England spinners tie up Williamson's NZ
England 170 for 4 (Roy 55, Santner 2-24) beat New Zealand 169 for 8 (Williamson 63, Rashid 3-15) by six wickets
After seven overs New Zealand were 78 for 1, steadily marching towards another 200-plus target like they had posted two evenings ago against Sri Lanka. Kane Williamson, New Zealand's captain, was knocking runs effortlessly as the England fast bowlers struggled to find the right length in the early overs.
Eoin Morgan, the England captain, had already tried all his quicks: Chris Jordan, Reece Topley, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes. Against each of them, Williamson had waited till the last minute before reacting to the ball.
Williamson, always easy on the eye, looted 19 runs from the third over, delivered by Plunkett. He started with two sucessive fours: the first went over Plunkett's head, followed by a deft flick to the right of Adil Rashid at short fine leg. A double that sailed over the outstretched hands of Alex Hales at midwicket and was then followed by a fluent cover-driven four. Plunkett continued to err and pitched full again, allowing Willimson to drive over midwicket for another four.
When the left-armer Topley pitched short and wide outside off stump, the New Zealand captain, up on his toes, cut bluntly for a sweetly timed four. Stokes replaced Plunkett but Williamson first stroked him over cover to bring up New Zealand's 50 and then moved outside the line of the ball to hit over mid-off for another easy four.
Moving inside the line of the ball, Willamson then hit Stokes into the Sachin Tendulkar Stand at deep midwicket for his first, and only, six. It brought up his 50 off just 26 balls and comprised ten boundaries.
Morgan did not wait any further before introducing his spin twins: Moeen Ali and Rashid to stem the flow. Moeen struck immediately when he removed Henry Nichols, who went for the sweep shot, top-edged and was caught at short fine leg by Rashid. The legspinner, too, got into the groove when he had Luke Ronchi drive into the hands of Morgan at point.
Still Williamson was lurking at the other end but England need not have worried. Rashid reserved his best for the best batsmen, a perfect legbreak that caught Williamson out of the crease and gave Jos Butler enough time to whip off the bails. Surprisingly, and disappointingly for Willamson, New Zealand stagnated thereafter.
If England were wondering how their two best spinners would fare on Indian wickets they will have been heartened by the first audition. Both Moeen and Rashid kept a tight line, utilised the spin of the pitch and made use of the drift wisely to expose the weakness of the New Zealand batsmen against slow bowlers.
After 10 overs New Zealand were 101 for 2. After 15 overs they were 123 for 5. England's spinners had nicely washed away all the gains scored Williamson in the first ten overs. Only 45 runs came in the middle segment of the New Zealand innings, comprising eight overs bowled by Moeen and Rashid. It was there England snatched the match out of New Zealand's hands.
"It was pretty important for us, we look to win every game whether it's a warm-up or not," Rashid said. "We always want to play at 100% and this was a good workout,'' he said. "If you've got a spinning wicket you've still got to execute your skills and bowl your variations.
"These are different conditions that we've got to adapt to. In India you've got to adjust your lines and lengths and field placings."
A target of 170 did not prove to too difficult for England, who bat deep. The opening combination of Jason Roy and Alex Hales did not disappoint as they gave England the aggressive start they were looking for: after the Powerplay they were 53 for 0. At the halfway stage England needed a further 81 runs with nine wickets in hand. Roy had departed having hit a robust 55 off 36 balls, which included two massive sixes, one of which went out of the ground in the passage separating the Vijay Merchant and Sachin Tendulkar stands behind deep midwicket.
The match did get exciting towards the end, however, with England needing 42 runs from the final four overs. Eoin Morgan took charge and looked like taking his team home till he went for one shot too many. Having reverse swept Nathan McCullum for a four Morgan attempted a slog sweep the very next ball but was caught on the ropes by Williamson: 22 runs from 16 was now the target. It became 20 from the final two overs.
Jos Buttler picked Trent Boult's slower delivery to hit it flat over deep midwicket for a six. Then Stokes punched a low full toss for a one-bounce four that beat Mitchell Santner at wide long-on. With the target down to six from six, Buttler wrapped up the issue with a straight four against a low, slow full toss from Tim Southee.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo