Back to the drawing board

New Zealand 192-6. England 137 all out (19.3 overs)

Word of the day: Execution. Captains Stuart Broad and Brendon McCullum were intent on ingraining the need to ‘execute their skills’ at the toss, but it was the latter who performed a crucifixion Henry VIII would have been proud of. McCullum, leading from the front with a typically belligerent 74, wreaked havoc at another picture-postcard ground. Hamilton was the venue of a royal slaying.

Judging by England’s record score in Auckland, a simple win the toss and bat first scenario would have gone down well, but Broad decided to plunge the other way. The short boundaries, suggestions of a fast and bouncy wicket, and the paradisiacal setting did little to deter Broad from inserting the home side, a decision that left many scratching their sun-parched foreheads.

If that decision raised a few eyebrows, Broad’s next plan of attack induced some into a coma of disbelief. Citing pace and bounce as a reason to bowl first, James Tredwell suddenly trotted up to deliver the first over. He might have a decent arm-ball but he’s no Steven Finn. Without a moment’s hesitation, Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford took the Kent spinner for 10 in the first over; this rather set the tone for what would be one way traffic throughout the innings.

Guptill and Rutherford hurtled along at 9 runs per over, dispatching Broad and Finn to the boundary with regularity and confidence. There was no sign of the hesitancy Rutherford showed in his dismissal in Auckland; instead there were pulls and cuts laden with positivity and intent. Guptill too seemed to have erased the rust he showed in South Africa; he sauntered to 47 before eventually mishitting a sweep off Tredwell.

That wasn’t before Rutherford’s impressive cameo had surpassed. With three sixes and a four, the 23-year old looks to have settled into the international arena very nicely. His 40 helped New Zealand to dominate the opening stages. It was 105-2 in the 12th when both openers were back in the hut, but New Zealand’s position was to get even stronger still. Brendon McCullum, worryingly short of runs since taking over the captaincy, demonstrated exactly why he is regarded as one of the most dangerous T20 batsmen on the circuit. His 74 was trademark McCullum; he punished Broad in particular through both off and on-side. The England captain conceded 22 from his last over as he recording the unflattering figures of 0 for 53.

Despite another plucky spell from Luke Wright (2-24), New Zealand’s total of 192 had reached par, stared it in the face and promptly ran on by. It would be an uphill task for the tourists, who set 215 for victory in Auckland.

Batting second was always going to warrant a different approach. The freedom Michael Lumb, Alex Hales, Luke Wright and Eoin Morgan enjoyed in Auckland never materialised. They needed to hit straight, find the gaps, and run well. Unfortunately England did none of the above. Hales and Wright went within the space of two balls as a fired-up Mitch McClenaghan steamed in. Jonny Bairstow, another of the Auckland aggressors, cracked a couple of nice boundaries through the covers, but failed to score off any of his other seven balls. McClenaghan was waiting once again, this time underneath a catch from the bowling of the returning Ian Butler.

Lumb and Morgan would have needed a partnership of epic proportions to rescue the game, but they never looked like securing what would have been England’s highest ever T20 chase. Morgan was the mainstay of the victory in Mumbai – when we chased 181 against India a few weeks ago – but he never got going. New Zealand restricted England’s scoring to five per over and soon sent both batsmen packing. Game over.

Jos Buttler provided the only resistance. His 54 marked his maiden international half-century, but it was also a sign of the good form he has shown in the warm ups leading in to this series. His innings took England to three figures, something they failed to achieve once or twice in 2012.

Stuart Broad admitted that his side didn’t ‘execute their plans’. Well what else would he say? The reality is New Zealand beheaded any chance of the tourists making it 2-0 fairly quickly.



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