After losing the opening game of the five-match T20I series, New Zealand did what they are known for by pulling off a comeback performance in Wellington and squaring the series 1-1. To put their effort into perspective, this was England’s first T20I defeat in 2019. Stand-in skipper Tim Southee, however, called for improvement in all three departments of the game while his opposite number, Eoin Morgan, pointed out flaws in his side’s fielding and batting performances.
The visiting side dropped as many as four catches and their batting was mediocre at best, starting from Jonny Bairstow bagging a golden duck to begin England’s run-chase. For a team resting a majority of their chief players in a bid to try less prominent faces as part of their World Cup preparation, Morgan must be worried to see England crumble to 93 for six well within the first 12 overs of the innings in a pressure run-chase.
Their troubles begin right from their top order. In the absence of Jason Roy (a strike rate of 169 in T20Is since 2018, the highest by an English batsman), England have suffered to find impetus at the start of the innings. In the first two games of this series, their top three have scored at a strike rate of 128.3, the lowest in a series (more than one game) for them since 2018. Moreover, their average has suffered too - 24.2 runs per wicket is also the lowest.
New Zealand, on the other hand, have not been great on the batting front either. They have been largely inconsistent with the bat, often struggling to find star performances. Since his knock of 72 against India earlier this year, Colin Munro has managed a mere 53 runs in his next five T20I innings. Martin Guptill has scored only 55 runs in four innings this year. Kane Williamson is out of the side due to a hip injury and Colin de Grandhomme is trying to find his feet in his newly assigned role as a specialist number four.
It has only been Ross Taylor who has amassed runs at a more consistent streak. Surprisingly, the last time Taylor scored a T20I fifty was in 2014, but this stat is largely driven by his position in the batting order, number five, which has hardly given him a chance to pile up a score for himself. Since 2018, Taylor has either remained unbeaten or crossed the 25-run mark in his innings on 11 out of the 18 occasions he has batted in T20Is. Also, he is the highest averaging Kiwi batsman in the format in the considered time period which makes one ponder whether he is batting too low in the order.
Ground and Pitch:
Having hosted only one T20 international so far, Nelson’s Saxton Oval is still a new T20I venue in New Zealand. Even after including the domestic circuit, the ground has witnessed only two games since 2017, one of which was the solitary international game at the venue, between New Zealand and West Indies in December 2017.
However, the contrasting numbers between pace and spin bowlers in those two games indicate that it isn’t a pitch for the slower bowlers.
Regardless of this stat, Tim Southee will still look at Mitchell Santner to pick wickets like he has done before in the series with the left-arm spinner picking three scalps each in the two games he has played. Santner loves bowling against England, a side against whom he averages 15 runs per dismissal at a strike-rate of 11.5 for his 11 scalps. Moreover, he is among a rare breed of left-arm spinners who have better numbers against left-handed batsmen than against right-handers. The presence of three southpaws in the opponent’s batting arsenal gives Santner a chance to shine again.
After a comprehensive win in the second T20I, the home side are likely to field the same XI.
Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Tim Seifert (wk), Colin de Gradhomme, Ross Taylor, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee (c), Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson
Tom Banton boasts a strike rate of 154.3 in domestic T20s and can be the answer to England’s low strike rate at the top. To fit him in, England may have to drop either one of Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, James Vince or forgo the luxury of six bowlers. Saqib Mahmood or Patrick Brown could be in firing line in that case.
Probable XI: Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, James Vince, Eoin Morgan (c), Tom Banton, Sam Billings (wk), Sam Curran, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Saqib Mahmood/Patrick Brown