Kevin Pietersen claimed yesterday that "the sky's the limit" for England after they claimed first blood on their tour of New Zealand with a 32-run victory in the opening Twenty20 match here in Auckland.
England's total of 184 for 8 was driven by Pietersen's fine 43 and a quick-fire 31 from Dimitri Mascarenhas, who hit four sixes in succession off Jeetan Patel. New Zealand never looked like reaching their tricky target as Ryan Sidebottom's three wickets and two from Mascarenhas pegged them back to 152 all out.
"Sri Lanka [the tour before Christmas] was hard," Pietersen said, "it was a tough tour and we were looking to get off to a winning start tonight. The guys are up for it. We've trained as hard as England ever have. We just want to get better as a team and as individuals. As long as we keep performing as we have done and keep getting better then the sky's the limit for this young side."
The England captain Paul Collingwood was delighted with his side's impressive bowling performance, especially after their poor showing in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup last year. "We did a lot of good things today but could have got a few more runs. But it was still a good total and the bowlers were fantastic," he said. "It's a really positive start to the tour."
Mascarenhas delivered with bat and ball, first injecting badly needed momentum into England's stuttering innings by hitting 31 off 14 balls to help the tourists reach 184 after being put in. He then claimed 2 for 19 from his four overs, including the key wickets of Jamie How and Scott Styris.
Mascarenhas's strokeplay was badly needed after England failed to build on an explosive innings of 43 off 24 balls from Kevin Pietersen, which included a six and six fours.
The tourists left out the in-form Alastair Cook, who scored a hundred in Sunday's warm-up victory over Canterbury, and instead paired the hard-hitting Sussex all-rounder Luke Wright with wicketkeeper Phil Mustard at the top of the order. It failed to spark, with Wright falling to his third ball when he edged Chris Martin behind. He was soon followed by Mustard, who was caught in the deep after miscuing an attempted pull.
Ian Bell fell cheaply to Jacob Oram's yorker, but Pietersen ensured England continued at a healthy rate and looked on course for a major innings until he was brilliantly caught low down by Ross Taylor at mid-on. England's innings then stagnated and it took Mascarenhas, who memorably hit five successive sixes off India's Yuvraj Singh at The Oval last summer, to reignite it with his big hitting.
New Zealand were always behind the run-rate despite some big hitting from Oram, who raced to a 31-ball half-century – the highest score in the match – including five fours and two sixes in his 61.