Allrounder Ben Stokes' return to the England cricket team Sunday after a five-month absence was overshadowed by a century from Ross Taylor that guided New Zealand to a three-wicket win with four balls to spare in the first one-day international.
Stokes contributed 12 runs from 22 balls to England's total of 284-5 as the visitors batted first after winning the toss. Jos Buttler (79), Joe Root (71) and Jason Roy (49) to ensure England put up a competitive total on a relatively slow pitch.
But Stokes made a more significant contribution in the field, claiming a catch, taking 2/43 from eight overs and most notably breaking the 178-run partnership between Taylor, who made 113, and Tom Latham (79) that bridged the gap between the teams.
New Zealand was 27/3 when Stokes took a catch from Chris Woakes' bowling to dismiss Martin Guptill (13), only three balls after captain Kane Williamson (8) fell at the same score.
Taylor reached his 18th century in one-day internationals, surpassing 7,000 runs in the 50 over format as he did so, and Latham passed 2,000 runs in a pivotal partnership.
When Stokes had Latham caught by Joe Root at 205/4 with 10.1 overs remaining, England was confident it was back in the match. Taylor posted his century from 108 balls with only 10 fours and didn't appear likely to blast New Zealand to victory, especially if the England bowlers could contain as well as they had done for much of the innings.
New Zealand quickly lost the wickets of Henry Nicholls and Colin de Grandhomme that put England in a strong position, even with Taylor still at the pitch. Captain Eoin Morgan then made the inspired decision to bowl leg-spinner Adil Rashid in the 46th over and he lured Taylor into a rash shot that saw him stumped for 113, leaving New Zealand 244/7 with 4.1 overs left.
Mitchell Santner, who struggled to score early in his innings, found another gear and smashed 45 from 27 balls in an unbroken partnership of 43 with Tim Southee for the eighth wicket to see New Zealand home.
New Zealand came to the last over needing nine runs and achieved them when Santner took a streaky boundary from Chris Woakes, allowed a wide to go past, then smashed the third ball for six and the winning runs.
"There wasn't much between the sides today and I think that was reflected in the result," Morgan said. "It was good, competitive game and I think we posted a really competitive score.
"Credit to Joe Root, Jason Roy and Jos Buttler towards the end. I think we put a good, competitive score on the board and really made good inroads to start. To get a good quality side like that three down early we were certainly in the hunt. They fought back really well, Ross played a really good knock and Latham played well also.
"It ebbed and flowed for quite a while and when we broke the partnership we knew we were back in the game. Taking it towards the end we just didn't have enough in the tank."
Taylor showed a cool head in guiding the New Zealand chase, showing no concern when New Zealand seemed to dip below the necessary run rate.
"It was a hell of a game," he said. "England came out and posted a tough total. I think the partnership with Tom was outstanding as was (Santner) and the way he finished it off was the difference."
Stokes' return was the feature of the match. The New Zealand-born allrounder hasn't played for England since Sept. 25 when he was arrested after a fracas outside a nightclub in Bristol. He was suspended until prosecutors decided whether he would be charged over the incident and allowed to return to the England team after the decision was made to charge him with affray.
The England and Wales Cricket Board ruled that Stokes is entitled to the presumption of innocence until any court proceedings are completed.
Stokes missed the Ashes test series in Australia, the subsequent five-match one-day series that England won 4-1 and the just-completed Twenty20 Tri-Series involving England, Australia and New Zealand.
The only competitive cricket he has played since the Bristol incident, which occurred on the night after a one-day international against the West Indies, was a short stint for Canterbury province in New Zealand's domestic limited-overs competitions.
His return to the batting crease Sunday lasted 27 minutes and 22 balls; he hit a single four before attempting a slog-sweep from the bowling of Santner that he top-edged to Taylor.
Buttler hit 79 from 65 balls before being run out in the last over, Root made 71 from 75 balls and Roy made 49 from 66 deliveries.