New Zealand seal T20 series after England collapse in Nelson
New Zealand (180/7) beat England (166/7) by 14 runs
Several fundamental differences between the two teams accounted for England’s 14-run defeat in the third T20 international at Saxton Oval – the primary one being that New Zealand fielded their best available eleven while England fielded a T20 development side.
Eoin Morgan was the only regular member left of England’s first-choice T20 team after Adil Rashid, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Jordan had been omitted on a rest-and-rotation basis, so that every playing member of the touring party could have a game. Seven or so other stalwarts, like Jos Buttler and Jason Roy, were left at home for this assignment.
“One of the objectives of this is to know more about guys that come in,” Morgan said, after England’s reply had petered out. “We do have to get better and calmer when we are chasing. It must be our most inexperienced side for a very long time.”
“No, not really” said Morgan when asked whether England would alter their plan to experiment in this series. “The priority is to win games alongside finding out more about guys. Today is a great learning day for us and hopefully the guys take in the information and learn from that.”
The fact remains however that this game was between the New Zealand T20 side and an England T20 side – and therefore raises the question of whether it should be accorded international status.
It is almost the modern equivalent of England’s first Test tour of New Zealand in 1929-30. They sent what was effectively their third eleven to ease New Zealand into Test cricket in their inaugural series.Credit: Getty Images
Experience, therefore, was in very short supply for England after Tom Banton and Matt Parkinson had been handed their T20 debuts before the start of this game, while Pat Brown, Sam Curran and Saqib Mahmood had been given their debuts at the start of this series. And, for all the merits of youth when it comes to fielding, experience is far more valuable when it comes to batting in T20 than was ever envisaged when the format was launched, and especially when chasing.
Fine innings were played by England’s two older but still not established batsmen: Dawid Malan, who hit 55 off 34 balls before shovelling a full toss against the wind to deep midwicket, and by James Vince, who scored 49 off 39 balls - just the sort of imperiously handsome innings before getting himself out that Vince would play, so the caustic might comment.
There was a mitigating circumstance however. Sam Curran had come in, missed his first two balls, and laboured to make a single off four balls at the other end. That Curran should not have been sent in ahead of Lewis Gregory, who is Somerset’s battle-hardened finisher, is a valid criticism. In any event, with 35 required off only 19 balls, Vince felt obliged to drive over mid-off but could not clear him.
Neither could England’s captain, nor their vice-captain Sam Billings, supply the experience needed, which Ross Taylor had done so valuably if inconspicuously in New Zealand’s innings. Colin de Grandhomme won the player of the match award for his 55 off 35, full of bottom-handed pummelling, but Taylor glued the whole innings together in the course of their partnership of 66, keeping wickets in hand to allow Jimmy Neesham to finish with a flourish. Nobody played the Ross role for England: Morgan drove to long-on while Billings, too eager for a legbye, was run out by a side-on hit by Colin Munro.
Other differences between the sides were that England had a long tail of Mahmood, Brown and Parkinson, all number elevens at this stage of their T20 careers; and that England’s fielding, while much improved on their second showing, was still inferior to New Zealand’s (Billings had time to steady himself, rather than throw on the run, and missed the chance to run out de Grandhomme) . Also, England had nobody of express pace - Mahmood still seems hesitant to bowl full-throttle - whereas Lockie Ferguson was too quick for England’s lower order.
New Zealand also placed more faith in spin than England did, which was a reason why the hosts chose to bat first on a dry pitch. Mitchell Santner, a resourceful left-arm spinner, dismissed Morgan, in addition to Sodhi’s full-bunger that trapped Malan, so that New Zealand’s spinners took two wickets - albeit expensive ones - while Parkinson was limited to two overs on his debut: tidy overs too, along with the wicket of Tim Seifert who tried to reverse-sweep and was bowled between his legs.
The imminent threat of two lefthanded batsmen, Neesham and Santner, led Morgan to protect Parkinson from further exposure. As for the second England debutant, Tom Banton, he made a fine start of 18 off nine balls - show-casing his favourite whip through and over mid-wicket - so there was no need to attempt a scoop-shot quite so early in his innings, and international T20 career, as the tenth ball.
England might have got away with such youthful bravado if there had been experience to follow Banton, but there was not nearly enough.