A spate of injuries forced New Zealand to call up Aaron Redmond to their World Twenty20 squad at short notice and throw him into action straightaway against Ireland in their Super Eights' opener at Trent Bridge. He answered their call with an astonishing innings, piercing gaps in the infield with pinpoint accuracy to blast 63 off 30. His half-century and cameos from Scott Styris and Martin Guptill ensured that a weakened New Zealand did not slip on a banana skin and completed a comfortable 83-run victory.
New Zealand were without three of their best players - Jesse Ryder was ruled out of the tournament with an infection while Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori had hamstring and shoulder injuries - so they sent an SOS to Redmond, playing in the Bolton League in England. He'd never played a limited-overs international but opening in a World Twenty20 match was a seamless transition.
Wearing Brendon McCullum's shirt with the name blacked out, Redmond began by driving a full ball from Peter Connell to the cover boundary, the first in a glut of boundaries. He hit two more fours off Connell's first over towards backward point and third man before turning his attention to Trent Johnston, who was returning after missing the game against India. The first two balls raced to the point and straight boundaries and the last two were dispatched to square leg and midwicket. Redmond had hit seven fours off his first ten balls.
Johnston changed ends but to no avail. Redmond flicked the first ball of Johnston's second over to the midwicket boundary and lofted the second down the ground. Redmond had contributed 40 out of New Zealand's total of 44 when Brendon McCullum finally decided to make an appearance and pulled Kevin O'Brien to hit the tournament's 100th six. However, he failed to clear mid-off while stepping out to Kyle McCallan and holed out soon after.
The focus shifted back to Redmond who brought up his fifty, off 23 balls, by reverse-sweeping McCallan for consecutive fours. He had hit no sixes but had 13 fours. Those who watched him struggle during the Tests in England last year would have been surprised for Redmond managed only 54 runs in three matches on that tour. Those who watched him ransack 100 off 56 balls for Otago against Central Districts in the State Twenty20 in February would not.
Redmond was eventually lbw to Alex Cusack, playing across the line but had done more than enough to set up the innings. Styris made Ireland pay for Regan West's missed caught-and-bowled chance by hammering 42 off 25 balls and Guptill launched the ball into the stands four times during his 45 off 32. New Zealand didn't manage 200, but their total of 198 was beyond the range of Ireland's guns.
Ireland needed a combination of magnificent batting and luck to get near New Zealand and they got neither. Their opener William Porterfield was run out in the first over while backing up too far after Kyle Mills got his fingertips on to Gary Wilson's firm drive before the ball crashed into the stumps. Their best batsman in the win against Bangladesh, Niall O'Brien, dragged a length delivery straight to mid-on in Mills' second over.
A collapse from 15 for 2, though, was averted by a steady partnership between Wilson and Andre Botha but they were unable to match the asking-rate and had reached only 42 by the end of the Powerplay. The blows that sealed Ireland's fate, however, came in the space of four balls. Wilson's attempt to loft Styris over long-off was held by James Franklin and Botha was run out attempting a non-existent single, leaving Ireland on 58 for 4.
The ensuing slide was swift and Ireland lost wickets quickly even as the required run-rate soared to 15 an over and beyond. Nathan McCullum prospered, picking up 3 for 15, while his brother Brendon was outstanding in the infield. He scored direct hits to run out John Mooney and Johnston, and took a sharp catch to his right at midwicket to dismiss Cusack. New Zealand may have appeared weak on paper but their performance at Trent Bridge on the day was anything but.