Ben Stokes’ fifty on one-day international comeback came in vain as centuries from Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell powered New Zealand to a thumping eight-wicket victory over England in the series opener at Cardiff.
Stokes struck 52 from 69 balls in his first 50-over game since reversing his retirement, with his knock, plus half-centuries from Jos Buttler (72 off 68), Dawid Malan (54 off 53) and Liam Livingstone (52 off 40), helping England post 291-6 on what looked a tricky surface.
However, Conway (111no off 121) reached his hundred from 115 balls before Mitchell (118no off 91) raced to the milestone in 84 deliveries, with the duo sharing an unbroken third-wicket stand of 180 as New Zealand eased home with 26 balls to spare.
England 291-6 from 50 overs: Jos Buttler (72 off 68), Dawid Malan (54 off 53), Liam Livingstone (52 off 40), Ben Stokes (52 off 69); Rachin Ravindra (3-48), Tim Southee (2-71)
New Zealand 297-2 from 45.4 overs: Daryl Mitchell (118no off 91), Devon Conway (111no off 121); David Willey (1-32), Adil Rashid (1-70)
Adil Rashid bowled New Zealand opener Will Young (29) with a cracking leg break but was later tucked into by Mitchell after returning to the attack following a bout of cramp, recording figures of 1-70 from from his eight overs, while Reece Topley (0-47) and ODI debutant Gus Atkinson (0-47) were also expensive.
Former England captain Andrew Flintoff, who was hospitalised last December after he suffered facial injuries in a crash while filming for Top Gear, was with the home side in Wales.
This game was the first ODI meeting between England and New Zealand since the dramatic World Cup final at Lord’s in 2019, a game England won on boundary countback.
The defending champions will face the Black Caps at this year’s World Cup opener, in Ahmedabad on October 5, with question marks still surrounding the final make-up of their squad.
Malan and Livingstone’s innings in Cardiff were timely with the pair seen as at risk if England were to select Harry Brook in their final World Cup 15, which must be confirmed no later than September 28.
Brook opened with Malan in the absence of Jason Roy (back spasm) and Jonny Bairstow (right shoulder), scoring 25 from 41 balls in a Malan-dominated stand of 80, but failing to significantly press his World Cup claims.
Malan one of four England batters to pass fifty in Cardiff
Malan unfurled a number of coruscating cover drives en route to a 48-ball half-century before he was bowled off his pad and elbow by Rachin Ravindra (3-48) in the 15th over looking to turn to leg.
Brook gloved a snorter of a short ball from Lockie Ferguson behind five deliveries later – a wicket that brought Stokes to the crease.
England were tottering on 101-3 when Joe Root (16) swept Ravindra to deep midwicket, leaving Stokes and Buttler to rebuild the innings, just as they had done at Lord’s four years ago.
Buttler and Stokes put on a sedate 88 from 104 balls as they negotiated a difficult deck – their stand largely devoid of boundaries – before Stokes was caught at cover off Ravindra, two balls after securing a 67-ball fifty with a six over square leg.
Buttler’s fifty partnership with Livingstone was much brisker, sealed from 31 deliveries with the third of Livingstone’s three sixes in a row off the out-of-sorts Kyle Jamieson (0-61 from seven overs).
That alliance was snapped on 77 from 59 balls in the 48th over when Livingstone holed out off Southee’s off-cutter, two deliveries before top-scorer Buttler did the exact same thing.
England’s innings was in danger of petering out, only for David Willey (21no off 11) to crunch Southee for four and six in a 16-run final over – the last ball launched over the rope at long-on.
Conway, Mitchell lead the charge as New Zealand coast home
Any momentum the hosts had built up was quickly extinguished as loose bowling, particularly from Topley, whose first two-over spell went for 25, saw the Black Caps race to 61-0 from 10 overs through Conway and Young.
Rashid broke the stand in style with the first ball of his spell, bowling Young off stump with a delicious delivery that drifted in and turned away after pitching.
Rashid was affected by cramp and forced to leave the field, rendering him unable to bowl as Conway proceeded to share big stands with Henry Nicholls (26) and Mitchell.
Rashid returned to bowl the 37th over but was thrashed for six and and dabbed for four by Mitchell from successive deliveries, and then belted for two sixes and four by the same batter in the 43rd and four and six in the 45th.
Conway then cracked Livingstone for two sixes in the space of three balls in the 46th over to wrap up a dominant win for the Black Caps and their third in a row over England in white-ball cricket after they triumphed in the final two T20 internationals.
England and New Zealand continue their four-match ODI series at The Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Cricket (build-up begins at 10.30am ahead of the first ball at 11am).
The final two games of the series take place in London next week, at The Kia Oval on Wednesday (12.30pm start) and then Lord’s on Friday (12.30pm start).