By seven wickets, England (143 for 3) defeated New Zealand (139 for 9) (Phillips 41, Carse 3-23, Wood 3-37).
Under the lights at Chester-le-Street, England’s revamped T20I team stormed to a stunning seven-wicket victory as they chased down a meager target of 140 with six complete overs remaining.
Despite a misleadingly run-filled first over from Finn Allen, a strong home debut from seamer Brydon Carse kept New Zealand from gaining any momentum. After that, a pair of powerful blows from Dawid Malan and the inevitable Harry Brook allowed Jos Buttler to relax in the dressing room with his feet up in preparation for future games of greater significance.
England once again demonstrated that they have the greatest range of options in the entire world of cricket in their first white-ball match since their March trip to Bangladesh. Carse and the left-armer Luke Wood, who both took three wickets, led England’s line despite the loss of two potential fast bowling debutants, Josh Tongue and John Turner, to injury and the resting of a third, Gus Atkinson, for later in the series.
In response, despite losing Jonny Bairstow in the first over, England never seemed to lose control of the game. After Malan had set the tone for the chase with his 17th fifty-plus score in 56 T20I innings, Brook and Liam Livingstone quickly ended the chase with a devastating six over deep midwicket.
In the power play, a false dawn
Allen’s most recent on-field performance came last week during the Hundred Eliminator, when he slammed 69 from 38 balls in a raucous (but futile) opening attack while playing for the Southern Brave. When he jumped into a huge yahoo at Wood’s second delivery of the match, it appeared as though the outcome had already been decided. He missed that shot, but the following three all sailed out of the park, one low to the ground and the other two high over midfield, seemingly signaling the start of another powerplay surge.
But what came next was a nearly total lockdown from England’s revamped seam assault. Sam Curran hit the brakes with a five-run second over before rookie Carse’s persistent deck-thumping approach resulted in a single run being scored immediately.
A switch of ends for Wood then paid off immediately as Devon Conway nicked a drive with poor footwork to fall for three from eight, and after Carse had pierced Allen’s defense with an 87 mph leg-stump-seeker, Wood made it two in three overs as Tim Seifert was duped by the angle from round the wicket to lose his off stump for nine.
In order to start a batting exhibition that would never regain any composure, New Zealand’s powerplay consisted of 18 for 0 from three balls and 20 for 3 from the remaining 33.
Rotation rotates the screw.
A similar false dawn occurred in New Zealand’s innings with the addition of spin in the seventh over. Adil Rashid’s first-ball legbreak was picked up by Mark Chapman, who hit him for six over midwicket. However, in the subsequent nine overs, his team only scored five more runs when Moeen Ali, a dreaded left-hander, dismissed Chapman with a magnificent delivery that held its line from round the wicket to take the top of off stump.
At 49 for 4, New Zealand needed another strong performance from Daryl Mitchell to change the tide, but this time, not even his long levers were able to do it. With a stunningly quick legbreak that soared beyond Mitchell’s edge, Liam Livingstone launched the attack. Mitchell, who appeared startled, rose through the line with his very next delivery but could only find Brook on the far-off boundary. Rashid then received a soft dismissal from Mitchell Santner after he toe-ended a cut to point as compensation for an average three-over stint.
Carse delivers the final blow.
The race to the bottom of the inning thereafter became the focus. The best chance that New Zealand had of scoring a competitive total rested with Glenn Phillips, but his unassuming 41 from 38 was cut short by the finest catch of the innings, made by Curran in the covers after reading the fade on a sliced drive at a slower Wood ball. Curran leaped to his left to cling on with both hands.
Then, off successive balls, Adam Milne and Ish Sodhi each hit a six to at least push England’s goal past a run per ball, but Carse was there to put an elegant end to the innings. He started the 20th over with an inch-perfect offcut that skidded past Milne’s wipe to the leg. His fifth delivery, which was blasted into the toes, demanded that Sodhi attempt the longest boundary, which he duly failed to do.
In his first two overs, Carse went 1 for 3 to start off his inning. Now he finished off the innings with 3 for 23, which is his best T20 total ever, and he did so with the same assured pitch-battering poise that Liam Plunkett once provided to England’s white-ball offense. It was an impressive manner for a man who wasn’t initially selected for this T20I squad to commemorate earning England’s 100th cap in the competition.
The hitters for England quickly dispatched the target.
Buttler’s self-demotion to No. 6 was an admission that others have more to prove with the 50-over version soon to come, even if he will undoubtedly return to the top of the order when England defends their T20 crown in the Caribbean and the USA in June.
For instance, take Bairstow, who was Buttler’s planned opening partner in Australia last winter before suffering a terrible leg injury and who is scheduled to start the innings with Jason Roy in India in five weeks. His first England white-ball innings in at least 13 months featured at least a 200 strike rate: a leg-side wide to start, followed by a first-ball pump for four through midwicket and a second-ball snick to slip off Tim Southee.
Will Jacks is another option for T20 opening duties after his trophy-winning performances (with bat and ball) for the Oval Invincibles in the Hundred this month. He is a probable traveling reserve in India. He opened Lockie Ferguson’s first over with two fours and an inside-out carve for six, and after sparking a 61-run powerplay with 22 in 11 balls, he muffed a pull off Sodhi’s very next ball. His lacerating power was on full display once more.
Naturally, Malan was there. When an injury prevented England’s most tenacious white-ball player from competing in the T20 World Cup final at the MCG, he missed his chance to shine. However, he is included in the 50-over team as the presumptive reserve opener, and based on this, he will be eager to prove himself in the upcoming matches.
Malan transformed a shaky 4 from 10 balls into a threatening 40-ball half-century with five fours and two sixes—each of them mown with tremendous power over the leg side off Sodhi and Santner, respectively—using his customary faith in his mowed acceleration. He appeared horrified to concede it at 54 from 42, but by the time the 13th over came along, he had already eliminated any threat to the match’s outcome.
Then, of course, there was Brook. The most notable omission from England’s World Cup plans was their clinical violence in pushing them over the finish line with 43 not out from 27 balls. This included back-to-back sixes off Sodhi, over cover and midwicket, and a third enormous launch over the ropes as Southee served up a slower ball and was forced to travel the distance. Only the selectors can say for sure whether it’s too late for him to influence any important minds. But in this case, he barely perspired while seeming worlds apart.
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