his first game of the series due to Jason Roy suffering a back spasm – shared an opening partnership of 155 in 20.2 overs to extinguish New Zealand’s hopes.
Ben Stokes (26no off 18) wrapped up victory with a six off the expensive Sodhi as England condemned the hosts to their first ODI defeat on the ground in nine games and ensured skipper Eoin Morgan (8) celebrated a series victory in his 200th ODI.
Morgan elected to bowl and saw Woakes give England a terrific start when he had Colin Munro caught behind from the third ball of the match.
Munro followed his duck in Dunedin with another in Christchurch after spooning to Jos Buttler off a leading edge, the beginning of an error-strewn first half of the innings for the Black Caps, who were limited to just 31 runs from the first 11 overs by Woakes and Mark Wood (1-26).
Williamson (14) inside-edged Wood on to his stumps looking to steer to third man; Tom Latham (10) chipped tamely to short midwicket after being deceived in flight by Rashid; and Mark Chapman (0), Taylor’s replacement in the Kiwis’ XI, was bowled by a ball from Ali that straightened after pitching.
Martin Guptill, rapped on the thumb by Wood early in his innings, made 47 before he drilled to Stokes at cover, while Colin de Grandhomme (6) gave his wicket away, lofting Rashid to long-on, as England’s spinners backed up the new-ball pair of Woakes and Wood.
Nicholls – who had mustered just 14 runs in his previous four innings in the series – then played a disciplined knock, reaching his fifty from 73 balls, while Santner set a new career-best in the format, topping the 63 not out he totalled in the second ODI at Mount Maunganui.
Santner – who reached fifty from 60 balls after being dropped by Ali on 58 – was caught smartly by Hales at deep midwicket but Bairstow outdid his opening partner from the next legal ball Woakes bowled, running round the boundary to take a superb one-handed grab to remove Southee.
Tom Curran, who was not brought on to bowl until the 40th over, polished off the innings with a ball to spare by having Sodhi (5) caught by Stokes, that wicket adding to his earlier scalp of Nicholls.
New Zealand took just three England wickets, though – Bairstow smashing his bat into his leg-stump while attempting to cut Trent Boult away; Hales, who posted his half-century from 67 balls, sweeping Santner to midwicket; and Morgan pulling Sodhi to De Grandhomme in the deep.
Stokes was dropped twice in as many balls off the expensive Sodhi shortly before his match-winning maximum, Joe Root (23no) watching from the non-striker’s end as his partner slammed the spinner over cow corner.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Man of the Match, JONNY BAIRSTOW: “It’s different from batting in the middle order but my job now is to score big hundreds and contribute match-winning scores. That’s what I’m trying to do but it’s still a work in progress.”
Man of the Series, CHRIS WOAKES: “I felt like the ball has come out all right, its been a close series and it is always nice to come out on top in these tight series against a good side like New Zealand.
“Wickets up front in one-day cricket are crucial when you’ve got guys like they have who can take the game away from you, it’s important to try and get those wickets up front and hopefully that stems the flow and gives our spinners the opportunity to bowl through the middle against guys who haven’t faced too many deliveries.”
England’s limited-overs side will next be in action in an ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh on June 10, kicking off a summer that features white-ball games against Australia (five ODIs and one Twenty20) and India (three ODIs and three Twenty20s).
Root’s Test team, though, will stick in New Zealand for the two-Test series, with the day-night first game getting underway in Auckland on March 22 before the sides return to Christchurch for the second encounter from March 30.