England 214-7, New Zealand 174-9. Eng win by 40 runs
England’s World Twenty20 performance did little to wet our appetite for more, with a whole host of youngsters failing to adapt to Sri Lanka’s alien conditions. It also reminded us that Stuart Broad still has a lot to learn as captain, especially when nurturing young players who have showed only sporadic glimpses of what they’re capable of. But after brushing aside a horribly lacklustre New Zealand in Auckland, the future suddenly looks much brighter.
Experience, in any form of sport, is a valuable attribute; one which aids the decision making, mental aptitude and resilience of a team or individual. But the young pretenders have to start somewhere, and Auckland was the perfect destination. On a pitch described as the best he’s ever played on by Eoin Morgan, England cashed in against some amateur bowling from New Zealand’s own batch of fresh meat. Mitch McClenaghan, so impressive across the formats against South Africa, was the pick once again conceding just 29 in his four overs, but Ronnie Hira, Andrew Ellis, Trent Boult and Nathan McCullum were less economic, all being taken for more than ten an over.
Michael Lumb, Alex Hales and Luke Wright set the tone at the top of the order, rocketing to 62 for the loss of Hales by the time the field could retreat. The trio played with freedom and exploited the short boundaries; the sort you’d normally find at a school exhibition match. Sixes were as frequent as London Buses at Piccadilly Station, and only when Hales wandered out of his crease did NZ harbour hopes of restricting England. But Wright, who spanked 42 from just 20 balls, ensured that no such restriction would happen. Even when Wright departed, caught by Hira on the mid-wicket boundary off the most expensive of NZ’s bowlers, Ellis, the runs continued to flow. Eoin Morgan (46 off 26) and Jonny Bairstow (38 off 22) teamed up to plunder the hosts further into submission, and with a late flurry from the much-talked about Jos Buttler, England were able to post their highest ever T20I score.
215 was always going to be too grand a target for New Zealand to overcome, even if they did boast the returning Ross Taylor and T20 specialist Brendon McCullum in their ranks. As it happens, it was neither Taylor nor McCullum, but Martin Guptill who offered the most positive response. 44 represented by far the home side’s best effort, with Steven Finn and captain Broad chipping in with seven wickets between them; the latter recording his best T20 figures with four for 24. The Black Caps were ultimately restricted to 174-9, which meant that England’s winning margin was a comfortable 40 runs.
England’s positivity and freedom was doubtless a result of youth. The average age of the team would have given Arsene Wenger’s reserves a run for their money. Moreover, the likes of Hales, Bairstow and Buttler provide a glimpse at the England of the future. By the time the next World Cup comes around, these players might strike the same sort of fear into opponents that Chris Gayle and Shane Watson do now. For this tour at least, England look set for glory.