The Tim Southee-led New Zealand turned up with another clinical performance to assert a 2-1 lead in the ongoing bilateral series. The Kiwis registered a second consecutive victory post their defeat in Christchurch which had earlier put them 0-1 down. A brilliant display of death bowling coupled with the lack of firepower in England’s lower order, owing to the absence of their first-choice players, saw the visitors fall short by 14 runs after a good start in a run chase of 180.
Unlike the first two games, both Dawid Malan and James Vince fired in unison giving England the upper hand in the first half of the run chase. After a 10-ball 18 from the debutant, Tom Banton, Malan and Vince caressed the Kiwi bowlers around the park with utmost ease taking the total to 90 for 1 at the halfway mark.
While Vince took his time, Malan collected seven boundaries including a six in a space of four overs making life difficult for Southee, Ish Sodhi and James Neesham. For a man playing for his place in the side, Malan seemed unperturbed by the situation and notched up his fifth T20I fifty in eight innings, this one coming off only 29 deliveries. As it has been seen innumerable times in T20 cricket, he got out off an innocuous full toss from Ish Sodhi. The southpaw found Martin Guptill at deep mid-wicket when a hit to either side of Guptill would have helped Malan to add at least four more to his total.
Vince, joined by captain Eoin Morgan, added 49 from 28 balls for the fourth wicket keeping England on track. He struck 18 runs off four deliveries during his acceleration. Morgan struck back to back sixes off Santner in the 15th over, at the end of which he had his Deja Vu moment, falling to the left-arm spinner again in the same fashion in which he was dismissed in the previous T20I - a failed attempt to clear the boundary rope with a cross-batted shot.
The scoreboard read 139 for three in 15 overs with England in firm control only 42 runs away from their target with James Vince still in the middle. But this is when the lively England innings came to a standstill. They lost four more wickets for only 10 runs in the next 17 balls. Sam Billings was run out four minutes after his arrival to the crease. Sam Curran at six, batting too high for his potential in a T20 game had an adverse effect on England’s chances of winning the game. He could score only one run out of his first four deliveries forcing Vince to attempt an unnatural aerial stroke resulting in his departure for a 39-ball 49.
That was the game right there for New Zealand as England’s lower order did not promise any firepower. 34 off 18 seemed improbable for England even with five wickets in hand and they were eventually reduced to 166 for seven, 14 runs short off their target.
Blair Tickner, playing only the second T20I of his career, was the pick of the bowler for the Kiwis taking the important wickets of Banton and Vince. The speedster, Lockie Ferguson also contributed to England’s collapse, sending back Lewis Gregory and Sam Curran in the 18th over.
Earlier in the day, New Zealand started positively having won the toss and electing to bat first. Martin Guptill, having shown signs of form in the previous game, once again looked in fine touch while dealing in boundaries during his 17-ball 33. But the star of the day for New Zealand was Colin de Grandhomme who is enjoying his promotion to number four. He scored 55 from 35 deliveries with three sixes and five boundaries keeping the pressure on the opposition bowlers throughout the innings. A total of 200 seemed like a possibility for the Kiwis until Tom Curran added Grandhomme to his host of slower-ball victims.
Unlike with the bat, England did well in the death overs with the ball by containing New Zealand to 180. But as said before, the absence of six first-choice players in England’s line-up clearly reflected in the result and a disciplined performance by the Kiwis proved too good for the touring side.