There has been plenty bandied about in the build-up to this series about the World Cup final and New Zealand trying to erase some painful memories – perhaps a trip to Wellington can provide a psychic salve. Not only did their last outing at the Westpac result in an 80-run T20I thrashing of India, but it was also the scene of England’s lowest moment at the 2015 World Cup.
That “Cake Tin” creaming at the hands of Brendon McCullum’s gung-ho New Zealand side eventually set England on the path to ODI reinvention under Eoin Morgan. The “no fear” philosophy developed since then has given their white-ball cricket a previously unimaginable edge, and even with a mix-and-match group to pick from on this tour, it shone through again in the first T20I in Christchurch.
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New Zealand acknowledged after that seven-wicket defeat that there was a bit of rust around, with their season only just beginning and England having enjoyed a couple of competitive warm-up games. An aggressive top order, missing the reassurance of Kane Williamson, struggled to get going and England’s attack – including two debutants in Sam Curran and Pat Brown – was able to pick off timely wickets throughout the rest of the innings to leave them a comfortable chase.
For England, this is a tour of opportunity – and James Vince has pronounced himself determined to take his, after setting up victory with his maiden T20I fifty. However, the chance for Joe Denly to further his claims in this format has already disappeared, an ankle injury sustained on the eve of the Christchurch game ruling him out of the rest of the series. Tough luck for Denly but the rest of England’s party are again hoping to create happier memories at New Zealand’s expense.
New Zealand LLWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
He may have been a little unlucky to drag on to his own stumps, but an innings of 2 off 7 balls did little to assuage concerns about the form of Martin Guptill. After the struggles of his World Cup, in which he opened with 73 not out against Sri Lanka and then ploughed slowly into the dirt, he has now gone 11 international innings without passing 35, including six single-figure scores. A return to Wellington, where he averages 41.00 in T20Is whilst also recording his ODI best of 237, might help perk him up.
James Vince is the habit England just can’t kick – and you can understand why when he plays as he did in the first match of the series. His 59 in Christchurch was the first time he had recorded a half-century in T20Is; but the fact it was only his fifth in 42 innings across all formats for England highlights the problems he has experienced combining substance with undoubted style. There is plenty of competition at the top of the order but England won’t mind Vince giving them the right sort of headaches.
Scott Kuggeleijn’s poor outing in Christchurch might encourage the selectors to have a look at Blair Tickner, who made his debut against India earlier this year. Jimmy Neesham is also an all-round option but New Zealand may well decide to give the same group another chance.
New Zealand (possible): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Tim Seifert (wk), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Colin de Grandhomme, 6 Daryl Mitchell, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Scott Kuggeleijn/Blair Tickner, 9 Tim Southee (capt), 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Ish Sodhi
Morgan’s England tend to stick with a winning team, though you would imagine the management want to look at Tom Banton sooner rather than later. Given they know what they’re getting from Chris Jordan, Tom Curran and Adil Rashid, there’s a case to throw Saqib Mahmood and/or Matt Parkinson in, too.
England (possible): 1 Dawid Malan/Tom Banton, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 James Vince, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Sam Billings (wk), 6 Lewis Gregory, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Tom Curran/Saqib Mahmood, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Pat Brown
Pitch and conditions
The Westpac Stadium is not the biggest – Guptill memorably hit the ball on to the roof during his double-hundred against West Indies at the 2015 World Cup – and its drop-in pitches have aroused suspicion in the past, though when England and New Zealand met in a T20I on the ground in February 2018 the game produced nearly 400 runs. Sunday’s forecast is for a bright, sunny afternoon with zero chance of interruption.
Stats and trivia
England have now won six T20Is in a row – two shy of their best run in the format.
Wellington has seen New Zealand win their last five T20Is in a row, going back to a ten-wicket defeat to England in 2013.
Jordan needs one more wicket for 50 in T20 internationals – and two to draw level with Graeme Swann at No. 2 on England’s all-time list.
“We weren’t quite up to standard but luckily enough we’ve got a five-match series so we’ve got four more and plenty of room to get better.”
Tim Seifert admits New Zealand need to raise their game
“I think the way the new guys can come in and stick to their strengths and do what they do as soon as they come into international cricket is a credit to the culture that’s created.”
Eoin Morgan was happy with the performances of England’s debutants in Christchurch