Cricket: Black Caps win T20 opener

By Andrew Alderson at the Oval

At times it resembled rounders as the ball disappeared to all parts of the Oval's relatively distant boundaries but a near-capacity crowd were treated to a riveting contest in the opening New Zealand-England Twenty20 international.

Chasing 202 to win, England needed 16 off the last over but lost by five runs. Corey Anderson was faced with delivering under pressure and succeeded, conceding just 11 including a six from Ben Stokes off the first ball.

SCOREBOARD

England chances initially appeared limited given their previous highest haul to win a match in the format was 181 against India in December.

At 134 for two in the 14th over they were in prime position. Three pivotal moments changed that.

Bizarrely, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum chose to keep a slip in place for Ian Butler who bowled a short, wide delivery. Eoin Morgan flashed at it and Ross Taylor leapt to hold a memorable one-hander to his right. McCullum had made the right call.

Luke Wright fell seven balls later when another width ball, this time from Mitchell McClenaghan had Tom Latham securing the catch (filling in for McCullum as wicketkeeper).

Wright's 52 off 34 balls was the key innings to keep England in the contest. It enabled Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara to bisect and stretch the field in the final throes. The crowd's "oh, Ravi Bopara" chant to the White Stripes' Seven Nations Army spurred on the hosts. Butler had a Bopara chance go straight through his hands in the 17th over at long leg, compounding the drama.

In the 19th over Latham threw down the stumps with his gloves on underarming to the non-striker's end. It removed Buttler who had been called through after missing a scoop.

Yet still England advanced with menace into the final over in a great advertisement for the format.

Earlier, New Zealand's batting told a familiar story. As the pressure gauge came down, the country's best cricketers stepped up their game.

Such was the case in a match of little consequence. Tacked on the end of two tests, a one-day international series and the Champions Trophy, New Zealand eased to 201 for four, their third highest T20 score.

England, diluted from the ODI version from that which made the final of the Champions Trophy, produced a spate of lacklustre bowling and fielding. Examples included an eight-ball, 22 run over from Bopara, 19 off a Chris Woakes effort and 15 from James Tredwell. The trio conceded at least 16-runs-an-over across five overs.

James Franklin, opening for the third time in 31 T20s, was dismissed first ball (the fourth of the innings). He got an inside edge to Boyd Rankin on the back of minimal footwork.

Rankin was debuting for England (after playing a number of seasons for Ireland). Franklin was the only New Zealander not to cash in.

His early wicket failed to hinder optimism on a profitable batting strip. Hamish Rutherford (fresh from county one-day success for Essex) and Brendon McCullum piled on 114 for the second wicket. The pair gave the New Zealand innings spine with Rutherford making 62 from 35 and McCullum 68 from 48. It was Rutherford's first half-century in four T20s. Ross Taylor (32 not out) and Tom Latham (22) also contributed.

A gaggle of sixes and fours resulted. Fans got in on the act with regular catching practice in the stands. In shades of Eden Park, McCullum even managed to top edge a six directly over the keeper's head into the 2nd tier of seating. However, he must have got something on it. Reliable sources confirmed it travelled at least 76m to the rope and beyond.

Martin Guptill missed the match with a hamstring strain. Doug Bracewell and Kyle Mills were the other New Zealand squad members to miss game time.

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