England 143 for 3 (Malan 54, Brook 43*) beaten New Zealand 139 for 9 (Phillips 41, Carse 3-23, Wood 3-37) by seven wickets
Revamped English side T20I emerged from their mothballs with a crushing seven-wicket victory in the Chester-le-Street floodlights as they chased an below-average goal of 140 with six full overs to spare.
In response, England never seemed to let go of the contest, despite Jonny Bairstow’s opening defeat, and once Malan anchored the chase with his 17th fifty-plus score in 56 T20I innings, Brook and Liam Livingstone, with a huge one for six over deep midwicket, closed out the chase in no time.
False dawn on the power play
Allen’s most recent act on the court, on the Southern Brave green, was hitting 69 from 38 balls in a wild (but unsuccessful) opening attack in last week’s Hundred Eliminator. And so, the die seemed to have been cast when he climbed into a huge yahoo off Wood’s second delivery of the match. He didn’t connect on that occasion, but each of the next three flew out of the park – one down the ground, two over midwicket – in an apparent signal of another powerplay charge.
What followed, however, was an almost complete lockdown following England’s renewed attack from the seams. Sam Curran applied the handbrake with a five-point lead before debutant Carse conceded a solitary run from the start with his relentless approach to hitting the deck.
An end change for Wood then bore its first fruits as Devon Conway took a drive with no footwork to fall for 3 from 8, and after Carse broke through Allen’s defense with a leg stump seeker at 87 mph, Wood bowled two overs in three. as Tim Seifert was sucked in by the angle around the wicket to lose his stump for 9.
New Zealand’s power play thus rose to 18 for 0 from three balls, and 20 for 3 from the remaining 33, to set in motion a batting display that never managed to regain its balance .
Spin turns the screw
With the introduction of spin in the seventh over, New Zealand’s innings suffered a similar false dawn. Mark Chapman picked the legbreak of Adil Rashid’s first ball and smoked it through midwicket for six… but his side managed just five more runs in the next nine before Moeen Ali, a scourge of the Left-handers, faced Chapman with a beauty who held his line from around the wicket to remove the top of off stump.
At 49 for 4, New Zealand once again needed a big performance from Daryl Mitchell, but on this occasion even his long levers couldn’t turn the tide. Liam Livingstone came into the attack with a surprisingly sharp broken leg that went over Mitchell’s edge, and – seemingly scared – Mitchell climbed through the line of his very next ball, but could only spot Brook on the far limit. Rashid was then rewarded for a remarkably excellent threesome with the smooth dismissal of Mitchell Santner, which ended with a sharp cut.
Carse applies the finishing blow
Thereafter, it was all about running towards the end of the innings. Glenn Phillips was New Zealand’s best hope for a competitive total, but his modest 41 off 38 ended with the sharpest catch of the innings, as Curran in the covers read the fade on a sliced drive on a slower ball from Wood and jumped towards his he remains to hold on with both hands.
Adam Milne and Ish Sodhi then landed six consecutive balls each to at least lift England’s target beyond a run of the ball, but Carse was on hand to end the innings in style. His first ball of the 20th over was a perfect offcutter of an inch, on that hard middle length which skidded past Milne’s leg wipe; his fifth was toe-shot, requiring Sodhi to take the longer boundary, and he duly failed.
Carse had opened his account with 1 for 3 in his first two overs. Now he closed the innings with 3 for 23 in total, his best in any T20, and delivered with that familiar poise that Liam Plunkett once brought to England’s white-ball attack. For a man who hadn’t initially been picked for this T20I squad, it was quite the way to celebrate becoming England’s 100th cap in this format.
The English batters made short work of their target
Buttler will no doubt be back at the top of the table when England defend their T20 title in the Caribbean and the United States next June, but his self-demotion to No.6 was an acknowledgment that others have more points to prove with the 50-on release imminent.
There’s Bairstow, for example – Buttler’s intended opening partner in Australia last winter until his horrific leg injury, and the man who is set to face Jason Roy in India in five weeks. His first innings for the white ball in England in at least 13 months came at a strike rate of 200: a first ball for four to the middle of the wicket, then a second ball to escape Tim Southee, after a spread of leg for good. measure.
There’s also Will Jacks, a potential traveling reserve in India, and a definite contender for opening T20 honours, following his trophy-winning exploits (with bat and ball) for Oval Invincibles in the Hundred this month. His heartbreaking power was once again on full display as he hailed Lockie Ferguson’s opening over with two fours and a reverse carve for six, and after unleashing a 61-point power play with 22 balls on 11, he snuffed out a Sodhi takedown from his very next ball.
There was Malan… obviously. England’s most relentless white-ball athlete missed his moment of glory when injury ruled him out of the T20 World Cup final at the MCG, but he is part of the 50-year-old squad and no longer as a nominal reserve opener, and on that basis he will be eager to make his case throughout the upcoming contests.
With his usual confidence in his own acceleration, Malan turned a valiant 4-for-10 run into a formidable 40-ball half-century, with five fours and two sixes – each of them mowed with impressive power down the side of the leg of Sodhi and Santner respectively. He looked dismayed to give it away at 54 off 42, but at 116 for 3 in the 13th over he had already cleared the contest of all danger.
And then, inevitably, there was Brook. The most notable absentee from England’s World Cup plans was clinically violent as they crossed the line with 43 unrecovered from 27 balls, including back-to-back blats for six on Sodhi, respectively over coverage and into the middle of the wicket, and a massive third launch over the ropes as Southee served a slower ball and was forced to go the distance. If it’s too late for him to change his mind, only the selectors know for sure. But this time, he barely broke a sweat while watching a class apart.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket