England were left to reflect on a shoddy collapse as New Zealand claimed a 14-run victory in Nelson to go 2-1 up in this Twenty20 series with two to play.
After the Black Caps had posted 180 for six, powered by a typically brawny 35-ball 55 from Colin de Grandhomme, the tourists looked to be cruising to their target with ease, needing 44 from the last 34 balls with eight wickets in hand.
Dawid Malan may have undone some of the good work en route to a fifth half-century in eight appearances by holing out to an Ish Sodhi full toss on 55. But with James Vince and skipper Eoin Morgan well set at the crease, all seemed under control.
Instead the loss of the captain for 18, picking out deep mid-wicket off the final ball from Mitch Santner’s allocation, began a cascade of five English wickets in 19 balls as the 5,500-strong crowd found its voice.
Sam Billings was gormlessly run-out from point for two, before Vince, a run shy of 50 and thus the man to get them home, chipped meekly to mid-off. Lockie Ferguson then signed off from this series before his Test preparation with the wickets of Lewis Gregory and Sam Curran as England limped to 166 for seven by the end.
Morgan and head coach Chris Silverwood had gone lighter than before by way of experience, handing debuts to Tom Banton and Matt Parkinson, and restoring Tom Curran to the XI; Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and Chris Jordan stepped down from Sunday’s 21-run defeat in Wellington.
Martin Guptill had flown out of the traps first thing, cracking a 17-ball 33 only to be fooled by a Pat Brown knuckle-ball in the fourth over, before Tom Curran followed an excellent running catch by removing Colin Munro four balls later.
When Parkinson struck with his fifth ball in international cricket – Tim Seifert bowled through his legs attempting a reverse sweep – it helped keep New Zealand to 84 for three by the midway point.
But de Grandhomme was up and running, going on to bring up a 27-ball half-century with a crisp straight six amid a stand of 66 in seven overs with Ross Taylor that provided the bulk of New Zealand’s total.
After Tom Curran eventually snuffed out de Grandhomme, caught in the deep, Morgan’s boldest move came in sticking with the expensive Saqib Mahmood for a fourth over late in the piece and being rewarded with the wicket of Taylor lbw for 27.
With Sam Curran halting out a late charge from Neesham – bowled on 20 by a delivery – and Santner run out, England had once again pegged back the hosts; the only oddity was why Parkinson never returned for a second spell despite his leg-breaks having shipped just 14 runs.
There was little time to dwell on this, however, as the travelling England supporters – and an army of acolytes on social media back home – strapped in to watch Banton’s first outing at this level.
The early signs were promising from the 20-year-old, crisply driving his third ball from Tim Southee on the up for four and then whipping Ferguson for a glorious six over mid-wicket. But the charge was halted soon after, bowled by Blair Tickner when attempting a scoop on 18.
It was the kind of shot that led to Banton’s call-up – and the first time in the 20-year-old’s senior career he has been dismissed playing it – such that Morgan will hope it does not lead to future inhibition.
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