England looked a million dollars last night as they coasted to a comfortable and highly impressive nine wicket win in the solitary NatWest International Twenty20 against New Zealand. A similar performance in Antigua on 1 November would see each member of Paul Collingwood's side pocket such a sum and the 11 picked here will be hoping the quality of the display did not go unnoticed by the selectors.
England have just one Twenty20 international scheduled before they fly to the Caribbean, against South Africa in Durham on 20 August, and there will be mutterings about not changing a winning side. Ryan Sidebottom, who was rested last night, will be praying the adage is not followed.
The low-scoring, one-sided encounter, completed with 15 balls of the game remaining, was not the greatest advert for Twenty20. There were very few pyrotechnics and a capacity crowd spent periods entertaining itself with the Mexican wave. The noise level rose when Luke Wright clobbered a couple of boundaries and as Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen surgically dismantled the Black Caps bowlers but it felt as though those in the stands were expecting rather more excitement.
If this was the case it was not England's fault or problem. The ease of the victory had everything to do with the quality of the home side's cricket, particularly in the field where they were magnificent.
England claimed the initiative in the second over, when James Anderson had Jamie How caught at slip, and they never eased off. Aggressive, disciplined bowling was backed up by vibrant, athletic fielding, a combination that squeezed the life out of the Black Caps. England bowled just a solitary wide, and that was a rather harsh decision against Anderson in the final over of the innings.
The manner in which England restricted Brendon McCullum, the scorer of a sensational 73-ball unbeaten 158 in the opening game of the Indian Premier League, highlighted England's supremacy.
McCullum scored his first run in the seventh over of New Zealand's innings and had only progressed to nine at the end of the ninth. In the 11th over he pulled Wright for six but the bowler had the last laugh bowling McCullum with a beautiful yorker.
The subdued nature of New Zealand's batting – shorn of the brilliant but brittle Jacob Oram, who strained a hamstring in the warm-up – meant that England's bowlers were rarely put under pressure. Only 10 boundaries and three sixes were struck in the Black Caps' innings – England equalled New Zealand's boundary count in the sixth over of their reply – meaning they did not have to mix things up. New Zealand had two good overs; the sixth when Ross Taylor slapped Anderson for 14 runs and the 19th when Kyle Mills and Daniel Vettori tagged Wright.
The simple tried and tested policy of hitting the pitch hard just short of a good length and bowling the occasional bouncer to keep the batsmen guessing was all that was required. On another day and in different circumstances greater imagination and variety will be required but on this occasion there was no need to experiment.
Nobody bowled better than Stuart Broad, who looks more like the real deal every time he pulls on an England shirt. Broad suffered the ignominy of being hacked for six sixes in an over at last year's Twenty20 World Championship but the event has not dented his confidence.
Graeme Swann enjoyed his evening too, taking 2-21 in four overs on his home debut. The off-spinner spun the ball sharply to claim his two wickets, bowling Peter Fulton through the gate before having Daniel Flynn stumped when he advanced down the pitch to slog.
If New Zealand were to place England under any sort of pressure they needed to strike early, a task they failed to achieve. It was England, in the shape of Bell and Wright, who continued to dictate. Bell collected his runs in classic style, driving the ball elegantly through point and down the ground.
Wright's approach was more agricultural, swiping hard and not worrying where the ball went. A couple of blows down the ground nearly decapitated the bowler in his follow through. When Wright is batting bowlers would be well advised to get off the pitch as soon as they can . Wright's fun ended when he slogged Michael Mason to long-on, giving Pietersen the chance to strut his stuff.
Bell effortlessly stroked Vettori back over his head for six, brought his half century up off the 39th ball he faced and pulled Scott Styris for four to complete England's victory. The freedom this form of the game gives a batsman seems to have come at just the right time for him, although New Zealand should not be underestimated. The Black Caps were dreadful last night but they are ahead of England in the one-day rankings for a reason.
Old Trafford scoreboard
England won toss
J M How c Shah b Anderson 1
†B B McCullum b Wright 24
J A H Marshall c Ambrose b Broad 13
L R P Taylor b Collingwood 25
S B Styris b Broad 10
P G Fulton b Swann 0
D R Flynn st Ambrose b Swann 23
*D L Vettori not out 11
K D Mills c Bell b Anderson 12
M J Mason run out 2
Extras (lb1 w1) 2
Total (for 9, 20 overs) 123
Fall: 1-1 2-14 3-45 4-67 5-68 6-96 7-98 8-118 9-123.
Did not bat: M R Gillespie.
Bowling: Broad 4-0-17-2; Anderson 4-1-25-2; Wright 4-0-32-1; Collingwood 2-0-17-1; Swann 4-0-21-2; Mascarenhas 2-0-10-0.
I R Bell not out 60
L J Wright c Gillespie b Mason 24
K P Pietersen not out 42
Extras (w1 ) 1
Total (for 1, 17.3 overs) 127
Did not bat: R S Bopara, *P D Collingwood, O A Shah, A D Mascarenhas, †T R Ambrose, G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.
Bowling: Mills 3-0-30-0; Gillespie 4-1-25-0; Mason 3-0-18-1; Vettori 4-0-27-0; Styris 2.3-0-20-0; Flynn 1-0-7-0.
England won by nine wickets
Umpires: I J Gould and P J Hartley.