New Zealand blitz squeezes out new-look England
New Zealand 201 for 4 (B McCullum 68, Rutherford 62, Taylor 32*, Wright 2-31) beat England 196 for 5 (Wright 52, Hales 39, Bopara 30*) by five runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
For a supposedly pointless fixture squeezed rudely into the calendar, this game produced enough wattage to light up a fair proportion of south London. New Zealand were the victors in a match that aggregated 397 runs as a full house at The Oval lapped up a classically rambunctious T20 international.
Hamish Rutherford and Brendon McCullum tore up some mediocre bowling on a good pitch as New Zealand posted 201 for 4 and, although Luke Wright muscled a typically busy half-century, England's middle-order was left with too much to do after Ian Butler and Mitchell McClenaghan struck in successive overs.
Butler's dismissal of Eoin Morgan, via a brilliant, one-handed Ross Taylor catch, leaping high to his right at slip, was as concussive a blow as any. For the captain, McCullum, to insert a slip at that stage was another strikingly aggressive gambit.
Although the ground thrummed to the beat of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army", as the crowd chanted in support of their new cult hero, Ravi Bopara, his 30 off 18 balls was not quite enough to complete England's highest successful chase in T20 internationals.
This is what T20 in England is supposed to be about - warm summer evenings, turbo-charged batting and a well-lubricated crowd ready to cheer on whichever team hits the hardest. The T20 series with New Zealand has overshadowed the launch of the Friends Life t20 but there may be hope that the domestic competition can plug in to a similar power source for the next couple of months.
The weather will play a big role in that and, after the enforced 20-over affair during a soggy Champions Trophy final on Sunday, for once the sun shone and the skies remained clear for a genuine T20 contest.
A side featuring four players in Morgan, Bopara, Jos Buttler and James Tredwell who took on India, as well as several of England's T20 specialists, may have missed a handful of regulars being protected for the Ashes but they pushed a more experienced New Zealand all the way. The five-run loss had a familiar ring but the circumstances couldn't have been more different to the cagey affair at Edgbaston.
At the end of the Powerplay, England were 67 for 1, which offered a perky comparison with New Zealand's 54 for 1. Although Michael Lumb was bowled, playing the ball on to his stumps via a boot in the fourth over, he had set the tempo with two crunching leg-side blows for six.
His Nottinghamshire partner, Hales, who last made more than 21 six weeks ago and was coming off a run of 11 single-figures score in 13 innings, was afforded the slice of luck he required when a top edge flew high to fine leg and the chasing Rutherford dropped the ball, which then rolled for four.
The delivery was also called a no-ball - though McClenaghan may have pointed to Stuart Broad's crucial dismissal of Kane Williamson in these teams' Champions Trophy encounter by way of defence - and the over went for 25.
A partnership worth 55 with Wright followed before Hales picked out deep midwicket with a mishit slog. Wright reached 50 off 29 balls but after his dismissal the requirement rose to 63 from 30, which for all Bopara's now-familiar swash and buckle proved beyond England. With 16 needed, Ben Stokes hit the first ball of the final over for six but the bowler, Corey Anderson, held his nerve.
The tone for the evening had been set by New Zealand's second-wicket partnership, worth 114 runs in 67 balls, between Rutherford and McCullum, with the former scoring his first half-century in a limited-overs international. McCullum, unusually, was not quite as belligerent as his partner but he top-scored with 68 from 48 balls in a manner reminiscent of his form against England when these two teams began their 16-round, bi-continental tussle back in February.
England inserted New Zealand after Morgan had won the toss and the stand-in captain's evening was further buoyed by Boyd Rankin, the former Ireland bowler, taking a wicket with his fourth delivery in an England shirt. But the next hour and a half went almost as rapidly downhill as the ball seemed to go forever skyward, Rutherford and McCullum batting with giddy abandon on a true surface as England were forced into using seven bowlers.
The pair had evidently not been told this was a glorified exhibition match, albeit a crowd-pulling one, and set about giving England's reservists a thorough caning. Rankin and Wright apart, the bowlers queued up like naughty schoolboys to be disciplined: Chris Woakes' only over cost 19, including a lazy flick over deep square leg from Rutherford; Tredwell was sized up for 15 in his first, as Rutherford clubbed him for consecutive, imperious sixes.
Tredwell was again smashed into the crowd at long-on in his second over, after Rutherford passed 50 off his 28th delivery. England had reason to rue Bopara's drop off Jade Dernbach in the fourth over. Rutherford sliced the ball towards point at just above head height, but Bopara seemed to have too much spring in his heels and a straightforward chance deflected away off his wrist.
Bopara later conceded 22 from an over and he and Tredwell, who had provided crucial spells with the ball in the Champions Trophy final, bowled four overs at a cost of 64 runs here.
Rankin may find it a little harder to get served in The Greyhound, the nearby Irish pub in Kennington, after his inclusion confirmed an anticipated switch to England but there were plenty in the ground who would have willingly bought him a drink after he struck in his first over.
His pace and back-of-a-length hostility around off stump made him appear like an imported Steven Finn knock-off and he soon exposed James Franklin, in for the hamstrung Martin Guptill, for the imitation opener that he is - at least at international level - with one that nipped back. With New Zealand 1 for 1 after four balls, England may have felt they had the luck of Irish but they had run out of it by the end.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here