It doesn’t happen often that England loses back to back T20Is. The last time the Eoin Morgan-led side lost consecutive T20Is was in February 2018 when they lost three games in a row during the Trans-Tasman tri-series in Australia and New Zealand.
Morgan, however, insisted on focusing on the process rather than the result. He admitted that the lack of experience cost them the game in Nelson where England lost five wickets for 10 runs after taking the run chase to a point from where a victory should have been a formality. But he also said that England’s game plans will remain the same where they want the young guys to gain more exposure to such scenarios.
This means that England’s lower order will consist of the same set of batsmen - Sam Curran batting too high for his potential in T20 cricket at six and Lewis Gregory at seven who is in his maiden series in international cricket. As a result, England has not been able to press the accelerator in the slog overs.
England’s dismal finishing abilities in the series demand captain Morgan to take the onus by carrying on till the last five overs of the innings. In Nelson, he got out on the verge of the last five overs, which eventually triggered an embarrassing collapse leading to their second defeat in the series. Since the last T20 World Cup in 2016, Morgan has a strike-rate of 203.8 in the death overs, the highest amongst all England batsmen. That comes with a pretty big sample size of 53 balls. In Napier, England will once again require their captain to step up, this time to fill for the inexperience in the lower order and see them through to a good finish with the bat.
For New Zealand, the worry lies at the top of the order. Martin Guptill has shown signs of returning to form by scoring 74 runs in the last two matches at a strike-rate of 164.4 but Colin Munro has continued to struggle for runs. Munro pummeled 500 runs in 12 innings last year at a healthy average of 45.4 runs per dismissal in 2018. This year, his average has dipped to 19.3 in 10 innings. Since his 72 against India on February 10, 2019, the average goes further down to 9.8 runs per dismissal in six innings. Munro notched up a hundred in the second warm-up game against England XI and the Kiwi side want their swashbuckling opener to get amongst runs again, not only in this series but for the T20 World Cup next year.
One change that has worked like a charm for the Kiwis as a preparatory move for the World Cup is the promotion of Colin de Grandhomme to number four. It has had a direct impact on New Zealand’s run rate during the middle-overs. The Kiwis scored at a run-rate of 8 runs per over during over number seven to 15 in 2018 which has climbed up to 8.5 runs per over this year. The credit goes to Colin de Grandhomme.
De Grandhomme showcased his ability again in Nelson when he struck a powerful 55 off 35 balls. He was at the crease for 10 overs between the fifth and the 15th over of the innings during which New Zealand amassed 93 runs at a run rate of 9.11. It was his innings that took the home side to a competitive total of 180.
Ground and Pitch:
Like the venue for the previous T20I, Nelson, Napier’s McLean Park has also hosted only one T20I as yet - in January 2017 when New Zealand defeated Bangladesh by six wickets. Analyzing the domestic T20 data to gain a better knowledge of the conditions, the McLean Park has hosted three matches since 2018 where the average batting run-rate has been 9.8 runs per over, the highest amongst all T20 venues in New Zealand.
In the bowling front, the spinners have picked up wickets at a better strike-rate than the pacers, although, they have been more expensive.
The leg-spinners have had great numbers in the three matches taken into consideration (average 11.2 runs per wicket, strike-rate 7.2 balls per wicket) which could be a relief for the leggies in this series who have not enjoyed many productive bowling spells in the series so far (average 31.7 runs per wicket, strike-rate 21).
After two clinical performances, the Kiwi side looks settled with their XI. However, Lockie Ferguson has been rested and Trent Boult has joined the squad to play his first T20I since February 2018.
Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Tim Seifert (wk), Colin de Gradhomme, Ross Taylor, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee (c), Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Blair Tickner
With the series on the line, the word around is that England are set to welcome Jonny Bairstow, Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid, none of whom have played all three games in the series as yet, back to the XI.
Probable XI: Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Dawid Malan/James Vince, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings (wk), Sam Curran, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Saqib Mahmood/Patrick Brown