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  • New Zealand v England, 1st T20, Auckland

Strong England take 40-run victory

The Report by David Hopps
February 9, 2013
Luke Wright completed a fine all-round match with two wickets © Getty Images
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England 214 for 7 (Morgan 46, Wright 42) beat New Zealand 174 for 9 (Guptill 44, Broad 4-24) by 40 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

It was the sort of night that batsmen dream of. The drop-in pitch at Eden Park was hard and true, the straight boundaries were of dimensions more normally associated with the village green, and there was havoc to wreak. England did just that, registering their highest Twenty20 total as one batsman after another played with total freedom.

A target of 215 was all too much for New Zealand, even on a warm and bountiful night when batsmen could have hit straight sixes with a stick of rhubarb, if it was stringy enough. They fell 40 runs short to go one down in a three-match series which now moves on to Hamilton on Tuesday.

Stuart Broad, England's captain, looked fit and happy again in his first international outing for two-and-a-half months and, if his best T20 figures of 4 for 24 and the fact that he is now England's leading T20 wicket-taker will gain most attention, his renewed ability to clock more than 140kph will have brought him equal satisfaction.

England's total not only surpassed their 202 for 6 against South Africa in Johannesburg three years ago, it also equalled the highest score at Eden Park.

Australia made 214 for 5 here in the first T20 international in 2005, a rum affair complete with retro clothing and false moustaches and proud, insecure players insisting that they were not taking it very seriously. It is all very different now, the revelry in the crowd combined with a determination by the players to succeed in cricket's most chaotic, unmanageable format.

New Zealand, normally so reliable in the field, handicapped themselves by dropping five catches. The fifth of them, in the penultimate over, would have required a neat lay-off by James Franklin at long-on to a fielding colleague as he ran tight to the boundary - for New Zealand, it was not a night for such achievements.

"You can't afford to drop five catches, especially with the power England have got," said Brendon McCullum, New Zealand's captain. "We were badly exposed, we let England hit to the short boundaries a lot and we have to work out some better strategies."

Two catches were spurned by Ross Taylor, of all people, who was acclaimed by a crowd of 24,000 on his return from his self-imposed international exile, but who had a nightmarish return, as if the Gods were inclined to poke more fun at him than an overwhelmingly supportive New Zealand public.

He dropped two within four balls and, if the first was difficult as Luke Wright drove Nathan McCullum to cover, his failure to cling onto Michael Lumb's skier was suitably embarrassing. In the interests of reintegration, Taylor grinned in a who-would-have-believed-it sort of way and received pointed expressions of sympathy from nearby team-mates.

England struck 15 sixes in all, only two below the record of 17 sixes conceded by England against South Africa at Centurion three years ago, nine of them hit by Loots Bosman on a night which saw Sajid Mahmood's T20 international career come to a sticky end. New Zealand managed only seven in reply as England increased the short stuff to force them to hit to the longer, squarer boundaries.

Their calculating, aggressive mindset was ingrained from the start. The left-arm spin of Ronnie Hira, introduced for the fourth over, had Alex Hales stumped by Brendon McCullum, but his second over had less to commend it. It disappeared for 21, with Wright and Michael Lumb helping themselves to two sixes and two fours each. England completed the six-over Powerplay healthily placed at 62 for 1; the mood was set.

The introduction of Andrew Ellis' medium pace brought even more havoc - 18 runs, sixes for Lumb and Wright, Taylor's drop at deep midwicket and the dismissal of Wright who planted a length ball straight to deep midwicket. Lumb, starved of the strike, eventually gloved a pull to short fine leg.

A stand of 81 in 43 balls between Eoin Morgan (46 off 26) and Jonny Bairstow (38 off 22) was the center-piece of England's innings. England's fourth-wicket pair needed a restorative evening like this. Morgan was intent on righting his reputation after a disappointing one-day tour of India and Bairstow was back in the side after compassionate leave because of a family illness. Morgan said he had never batted on a better surface.

The worst of New Zealand's four drops was down to Mitchell McClenaghan - Morgan, on 33, offered a simple opportunity to McClenaghan at backward point, but he never laid a hand of it, blinking as if he had been affected by the reflection of the sun on the stands.

England achieved higher standards in the field. New Zealand sensed it would not be their night when Morgan took a brilliant catch, running back from point, to dismiss Brendon McCullum, the batsman most likely to summon a response.

That cleared the way for Taylor. He took guard with New Zealand's task ever more daunting - 161 from 91 balls - and departed to an ugly leg-side smear at Steven Finn.

Wright's 42 from 20 balls had been as destructive as anything England produced with the bat, but for him to return 2 for 29 in four overs as England's sixth bowler would have given his captain, Broad even more cause for gratitude.

Wright had quite a night as England's sixth bowler, as full of activity as a wound-up clockwork toy. He wound up the crowd when he claimed a return catch off Colin Munro's boot - a close call worthy of a check with the third umpire - had Martin Guptill, whose 44 from 32 balls represented New Zealand's best response, caught at mid-off and added Nathan McCullum with his penultimate ball. At one point, he even bowled four successive dot balls to Munro. Now that took some doing.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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