The Black Caps take on England in Napier tonight in their fourth and penultimate Twenty20 showdown. Here's all you need to know ahead of the clash.
Where is it, and when?
The game gets underway at 6.00pm at McLean Park in Napier. It's the only international cricket match to grace Napier this summer, with two of their last three internationals being impacted by drainage issues (Australia, 2017) or sunstrike (India, 2019).
Will sunstrike be an issue again? What's the weather forecast?
It should be a lovely day for cricket, with hardly a cloud in sight, and temperatures reaching a high of 28 degrees. Local council and cricket officials are hoping for a crowd of around 6,000, though the sunny outlook could still mean that sunstrike is an issue, with sunset expected just before 8.00pm. When the sun goes down over the top of the stand, the resulting glare from the sunset makes it hard to batsmen to see – a phenomenon which occurs occasionally in Napier.
What's the state of the series?
The Black Caps lead the series 2-1. England took the first game in Christchurch quite comfortably after the Black Caps could only muster 153-5 batting first, but the hosts bounced back in Wellington, making 176-8 and restricting England to just 155 in response. On Tuesday in Napier, the Black Caps batted first for the third consecutive game – this time by their own choice, instead of being put in by England - and their 180-7 proved to be enough as England underwent a shocking batting collapse.
If the Black Caps can't wrap up the series tonight, they will still have another chance to do so in the fifth and final Twenty20, which is in Auckland on Sunday afternoon.
How important is the series?
It's not huge, but it is important in terms of preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup next year, offering an early gauge for the Black Caps to try and find their best squad, starting lineup, and tactical approach. England are a quality opponent too, but are admittedly weaker than usual, with Eoin Morgan and perhaps one of the Curran brothers the only players who played on Tuesday who would make England's first choice Cup XI.
However, despite missing Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jofra Archer, this is still a solid England side with plenty of players who would be seen as hot international prospects were they New Zealanders. And, with 23 Twenty20 games still to be played by the Black Caps before the World Cup, every game is a learning experience.
Who have been the Black Caps' standout players?
Colin de Grandhomme has been a solid performer at No 4, hitting 102 runs at a strike rate of 167, while Martin Guptill seems to be rediscovering his form, hitting 41 off 28 balls in Wellington and following it with 33 off 17 in Nelson. Jimmy Neesham's early returns with the bat have also been promising.
With the ball, Mitchell Santner has been excellent – one brief Morgan bashing aside – taking seven wickets at an average of 12.7 and economy of 7.4. Lockie Ferguson and Tim Southee have had three solid games, and Blair Tickner was good on his return to the international scene.
What are the likely starting lineups?
The Black Caps will make at least one enforced change, with Trent Boult returning for the final two Twenty20s in place of Ferguson, who drops out to play Plunket Shield with an eye on a test debut. Elsewhere, changes would only come for the sole purpose of rest and rotation, with Tickner and Neesham both deserving of retaining their spots over Scott Kuggeleijn and Daryl Mitchell respectively.
Possible New Zealand XI: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert, Colin de Grandhomme, Ross Taylor, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Blair Tickner.
England will continue to experiment with their lineup. Early indications were that Dawid Malan would not play in the final two matches, though his impressive 55 from 34 balls in Nelson may leave the England selectors second-guessing their approach. Tom Banton should stay at the top of the order, while Chris Jordan could return for the expensive Saqib Mahmood to bolster both England's batting and bowling. Matt Parkinson showed enough in his two overs on debut to deserve another crack in Napier.
Possible England XI: Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, James Vince, Eoin Morgan, Sam Billings, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Pat Brown, Matt Parkinson.
Who are the favourites tonight?
The Black Caps are currently $1.69 favourites, with England at $2.08.
How can I follow the game?
You can follow the Herald's live blog from 5.30pm, or listen to live commentary on Radio Sport. The match is broadcast live on SKY Sport 2 from 5.30pm, and SKY customers can live stream the match on SKY Sport Now.