England Women 99 for 3 (Wyatt 33, Sciver 26*, Kasperek 2-24) beat New Zealand Women 96 (Martin 36, Glenn 2-11, Brunt 2-13, Ecclestone 2-18, Sciver 2-28) by seven wickets
Natalie Sciver made a decisive impact with ball and bat at either end of a commanding seven-wicket win as England took a 1-0 lead in their three-match T20I series against New Zealand. This display extended Sciver's impressive form from the ODI series, in which she was England's leading wicket-taker apart from scoring a match-winning 63 in the second ODI in Dunedin.
Choosing to bowl first at the Westpac Stadium, England got off to a brilliant start, with Sciver dismissing Sophie Devine and Amy Satterthwaite within the space of her first two overs as New Zealand slipped to 10 for 2. There was no real recovery thereafter, despite a 32-ball 36 from Katey Martin, as England's bowlers kept striking at regular intervals to bowl the hosts out for 96 in 19.4 overs. Sciver, her new-ball partner Katherine Brunt, and spinners Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn finished with two wickets each.
England's chase was never in doubt, once Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt put on 59 for the first wicket in 8.3 overs. A brief flutter followed as the offspinner Leigh Kasperek dismissed both openers in successive overs before Heather Knight was run out for a duck. But Sciver ensured there was no more panic, scoring an unbeaten 26 off 25 balls and seeing England home in the company of Amy Jones, with whom she put on an unbroken 32 for the fourth wicket. Sciver hit the winning boundary, off Devine, off the final ball of the 16th over.
Wyatt was particularly pleased to have top-scored for England after a lean ODI series and set the chase off to a strong start with Beaumont, who carried over her excellent form from the 50-over series, in which she was the leading run-scorer with three half-centuries from as many matches.
"I spoke to the captain last night and she said, 'just go out there play with freedom," Wyatt said. "I just thought about two key words, just focus and watch the ball, and that's what I did today, because it was a really tough wicket to bat on but I thought the way to get there was just to be attacking and play my game.
"In the team meeting last night we spoke about starting really well. In the last 12 months, I feel we've not had the start that we wanted so me and Tammy wanted to do really well, get us off to a good start, set a good platform, and then we did that today."
Sophia Dunkley didn't get the chance to bat after expressing a desire to establish herself in England's batting line-up, having returned to the fold last year after 18 months on the fringes of selection. But Wyatt praised her efforts in the field along with Mady Villiers, the youngster who added a wicket to the tourists' haul with her offspin.
"Sophia Dunkley's come in and showed us what she can do in the field, Mady Villiers is an outstanding fielder, and that just sets the tone and makes everyone up for it," Wyatt said.
Dunkley took a nerveless catch on the square leg boundary to remove dangerous New Zealand opener Devine for just two and Villiers held a sharp chance to dismiss Hayley Jensen before the pair combined for the dismissal of Leigh Kasperek, Dunkley claiming a catch off Villiers' bowling. Freya Davies also snaffled an excellent chance off Sciver, running and diving at mid-on as Satterthwaite fell cheaply.
The second and third T20Is will also be played in Wellington, on Friday and Sunday.