England smash sixes in New Zealand win

Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 00:00

Cricket:England won this morning’s Auckland contest of sixes 15-8 to ease into a 1-0 lead with two to to play against New Zealand after a record-breaking Twenty20 spectacle at Eden Park.

In more conventional scoring terms, but ones which barely seem appropriate at a venue whose curious dimensions distort short-format cricket far from the norm, England prevailed by 40 runs after matching the ground record with 214 for seven.

On a playing area with little more than a 60-yard carry at either end, England targeted the straight boundaries but thrashed plenty of other maximums to all parts, clearing the rope four times more than they ever have before in Twenty20s -

and easily surpassing their previous highest score of 202 for six.

Luke Wright topped the sixes charts with four, and Eoin Morgan came closest to a half-century with 46. Then Stuart Broad bagged a career-best haul of four for 24 as he and Steven Finn (three for 39) kept taking wickets to keep their team in a comfort zone even though Martin Guptill and Colin Munro returned fire with five sixes between them.

Alex Hales soon announced England’s intent, after being put into bat, with their first six high over deep midwicket off Trent Boult in the second over. Boult and his fellow left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan found some early swing, but it was still a near impossible task to contain the batsmen.

Hales greeted the introduction of Ronnie Hira’s left-arm spin with a brutal four crunched past mid-on. But, going up the wicket to try to repeat the dose next ball, the opener missed done that drifted into him and was easily stumped. It did not take long for number three Wright to upstage Hales — and after finding his range against McClenaghan, he set the tone with a six over extra-cover for a second over from Hira which cost 21 runs. Michael Lumb had only three, from just six balls faced, in England’s first 50 runs. But he joined in with a swept four and straight six off Hira.

Ross Taylor, back for his first international match since being relieved of the New Zealand captaincy and then sitting out the tour of South Africa, was the darling of a crowd who had cheered wildly at the announcement of his name after the toss. But he did nothing to endear himself further when he dropped Wright at cover off Nathan McCullum and then Lumb when he skied Andrew Ellis to deep midwicket. Fortunately for Taylor, neither miss was costly — an aggregate 17 runs, before Wright was caught in the leg-side deep off Ellis and then Lumb miscued an attempted hook at McClenaghan to short fine-leg.

New Zealand were not helping themselves in the field, though. Hira dropped Jonny Bairstow on 22 off Ellis, but the most glaring missed chance fell to McClenaghan who appeared not to sight one properly at short third-man when he put down Morgan on 33 off McCullum. The combined cost for the Kiwis’ third and fourth drops was 29 runs, Morgan miscuing Hira into the off-side to give Taylor an unmissable opportunity to end the fourth-wicket stand at 81 and Bairstow unable to clear Guptill at long-on off Boult. Jos Buttler nonetheless ensured England surged past 200 and beyond.

It was conceivable, given their firepower, that the Kiwis’ chase might get competitive. But they were up against it after three of their top four failed to better 20.

Debutant Hamish Rutherford mistimed Broad into the leg-side ring; captain Brendon McCullum was very well-caught by Morgan, running back to collect a skied slice at deep point off Finn; then the same bowler also saw off Taylor when the returning hero tried and failed to clear the longest boundary on the ground at deep midwicket. Guptill was within one more six of his 50 when he drilled Wright’s medium-pace very hard but straight to Broad at mid-off — and hard as he tried, big-hitting left-hander Munro could not pull off a highly improbable mission on his own.

Broad brought himself back to account first for James Franklin, caught behind giving himself room, and then bowl Munro as he aimed to leg, in the same over. The captain was continuing the fine form he had shown in England’s warm-up campaign despite his persistent heel injury, and for the hosts his intervention meant the game was up.

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