England and New Zealand are inseparable in white ball cricket. As if the greatest ODI game in the World cup final was not enough ,the two teams almost contrived to play a high drama 5 match T20I series for obvious preparations before the T20I World cup 2020. England took the lead in 1st ODI followed by the Blackcaps winning 2 on the bounce .With series on line for England , the Malan-Morgan meyhem in 4th game ensured teams will be all square going into the final ODI — after all its England v New Zealand !!!
The series appeared to be almost staying that way with heavy rains casting doubts over the match . However it ceased in time for a maximum of 11 over slogathon. Auckland’s Eden Park is one of the smaller grounds with short straight boundaries and hence England straightaway put the kiwis in on winning the toss with Auckland being a good chasing ground traditionally.
The Blackcaps were off to a blistering start as Martin Guptill came out all guns blazing with awesome hitting. He scored 50 off just 20 balls with 3 fours and 5 hefty sixes mostly on the onside. Munro was equally dangerous slamming 46 off 21 balls with 4 sixes as New Zealand scored rapidly against Curran brothers in particular and it was only after Rashid’s introduction that England got into the game with 3 quick wickets. Keeper Seifert with his brutal hitting provided the late flourish with 39 off 19 balls with 5 sixes as the Blackcaps scored 146/5 in 11 overs thus challenging the tourists with 14 plus runrate per over to win.
England , by contrast had a stuttering start and must have been rueing the exclusion of 4th T20I centurion Dawid Malan for this game, as it was a pre decided decision to rotate players. However with the series on line and an abbreviated game, surely Malan would have been more lethal than Vince and could have played. With dangerous Morgan(17) gone at 39/3 after 3 overs ,the Blackcaps looked in ascendancy. However Sam Curran (24 off 11 balls) joined forces with Johny Bairstow to provide the match turning stand of 61 in 4 overs. Curran went after fast bowler Kuggeleijn taking 20 off his over with some cavalier offside strokes while Bairstow (47 off 18, 5 sixes) took on leggie Ish Sodhi depositing him into the stands 3 successive times to take 22 of his over and got back England the momentum ,only to be lost soon after with both getting out at wrong time as Neesham and Santner bowled well. In the last over England needed 16 runs ( shades of World cup final) and Chris Jordan struck timely blows and the all important boundary off last ball of Jimmy Neesham to tie the match !! Deja vu again as superover was required again to separate the sides for this match and the series.
Southee bowled the first superover with England scoring 17 runs as Bairstow and Morgan hit 1 six each. In reply Chris Jordan again came to England’s rescue with his tight superover going for not more than 8 runs as Seifert playing all the first 4 balls before being dismissed with Guptill (as per most experts, should have taken first ball) cooling his heels at the bowlers end. Only 1 run came off the last 4 balls as England win a thriller and took the series by the narrowest of margins -3-2 with Chris Jordan playing a vital role in the last stages of the match.
It was a rivetting 5 match T20I series with both teams trading equal blows as per their recent history and the Blackcaps choked slightly again when it mattered.
Bairstow for his momentum changing knock was the man of the match while Mitchel Santner for his tight bowling and crucial wickets in a batting dominated series was the man of the series as both teams played out a thriller of a series inspite of resting some of their key players.
The commentary in the last game was a highlight too with Ian Smith and Nasser Hussain were on fire on the mike, Ian being truly epic with his expressions on the moment of the tie when superover was confirmed, jokingly asking Hussain to leave the country followed by heaps of laughter in the commentary box , as the game replicated the World cup final in so many ways.