England v New Zealand: Hosts suffer five-run loss to Black Caps at Oval
England v New Zealand: Eoin Morgan's men suffer a five-run defeat by the Black Caps in the opening T20 match at the Oval
England again fell short after being in a winning position for the second time in three days as the hosts lost the first Twenty20 international to New Zealand by five runs at the Oval.
The Black Caps belted 201 off their allotted 20 overs, thanks to a brilliant 62 by Hamish Rutherford and Brendon McCullum’s innings of 68.
They could have closed in on 250 if England had not fought back in the final 10 overs, with Jade Dernbach, Boyd Rankin and most notably, Luke Wright, all chipping in.
Wright also hit a 34-ball 52 to lift England to within in touching distance, but needing 16 off the final over, and they could only muster 10 runs despite the re-called Ben Stokes lifting the first ball into the stand for six.
Eoin Morgan’s side will have a chance to level the series on Thursday, and they will expect to put in an improved showing with Kevin Pietersen likely to return to the side.
England’s openers – Michael Lumb (29) and Alex Hales – rocketed off in pursuit of their target of 202, reaching 50 inside four overs.
The Nottinghamshire hitter, in particular, has been horrendously out-of-form for his county and body language experts would have been dismayed with his attitude after mishitting ball after ball.
Although Hales’ 39 runs lacked any fluency, he still managed to find the boundary six times, including a maximum over square-leg.
He compiled another useful 50 partnership with Wright, who went on to, once again, show his worth at this level. But the aforementioned Hales was out when he slogged to deep-midwicket, thus ending the partnership.
However, two superb catches put England right on the back foot, having seemingly been in a match-winning position.
First to go was Morgan (7), who was snaffled at slip by Ross Taylor one-handed. It was a superb effort and will no doubt make the various highlights reels on the news bulletins.
Then Black Caps’ keeper Tom Latham took slip out of the equation when he lept across to get rid of Wright, at a crucial juncture.
England were wobbling again on 134-3 with just over six overs left but Ravi Bopara continued his recent good form from the Champions Trophy with an unbeaten 30.
The all-rounder was supported by Jos Buttler (17 off 10 balls).
However, Bopara was left stranded after Buttler tried his luck one too many times and was run out in the 19th over with England still some way off.
And Bopara and Stokes couldn’t quite manage to find their range just when it mattered.
Earlier in the day, the tall Derry-born Rankin, making his England debut, got his team off to a flying start when he had James Franklin caught behind with only his fourth ball.
The makeshift opener Franklin feathered an inside edge through to Buttler.
But New Zealand were not fazed. McCullum, coming in at three, put on 114 runs with partner Rutherford.
The latter has been playing for Essex throughout the duration of the Champions Trophy but slotted right back into the Black Caps’ team with a sublime half-century – his first in international T20 cricket.
McCullum just continued to emphasise his ability in the shortest form of the game.
England had few answers of how to counter a New Zealand batting line-up that was taking full advantage of the glorious batting conditions on offer.
Chris Woakes’ first and only over went for 19, while the normally dependable off-spin of James Tredwell was smoked for 32 in his two solitary overs.
Captain for the day, Morgan, was keen to stick to pre-match plans – rarely showing flexibility with his bowlers.
Yet in the 12th over he brought on Wright – a T20 specialist bowler, who has been plying his trade across the world over the winter in Bangladesh, Australia and in the IPL.
The Sussex all-rounder did not disappoint, bowling off a shortened run he pegged back the Black Caps with two wickets at the cost of 17 runs.
He finished with figures of 4-0-31-2 – a credible effort when you consider how quickly New Zealand were scoring.
In his first over, he had Rutherford caught at long-off and then he yorked McCullum two overs later with one of the few full-length deliveries England bowled in innings.
It makes you wonder why Wright wasn’t selected for the Champions Trophy?
Taylor, who had been relatively sedate at the other end whilst watching McCullum on the rampage, then put on a handy partnership of 39 off 16 balls.
Dernbach will have gained confidence with his bowling at the death, as his two remaining overs cost just 18.
He was rewarded with the wicket of Latham with his penultimate ball – he could have had more if England had held onto their chances.
The England hierarchy will have been pleased with the showings of several players in what is a relatively low-key series but they will have been disappointed that the batsman again failed to show the necessary nous to get the win.
Thursday represents a chance to put things right before the Ashes.