Saturday, 9 February 2013

England cruise New Zealand by 40 runs

Broad's bowling attacks cause a big victory:

It was the sort of night that batsmen dream of. The drop-in pitch at Eden Park was hard and true, the straight boundaries were of dimensions more normally associated with the village green, and there was havoc to wreak. England did just that, registering their highest Twenty20 total as one batsman after another played with total freedom.

A target of 215 was all too much for New Zealand, even on a warm and bountiful night when batsmen could have hit straight sixes with a stick of rhubarb, if it was stringy enough. They fell 40 runs short to go one down in a three-match series which now moves on to Hamilton on Tuesday.

Stuart Broad, England's captain, looked fit and happy again in his first international outing for two-and-a-half months and, if his best T20 figures of 4 for 24 and the fact that he is now England's leading T20 wicket-taker will gain most attention, his renewed ability to clock more than 140kph will have brought him equal satisfaction.

England's total not only surpassed their 202 for 6 against South Africa in Johannesburg three years ago, it also equalled the highest score at Eden Park.

Australia made 214 for 5 here in the first T20 international in 2005, a rum affair complete with retro clothing and false moustaches and proud, insecure players insisting that they were not taking it very seriously. It is all very different now, the revelry in the crowd combined with a determination by the players to succeed in cricket's most chaotic, unmanageable format.

New Zealand, normally so reliable in the field, handicapped themselves by dropping five catches. The fifth of them, in the penultimate over, would have required a neat lay-off by James Franklin at long-on to a fielding colleague as he ran tight to the boundary - for New Zealand, it was not a night for such achievements.

"You can't afford to drop five catches, especially with the power England have got," said Brendon McCullum, New Zealand's captain. "We were badly exposed, we let England hit to the short boundaries a lot and we have to work out some better strategies."

Two catches were spurned by Ross Taylor, of all people, who was acclaimed by a crowd of 24,000 on his return from his self-imposed international exile, but who had a nightmarish return, as if the Gods were inclined to poke more fun at him than an overwhelmingly supportive New Zealand public.

He dropped two within four balls and, if the first was difficult as Luke Wright drove Nathan McCullum to cover, his failure to cling onto Michael Lumb's skier was suitably embarrassing. In the interests of reintegration, Taylor grinned in a who-would-have-believed-it sort of way and received pointed expressions of sympathy from nearby team-mates.

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