England capped their remarkable renaissance in limited-overs cricket with yet another victory against New Zealand in this one-off Twenty20 international in Manchester.
This 56-run win was the perfect conclusion to a pulsating few weeks which has seen a bold, young England team consign last winter’s car-crash of a World Cup to history.
It came three days after Eoin Morgan’s side had secured a 3-2 one-day series win against the World Cup finalists in Durham and this result will be heartening for England given they had lost nine of their previous 12 T20 matches since the start of last year.
In the last international match before the start of the Ashes, it also ensures the infusion of energy and optimism into English cricket will be carried forward into an Ashes series that starts in two weeks time.
Only three of this team – Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood – are likely to play in the first Test against Australia in Cardiff. Yet the continuation of Root’s superlative form is surely significant ahead of that series against Michael Clarke’s side.
For Root the format hardly seems to matter. To watch the 24-year-old bat at Old Trafford was to witness a batsman at the peak of his powers.
On the back of an extraordinary one-day series that saw him score two match-winning hundreds and another half-century, Root was at it again here in Manchester, his 68 off 46 balls underpinning England’s total of 191 for 7.
Two moments in particular displayed just what fine touch the Yorkshireman is in. Firstly, in the eighth over, when having shaped to ramp Tim Southee, he adjusted at the final moment to cut the New Zealander past short third man for four.
Southee was again the bowler in the 18th over when Root played what can only be described as a reverse ramp to loft the bowler for four over short long leg. Both shots were breathtaking in their audacity. They encapsulated England’s brave new approach to limited-overs cricket that has seen the public fall back in love with the team.
The scintillating 3-2 one-day series victory against these same opponents attracted a near-capacity crowd to Old Trafford. It was no surprise England stuck with the same XI that had got them over the line to win that series in Durham last Saturday, Hampshire batsman James Vince and Reece Topley, the Essex left-arm seamer, the odd ones out in the 13-man squad.
With just six more scheduled games between now and the next World Twenty20 in India in March, England seem happy, for now at least, to stick with the same group of players in both formats.
It worked, as with Root leading the way, England ensured their opponents a testing run chase.
England had started well after winning the toss and opting to bat first. Jason Roy, with two huge sixes during a 13-ball knock of 23, got the innings off to a fast start. Alex Hales aided his opening partner with 27 off 23 balls and his 51-run stand with Root for the second wicket took the total up to 76 for 1 by the end of the eighth over.
Hales, caught by Brendon McCullum in the covers, and Jonny Bairstow, who was bowled for one after being moved up the order following his series-winning unbeaten 83 in Durham, were both removed by Mitchell Santner in the ninth over.
Morgan, England’s captain demoted in preference to Bairstow, also went cheaply, smearing Matt Henry into the hands of Ross Taylor at deep square for four as New Zealand’s bowlers came back to restrict the hosts to 101 for four after 12 overs.
Root, though, kept coming at the Black Caps and his alliance of 43 runs from 23 balls with Sam Billings for the fifth wicket took the impetus away from New Zealand.
The total had passed 150 by the time Root steered Mitchell McClenaghan to Martin Guptill at deep cover and a turbo-charged unbeaten 24 from 13 balls from Ben Stokes got England above 190.
New Zealand, with a batsman in Kane Williamson who is almost in as good as a touch as Root, looked likely at one stage to reach their target of 192.
But the 16th over, bowled by Wood, was to prove catastrophic for New Zealand as they lost three wickets, including the key one of Williamson.
It started when Wood bowled Santner. Williamson was then brilliantly run out by David Willey as Nathan McCullum scrambled desperately to get his team-mate on strike.
Southee followed, another sharp run out as Morgan proved too quick in the field.
Willey then sealed victory two overs later, removing Nathan McCullum and McClenaghan to spark wild celebrations.Reuse content