Focussed England complete emphatic win
A proficient and professional allround display from England took them to an emphatic 50-run win over New Zealand in the second and final Twenty20 in Christchurch. With the one-day series two days away, England are bristling with confidence and New Zealand have it all to do.
England were in control from the outset, with Phil Mustard and Luke Wright launching an exuberant attack at the top of the order before Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah steered them to 193 for 8, in an excellent fifth-wicket stand of 102 - England's highest in Twenty20s. Impressively, all their bowlers played a part with Ryan Sidebottom particularly accurate while Dimitri Mascarenhas's underrated dobblers accounted for Jamie How and Scott Styris. New Zealand were never in the hunt and particularly missed Jacob Oram, their standout player in the first Twenty20 two days ago.
New Zealand's chase of a demanding target began badly, Jesse Ryder falling with the score on 14 before Brendon McCullum, the stand-in captain in Daniel Vettori's absence, was bowled by a fine yorker from Sidebottom and New Zealand were reduced to 19 for 2. There are doubts over Vettori's involvement in next week's one-day series - he has an ankle injury - and today's loss has piled the pressure on McCullum, who is struggling to manage the three roles.
Ross Taylor briefly threatened to make a fist of things with a brutal 21, lifting James Anderson for a six over midwicket and a rocketed four through the same leg-side region. And when he smashed Stuart Broad for the biggest six of the night over midwicket, there were tentative signs that New Zealand could yet chase down 194. It wasn't to be, however, and Taylor was well caught by Bell jogging backwards at cover.
How cracked 31 from 25 before he was bowled around his legs by the canny Mascarenhas - an awful shot in the circumstances - and Daniel Flynn, flown in to replace Oram, lasted two balls to leave New Zealand limping on 94 for 7. Kyle Mills, with 30 off 22 balls, briefly threatened a revival but when Sidebottom bowled Paul Hitchcock for 13 - finishing with impressive figures of 2 for 19 from his four overs - it was as good as over.
England were livewires in the field and accurate with the ball, but neither adjective could be used to describe New Zealand's effort earlier in the evening. Mills and Chris Martin both began tidily, but Wright and Mustard took advantage of the very short leg-side boundary to immediately levy the balance putting on 65 inside six overs. Mustard got off the mark with a fortuitous outside edge for six, over point, following it up with an ugly clubbed six over long-off.
Meanwhile, Wright - who before today hadn't taken to international Twenty20s - was less assured but soon capitalised on a wayward comeback from Hitchcock, replacing Jeetan Patel. Like Patel, who was pummelled in the first Twenty20 two days ago, Hitchcock was treated with disdain by Wright, who whistled a ferocious four through the covers before lifting him over the top for six. After five overs, England were 57 without loss and motoring.
However, Wright's dismissal in the next over brought about a mid-order slump that gave the home crowd something to cheer about. Kevin Pietersen went for 3 and Ian Bell - who ran himself out with a brainless single to mid-on - for 1. England's hopes of passing 200 were fading and, when Mustard was superbly held by Mills on the long-on boundary, New Zealand had the visitors at 76 for 4.
In came Shah and Collingwood and they immediately turned England's fortunes around with a fine stand of 102 in just 10.2 overs. Shah got off the mark with a neat pull off Styris, but he spared the punishment for Ryder who was carved for 16 in one particularly drab over - the highlight, a flat and fiercely struck six over long-off. Collingwood was even more urgent than Shah, favouring the leg-side to smack Tim Southee over the top for six before driving the same bowler past extra cover.
England were suddenly on the charge again and Collingwood brought up a 24-ball fifty with his third six, flinging Mills over the square leg boundary and also registering his and Shah's hundred stand. Hitchcock, after being lambasted for 37 from a couple of overs, found redemption when Shah smacked him straight to long-off. The very next ball, Collingwood mistimed another leg-side heave and found How lurking at long-on.
Mascarenhas survived the hat-trick delivery in his own inimitable style, upper-cutting him over backward point - but although he couldn't replicate his six-hitting furore of two days ago, England's 194 was more than enough.
Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo