Wellington: England’s Trans-Tasman tri-series hopes are all but over after a 12-run defeat by New Zealand. Three successive, emphatic losses mean they need Australia to beat the Black Caps in Auckland on Friday and buck up their ideas when these two meet again on Sunday to have any hope of reaching the final on 21 February.
Considering 163 is the highest successful chase at this stadium, England’s target of 197 was beyond them once Jason Roy was dismissed for his fifth single-figure T20i score in a row and Alex Hales was nipped in the bud for a blistering 47 from 23 balls. Jos Buttler, skippering for a second match as Eoin Morgan continues to recover from a groin strain, was caught in the deep as the first of two wickets for the leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.
That made it 109-4, with eight overs to go and 88 remaining on the table. A third 50 in four matches for Dawid Malan (59) and some proper clouts from David Willey gave the locals something to stick around for. When Willey was run out failing to scamper a bye off the final ball of the 19th – a boneheaded play considering he needed to be on strike for the final over – getting 25 from the last six balls was always beyond Adil Rashid and the No 11 Mark Wood.
Any fears about the drop-in pitch at the Westpac Stadium, which sported a large bare patch in the middle, were allayed by the host’s 196 for five. A steady Power Play of 50-1 suggested a degree of ebb and flow after Buttler elected to bowl first, so when Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson could only add 10 off the next two overs, Buttler would have felt he had the match under control.
However, Guptill and Williamson were then invited to click through the gears by England’s attack: both passing 50 – off 31 and 34 balls, respectively – with a six and then celebrating with a six off the next ball. As opener, the first six overs offered Guptill the chance to free his arms, before settling into what looked to be his second international T20 century. Instead, he was removed on 65, lazily working a leg-side full toss from Rashid to the returning Liam Plunkett at short-fine leg. Colin de Grandhomme went the very next ball to a stunning catch by Chris Jordan at long-off, who hung in the air and plucked a sure six out of the night sky.
Williamson, though, was the one that got away. A needless opening single should have been the end of him: Wood with a sterling effort to gather off his own bowling, but the throw that followed missed the non-striker’s stumps with the hosts’ captain nowhere in sight. Pace off the ball kept him in check but, for some reason, England abandoned the tactic and insisted on hitting him with pace at the end of his innings. When they eventually saw the back of him at the end of the 18th over, yorked by Jordan for 72 (his first half-century in 10 innings), the platform had been set for the debutants Mark Chapman and Tim Seifert to share four sixes.
Chapman, now a dual international, became the first player born in Hong Kong to play for a full member side since Dermot Reeve’s England debut in May 1991. The 23-year-old Chapman has represented Hong Kong in two ODIs and 19 T20is.
It was particularly chastening for Wood, whose four overs and extra pace allowed 51 runs. It was a spell that added further sincerity to one of the aims for his upcoming IPL stint with Chennai Super Kings – to develop a proper slower ball. Trailblazers in the 50-over format, over the last week England have played the shortest form as if they have much to learn.