England batsmen put up dominant show after restricting misfiring New Zealand to 148
England all but knocked New Zealand out of the ICC World Twenty20 2012 after a top-order implosion left New Zealand with a sub-par total on a pitch that remained excellent for batting at Pallekele. Although New Zealand dragged England’s chase of 149 into the 19th over, the match as a contest was over long before.
Ross Taylor won a good toss on a pitch that is getting lower and slower by the day, and had no hesitation in batting first. What Taylor did not account for was England opening the bowling with Danny Briggs, the left-arm spinner who came into the eleven in place of Jade Dernbach. Briggs, who opened the bowling in his T20I debut, against South Africa in Birmingham, then became the first English spinner to bowl the first over of an international match since Douglas Carr in 1909. On recent evidence, it appears strange that England has not experimented more with this strategy.
Briggs was not instantly successful, but he gave Stuart Broad a semblance of control over the early overs, with both Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill being forced to recalibrate their plans. New Zealand’s openers needed to get a sighter against Briggs, and this allowed him to slip in some valuable dot balls.
With Briggs building the pressure, Finn picked off the low-hanging fruit. Guptill was the first to go when he got into an awkward position and was forced to try and play around his front pad. Nailed in front of the stumps, Guptill was back in the dressing room in only the second over of the game.
Brendon McCullum walked out with a swagger, but this proved to be mere bluster as he sliced hard at Finn, only to pick out the fielder at third-man. All along, Finn’s habit of coming close to the stumps while delivering provided a needless distraction. More than once, the umpire at the bowling end was forced to call a dead ball, which, absurdly, cost New Zealand seven runs.
When Nicol misread the pace of the pitch to deposit Graeme Swann into the hands of the fielder on the leg-side fence, New Zealand’s power hitters – save for Taylor – were all dismissed.
Taylor, who has enjoyed success in the Indian Premier League, has not translated this into Twenty20I runs, and yet another scrambled innings put New Zealand firmly on the back foot. When Taylor failed to beat deep midwicket, he gave Finn his best Twenty20I figures, 3 for 16 from four overs.
It was only thanks to a determined rearguard from James Franklin that New Zealand even gave itself something to bowl at. Franklin took only 33 balls to get to 50, and even with that push, New Zealand only managed 149, a score that had never been successfully defended at this ground.
England’s key problem through the tournament has been a propensity to lose wickets first up, and that persisted, as Craig Kieswetter attempted to smear Daniel Vettori across the line and was bowled. Alex Hales, who began in promising fashion, also paid the price for not using a straight bat, and was bowled by Nathan McCullum.
At 28 for two, England fans would’ve been forgiven for worrying, but Luke Wright and Eoin Morgan ensured that there was no way back into the game for New Zealand. Wright was the chief aggressor, muscling the ball back over the bowler’s head repeatedly for towering sixes. Morgan, who was promoted to No. 4, attacked less often but equally effectively.
Morgan and Wright put on 89 for the third wicket, and had all but taken England home when a spectacular bit of fielding accounted for Morgan. Doug Bracewell, sprinting along the ropes at long-on, threw himself full length to latch onto a stunner as Morgan mistimed a Mills delivery.
New Zealand fought desperately to stay in the game, dismissing Wright (76 off 43 balls, five fours, five sixes) with seven still needed for victory. Wright drove Bracewell straight to Taylor at short cover, and eventually it was Jos Buttler who hit the winning runs, taking England home with seven balls and six wickets to spare. England’s final match of the Super Eights is another must-win, against Sri Lanka on Monday.