On the earliest start to an International summer on the South Island of New Zealand, Christchurch’s Hagley Oval played host to the first of five T20 matches. An unprecedented start date and amount of matches as no five match T20 series has ever been played between two full member teams. A clear indication then of England’s plans to prepare for next year’s World T20 in Australia.
Many of the summer’s world cup heroes have been rested for this series which naturally gives opportunities for new blood. At the start of the day debuts were given to Pat Brown, Lewis Gregory and Sam Curran, captain Morgan won the toss and decide to bowl on a decent looking deck.
The Curran brothers started well with taking pace of the ball and tucking the two Kiwi openers up for room. Morgan gambled and went against what probably would have been the set plan and gave Sam an extra over as a reward for his opener. The gamble backfired and the New Zealand innings was up and running with two sixes from Colin Munro as the crowd in the packed hillside stands at Hagley Oval were ducking for cover.
England however continued to take wickets throughout with all the bowlers apart from Tom Curran contributing in the wicket column. Some trademark sweeping from Ross Taylor did get the hosts up to something respectable but were notably pegged back by a good 20th over from Pat Brown. His final over was typical Brown for anyone that has seen him in the T20 Blast with plenty of slower balls and the occasional fast one up at 90mph.
At the halfway stage of the match it felt like New Zealand had just left a few out there, and with the amount of wickets they had left in the hutch perhaps they could have been more aggressive. As for England the tactic to take pace of the ball appeared to have paid off.
England had decided to send their most experienced players in early and it looked to be paying off when Bairstow was playing his typical opening role. At 68-2 however and with both opening batsmen in the shed England needed a match wining knock from their number three in James Vince. The Hampshire top order batsman has been on the receiving end of criticism in the past for not producing enough innings of substances.
Today though was different to what we had seen before from Vince as he made his way past fifty and looked like with his captain he was going to take his team home. With the end in sight Vince went back to a short ball from Santner and swiped it hard straight out to Martin Guptill on the boundary. Vince’s innings had felt like an improvement but in the end it did finish on an all too familiar note.
Billings in his new role in the team as vice captain steadied the ship with the actual captain in Morgan and England won comfortably by seven wickets. In the end New Zealand were probably around thirty runs of being competitive and the pitch was just a tad slower then it looked. After one match then England was one up with the second coming up on Sunday afternoon local time.