ENGLAND, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND T20I TRI-SERIES, 2018
Williamson starred with his 8th T20I fifty. © Getty
Kane Williamson put the debate around his worth as a T20 player to bed with a brilliant 72 off 46 balls to help New Zealand to their first victory in the Trans-Tasman Tri-Series – by 12 runs over England – at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
Williamson’s place in New Zealand’s T20 team had been the subject of conjecture ahead of the match, with former fast-bowler Simon Doull calling for him to be removed after an indifferent showing in the first match of the tournament against Australia. But New Zealand’s captain responded in the most thrilling way in Wellington after being passed fit for the match before the start of play. Williamson hit four sixes and four boundaries in his stay and combined with Martin Guptill (65) to put on 82 for the second wicket. New Zealand’s 196-5 always looked too much for England.
It was England’s third defeat in a row after losing both their matches in Australia. Although they remain in with a chance of making the final if other results go their way, they are staring down the barrel of elimination and their three showings so far have been disappointing considering their excellence in the recent one-day series in Australia.
Why this win was crucial: New Zealand qualify for the final if they beat Australia on Friday. But even if they lose, they will largely have a safe passage, except if England beat them big on Sunday and upset them on run-rate
The visitors were without captain Eoin Morgan whose calf injury kept him out of the team as it did in Melbourne on Sunday, and the team missed his calm captaincy in the field after New Zealand made a fast start with Guptill hitting five boundaries in the first 4.2 overs, including back to back fours off David Willey.
Mark Wood, who returned to England’s side along with Liam Plunkett, replacing Tom Curran and Liam Dawson from the side which played at the MCG, made an early breakthrough by removing Colin Munro, caught at fine leg off a short ball. Another early wicket was elusive then and New Zealand’s two best players were able to take the game away from the tourists.
Guptill and Williamson kept up the early momentum and the former reached his half century in the eleventh over by depositing leg-spinner Adil Rashid over midwicket for six. Three overs later he was gone, however, when he clipped a full-toss from Rashid straight to Plunkett at short fine-leg. Next ball, Colin de Grandhomme was brilliantly caught by Chris Jordan off the same bowler.
Although, England took wickets regularly, Williamson kept powering on, hitting Plunkett and Wood over long off and midwicket respectively, reaching his eighth T20I half-century. He celebrated by clipping Wood over fine leg for a six very next ball.
Williamson was finally removed, bowled by Jordan, before Mark Chapman, making his New Zealand debut, hit a couple of sixes before he was caught by Billings off Wood at deep square leg. Wicket-keeper Tim Seifert, also on debut, hit two more sixes, making it eleven for the innings, to get New Zealand up to a well over par score.
England had been wayward on a decent, if strange looking, blotchy surface. Their quicker attack came onto the bat better than New Zealand’s and they bowled too many bad balls in the opening ten overs from which they never really recovered.
Perhaps left-arm spinner Dawson would have been a better option on this sort of surface although England would have expected their fast-bowlers to bowl better. Wood conceded 51 runs from his four overs and Willey too was expensive up front with the new ball.
Despite a half-century from Dawid Malan and a blistering 47 from 24 balls from Alex Hales, England were always behind the rate and ran out of steam towards the back end of their innings. That was in contrast to New Zealand who were able to keep the run rate up and was ultimately the different between the two teams.
England scored 60 off their first six overs as Hales took a liking in particular to Trent Boult, hitting the fifth over of the innings for 20 which included two fours and two sixes. Just when Hales looked like he was about to take things away from the home side, he was dismissed, caught at midwicket off an Ish Sodhi long-hop.
Malan, who finished with 59, started slowly, struggling to pick leg-spinner Sodhi’s googly, but then accelerated nicely, hitting two sixes and six boundaries in 40 balls. But when Hales went in the ninth over, no other England batsman could make a sizeable contribution and they lost wickets at crucial times.
James Vince was lazily run out for 10 and then Jos Buttler, leading England in Morgan’s absence, was well caught at long-off by Tim Southee off Sodhi. Santner, who finished with 2-29, then removed Billings for 12 and crucially Malan two overs later. When Boult returned to bowl Jordan with a yorker and then Plunkett first ball, the match was as good as over.
David Willey, England’s last realistic chance of victory, was run out off the final ball of the 19th over by Seifert as Boult and Southee nailed their yorkers. The tourists ended up 12 runs short and with their hopes of qualification for the final on 21 February in Auckland hanging by the flimsiest of threads.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 196/5 (Kane Williamson 72, Martin Guptill 65; Adil Rashid 2-36) beat England 184/9 (Dawid Malan 59, Alex Hales 47; Mitchell Santner 2-29) by 12 runs