Oct 31, 2019
The Report by George Dobell
England 154 for 3 (Vince 59, Santner 3-23) beat New Zealand 153 for 5 (Taylor 44) by seven wickets
A maiden T20I half-century from James Vince helped a new-look England get their New Zealand tour off to a winning start in Christchurch.
Despite taking the opportunity to look at three debutants – Sam Curran, Pat Brown and Lewis Gregory – England ensured the reign of new head coach, Chris Silverwood, got off to a winning start in sealing a sixth successive T20I victory. For a side experimenting with fringe candidates a year out from the T20 World Cup, it was a satisfying performance.
There were some dissenting voices when Vince, now 28 and playing his 35th international game across formats for England, was recalled. But when he bats like this, combining composure with an ability to time the ball that few can match, it is easy to see why the selectors have found it so hard to cut him adrift.
Here, demonstrating a range of conventional strokes, Vince controlled the run-chase perfectly. From the moment he hit his first delivery for four, a classy square drive of Mitchell Santner, he batted with a fluency no other batsman in the game could replicate. Using his feet to pace and spin alike, he made it hard for New Zealand’s bowlers to settle on a length and hit as many fours – seven – as their batsmen managed in their entire innings.
But while Vince may dominate the headlines, this was a result set up by a skilful display from England’s bowlers. Maintaining immaculate lines and lengths, they varied their paces cleverly to keep New Zealand to a total perhaps 20 under par on a surface that was a little sluggish – understandably, too: this is the earliest date an international game has been played in New Zealand’s South Island – but which offered bowlers little.
The opening pair of Sam and Tom Curran conceded just seven from the first three overs of the match – Tom Curran started with a maiden – to ensure New Zealand were unable to make full use of the Powerplay. And while Sam Curran’s figures were dented by a third over that cost 21 – Colin Munro punishing Morgan’s decision to extend the bowler’s spell with two successive sixes – he had already snared the key wicket of a frustrated Guptill, playing-on as he looked to force the pace.
It was a decent start from Brown, too. Bowling at the death, he showed both his skills and his composure, conceding two sixes but no fours, and claiming a notable maiden international wicket when Ross Taylor mistimed a slower ball to deep midwicket. The third debutant, Lewis Gregory, was not required with bat or ball, though looked just a touch nervous in the field.
But perhaps Chris Jordan was the pick of the bowlers. While Tim Seifert may have been unlucky with his dismissal – replays suggested the full toss he scooped to mid-wicket was perilously close to waist height – Jordan demonstrated a good range of pace, good control and a willingness to bowl both in the Powerplay and at the death.
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That New Zealand were able to set anything like a competitive target was largely due to a fifth-wicket stand of 56 in 38 balls between Ross Taylor and Daryl Mitchell. Mitchell hit the ball as hard as anyone but, coming in at 93 for 4 in the 14th over, had been left too much to do to get New Zealand up to a match-winning total. Only four overs in New Zealand innings realised more than 10 runs; only one realised more than 13.
Any hopes that New Zealand may have enough were quickly banished. Jonny Bairstow may have taken eight balls to get off the mark, but he then took 18 – three fours and a six – off Scott Kuggeleijn’s first over. So while Santner, with his changes of pace, troubled England with three wickets, the support bowlers – Kuggeleijn and Ish Sodhi – were unable to maintain the pressure.
When Bairstow, brilliantly caught by Martin Guptill at deep mid-wicket after he had been drawn into slog-sweeping one well outside off stump, and then Vince, mistiming a long-hop in the same direction, fell New Zealand may have harboured hopes of a dramatic fightback. But Eoin Morgan was too experienced to allow that and sealed the result with a heave over midwicket off Tim Southee with nine deliveries remaining. The result puts England one-up in the five-match series.
At the post-match press conference, Mitchell conceded that New Zealand were about 10 short of a par score. “We would’ve liked to have done better but I think England probably adapted better to the pitch than we did. It was tough to start on, was a bit two-paced and a bit slow. We lost a few wickets straight after the Powerplay there which halted our momentum a bit and we had to play catch up but fair play to England. They might have been a bit more match-fit having played a couple of warm up games and hopefully we’ll learn from this and be ready for the next one.”
The match was preceded by a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack of March 15 in the city. All proceeds from ticket sales at the match are to be to donated to a fund to encourage the participation of ethnic minorities in sport.
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