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Martin Guptill knows a thing or two about pain and adversity. Losing three toes on his left foot in a forklift accident as a youngster gives some perspective.
So when he limped slowly to the centre of Seddon Park with a strained left hamstring last night, unable to use a runner under new ICC rules, he gritted his teeth and swung from the hip in support of his captain, Brendon McCullum.
The result was another epic Hamilton runchase as New Zealand beat England by three wickets, with seven balls to spare, in the first ODI before a crowd of 6944.
Having retired hurt on three when sprinting a short single, Guptill returned at No 9 and blazed 24 off 10 balls including consecutive boundaries off seamer Chris Woakes. With McCullum guiding the team home from No 6, cracking 69 not out off 61 balls, they overhauled England's below-par 258 and head to Napier on Wednesday chasing an ODI series victory.
"It was pretty satisfying. There were many times when we were behind the eight ball and we showed some fighting characteristics; it's an important trait for us that we do keep scrapping like that," McCullum said.
As they say, there's something about Hamilton. There were shades of McCullum's starring middle order role from when New Zealand chased down 347 to beat Australia at Seddon Park six years ago.
England's cricketers will join other international sporting teams in cursing the city. Their previous three visits also ended in defeats, in the 2008 ODI and test, and last week's T20 international.
Guptill will have an MRI scan today but is almost certainly out for the ODI series, and McCullum said he would target a return for the first test in Dunedin on March 6. Left-hander Hamish Rutherford is the most likely replacement for Napier.
There was more injury drama, too, with fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan also set for an extended period on the sidelines.
McClenaghan departed the field, ashen faced, with two deliveries left in his allotted 10 overs. Having taken 4-56 to continue his flying start to international cricket in his fourth ODI, McClenaghan's series is over with a side strain.
Trent Boult, omitted for game one, is the likely replacement for Wednesday's game two in Napier.
New Zealand were always behind in their chase. After Guptill's departure, Ross Taylor (22 off 38) struggled again before Kane Williamson (74 off 101) played a mature hand. But when he was run out in a mix-up with McCullum, it looked bleak.
The skipper then blasted Steven Finn and James Anderson - the latter became England's highest wicket-taker in all formats with 529 - into the crowd and New Zealand needed 81 off the last 10 overs.
"We discussed once he [Guptill] had come off that he'd look to come in at nine or 10. We knew that running was going to be limited for him but he's a very clean striker of the ball and it almost played into our hands. I could try and get off strike and let him try and swing for the boundaries," McCullum said.
When Guptill arrived, to the biggest roar, New Zealand needed 41 off 25 balls and they cantered home.
New Zealand hauled England back after sending them in, thanks to McClenaghan's late wickets, an outstanding Kyle Mills spell of 2-32 and some scratchy batting from Jonathan Trott (68 off 90 balls) in his first international in two months.
The tourists were dismissed for 258 in the final over after they were well set at 163-2 when the power play was called in the 35th over. They only managed 27 in those five overs and their last eight wickets fell for 74.
Captain Alistair Cook, who played his first game of the tour along with Trott, Ian Bell, Anderson and Graeme Swann, said the team were rusty. They should have got 280-290 with the bat.
"Both sides got themselves in a position to win that game and it was up to someone to stand up and grab it by the scruff of the neck and win it, and those two did it for New Zealand," Cook said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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