Like in Australia, T20I cricket will kick start New Zealand’s international summer this year. They will face tough competition from the strong Eoin Morgan-led England side, who will be on a high after winning their maiden 50-over World Cup three months ago – against New Zealand – in the most dramatic of fashions. To add to New Zealand’s woes, their skipper Kane Williamson will miss the entire five-match series due to a hip injury.
Tim Southee, who has 5-1 win-loss record in the shortest format will lead the side in the series. New Zealand’s scars will still be fresh after they suffered a heartbreaking loss against England in the 2019 World Cup final, but they have an opportunity to make amends by not only winning the series on home soil, but also give themselves an ideal opportunity to lift the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia by identifying their core players, beginning with this series.
Interestingly and a tad surprisingly, this is the first time five T20I matches will be played in a bilateral series among full members, beginning with the first game at Christchurch. This will also be Hagley Oval’s first-ever T20I. The venue so far has hosted six Tests and 14 ODIs since 2014.
Like most of the venues in the country, pacers will play a prominent role at Hagley Oval, while spin will play a pivotal role in keeping the runs down.
When it comes to spin options, both teams have leg-break bowlers as their primary options – Ish Sodhi for the hosts and Adil Rashid for England. In T20s at Christchurch since 2018, the leg-spinners have been the worst options, with an average of 50.7 and pick up a wicket once every 44 deliveries. While New Zealand have the left-arm orthodox option of Mitchell Santner, England apart from Adil Rashid and Matthew Parkinson, do not have a non-leg-break bowler as their frontline spinner. While the leggies might be a good way to control runs, they have not been wicket-takers historically at the venue.
What’s at stake?
In the absence of big players like Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, it gives the England management an opportunity to test their bowling depth. The likes of Tom Banton who keeps wickets, fast bowlers in Pat Brown and Saqib Mahmood, all-rounder Lewis Gregory and leggie Matthew Parkinson, who have received call-ups, will be keen to prove their mettle at the international stage after impressing domestically. Not just that, it is a chance for other fringe players like James Vince, Joe Denly and Dawid Malan to cement their places in the side, thereby making it tough for the selectors to leave them out of the XI in the future.
It’s a similar story for New Zealand as some not-so-established players in the side look to bid for a place in the XI in the lead up to the T20 World Cup. It is also a great chance to test Southee’s skills as captain of the side in Williamson’s absence. He has lost only once in six matches and his performances also takes an upward curve when leading the side.
Both sides got a decent run in the two warm-up matches. The likes of Jonny Bairstow and Colin Munro were amongst the runs and with the ball, Rashid and Lockie Ferguson performed well. The series is now perfectly set-up to take off.
England are likely to hand a couple of debuts. Saqib Mahmood could be one. Wicketkeeper Tom Banton and all-rounder Lewis Gregory, who smashed an unbeaten 11-ball 29 in the second warm-up match could also be drafted into the XI. England will still have the vast experience of Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings and Chris Jordan at their disposal to guide and groom the incoming players.
A day ahead of the game, England announced that fast bowler Pat Brown, who picked up 17 wickets in the 2019 Vitality Blast will make his T20I debut alongside Sam Curran. Saqib Mahmood might miss out as a result.
Joe Denly’s ankle injury in training means he is out of contention for this game.
Likely XI: Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton (wk), James Vince/Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Lewis Gregory, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid/Matthew Parkinson, Chris Jordan, Tom Curran, Pat Brown
Not having Williamson leaves a huge hole to fill at the top, which means Ross Taylor will have to shoulder the responsibility of anchoring the innings. The Kiwis have stocked their side with all-rounders, giving the captain a lot of options and further adding to the depth of the side. Also, Trent Boult has been rested for the first three matches. He will replace Lockie Ferguson for the last two games.
Likely XI: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Tom Seifert (wk), Ross Taylor, James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee (c), Blair Tickner/Scott Kuggeleijn, Lockie Ferguson
New Zealand do not have a good record against England in T20Is, having won five and lost 10 in their 16 meetings thus far. With England set to field a relatively inexperienced team, it could be an opportunity for them to improve their head-to-head record.
Considering that there were severe wind and thunderstorms in Christchurch over the last couple of days, there could be light showers during the game. There will be wind throughout the duration of the match, but the intensity will drop as the day progresses and we should ideally have a full game, but there might a few interruptions every now and then, making it a stop-start sort of situation.