New Zealand 201-4 (B McCullum 68) beat
England 196-5 (Wright 52) by 5 runs
First Twenty20 International, The Oval
Report by Daniel Grummitt
The first balls of the final two overs both went for six but England ended narrowly short in a 20-over run chase for the second time in three days as New Zealand won a high-scoring thriller at The Oval.
Set an imposing 202 for victory after a boundary barrage from Brendon McCullum and Hamish Rutherford, England began well but looked to be slipping behind around the time of their captain Eoin Morgan’s dismissal in the 14th over. He was brilliantly caught one-handed by Ross Taylor after Brendon McCullum - again showcasing his innovative style of captaincy - posted a slip.
However, Jos Buttler clearly learnt from the ungainly slog that saw him dismissed first ball against India on Sunday and took a couple of balls to get his eye in before unveiling his trademark ramp shot which travelled for six.
He and Ravi Bopara added 45 in 22 balls to get the equation down to 20 off 11 balls only for another bit of brilliance from a New Zealand fielder to see him dismissed. Wicket-keeper Tom Latham under-armed the ball as he and Bopara attempted to run a bye and ran him out at the non-striker’s end.
That blow was terminal for England despite Ben Stokes clubbing the first ball of the final over, bowled by Corey Anderson, for six. The rest of the over passed by in flurry of mistimed slogs with England again unable to hit a six off the final ball, which on this occasion would have produced a super over.
England’s new look side - which included Boyd Rankin on his England debut and a recall for Ben Stokes - had begun their run chase well as openers Michael Lumb and Alex Hales added 50 in less than four overs. Lumb did the bulk of the early scoring while the woefully out-of-form Hales took his time to find his feet.
Hales’ last nine innings for Nottinghamshire’s first or second eleven have yielded single figure scores and today he benefited from being almost caught at fine-leg off a no-ball. He would go on to hit a couple of sweet strokes, but his curses after each miscue got ever more demonstrative until his torment finally ended with another which found James Franklin on the mid-wicket boundary. He walked off shaking his head, seemingly oblivious to the useful role that he had played in taking England ahead at that point.
Luke Wright had been the main reason for England’s success in the first half of their chase. He made 52 in 34 balls and continues to look more and more at home in an England shirt each time he plays. It was, though, his and Morgan’s dismissal in successive overs which set England back and necessitated Bopara’s and Buttler’s partnership which was to prove not quite enough.
Wright had earlier pulled things back for England with the ball. Boyd Rankin had James Franklin caught behind in his first over and, all in all, enjoyed a promising start to his England career. However, Chris Woakes’ opening - and only - over went for 19 as Rutherford and McCullum senior put on 114 in little more than 11 overs of clean hitting and occasional slogging.
The pair certainly made the most of the flat pitch and the location of it towards the side of the square - a legacy of the pitches used during the Champions Trophy - meaning that one of the square boundaries was unusually short. They targeted it with aplomb and England appeared clueless until Wright came on.
He bowled across the batsmen when the shorter boundary was on their leg-side and straighter when it was on the off, and accounted for both Rutherford and McCullum as New Zealand struggled to keep up with their rapid scoring rate of progress for the final third of their innings. Jade Dernbach was also much-improved and largely discarded the array of slower balls that led to both his elevation to the England team and his apparent demise.
The crowd - remarkably healthy considering the glut of international games in recent weeks - became increasingly vociferous throughout the evening and were treated to a textbook game of Twenty20 cricket by the two sides. There were plenty of sixes and a close finish, with fire-eaters even thrown in as an added attraction. The only thing missing, thanks to McCullum, Rutherford and co, was a home win.
© Cricket World 2013