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Rain threat looms over NZ-ENG battle of one-upmanship

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ENGLAND TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND, 2019

Rain threat looms over the series decider in Auckland

Rain threat looms over the series decider in Auckland © AFP

For England, this T20I series against New Zealand was always a voyage of discovery. Leaving seven players at home, rested after a hectic summer and ahead of a bumper winter, means the squad has a youthful, experimental feel about it. And so, despite the desire to win inherent in any group of international players, the trip has primarily been seen as a learning venture. An opportunity to blood new players and see whether they sink or swim. In that light, achieving a series victory in Auckland on Sunday (November 10) would be a fine and unexpected achievement.

After all, New Zealand are more or less at full strength. Kane Williamson, the captain, is missing injured and Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult have been pulled out at times to focus on getting some red-ball bowling under their belts but other than that, this is New Zealand’s best T20I team. And yet here they are, finding themselves two-all with one to play against England’s second string in their own conditions. If the tourists hadn’t collapsed in a heap during their chase in the third game in Nelson, the series could already be done and dusted.

England’s victory and squaring of the series in Napier has set up a winner takes all clash at the oddly shaped Eden Park where New Zealand have only won once in their last seven outings. The home side will be hoping to improve on that record both to put right Friday’s performance and to ensure they emerge victorious in the series, avoiding the embarrassment of losing to a team which will be barely recognisable from the one that takes the field in next year’s T20I World Cup.

For England, there is all upside. Win or lose, they have pushed New Zealand hard with an inexperienced team and have learnt something about a host of new players. As much as they want it, a series victory would be an added bonus. For New Zealand, a win, particularly at home, would be no more than they expect. On the other hand, a defeat would be a significant blow. The pressure is on Tim Southee’s men.

And after the record-breaking match in Napier on Friday (November 8), it is England who will be in the better spirits as they head to Auckland, bolstered by scoring their highest ever T20I score at McLean Park, their highest ever partnership between Eoin Morgan and Dawid Malan, the quickest half-century, to Morgan, and century, to Malan. With the ball, they never gave New Zealand a sniff of getting close to such a big total and young Matt Parkinson impressed with four wickets with his leg-spin. Aside from a couple of dropped catches, it was as complete a performance as you could wish for.

In contrast, New Zealand were ragged with the ball, particularly at the death when they conceded 85 runs from the last five overs in the face of Morgan and Malan’s onslaught. Without Ferguson’s added pace, the home side lacked a cutting edge, particularly as the short square boundaries negated the influence of leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. Facing such a mammoth total, their batsmen understandably had to play their shots from the get-go and that approach cost them early wickets.

Unfortunately, the weather might ruin all the fun in Auckland. Heavy rain is forecast for the day before the game and thunderstorms and more rain set for game day itself. Current predictions put the chance of wet weather at the time of the match to be between 90 and 95%. Hopefully the forecasters are proved wrong and at least a curtailed game might be possible. For both teams, there is plenty riding on this match.

When: Sunday November 10, 2019. 2pm Local Time

Where: Eden Park, Auckland

What to expect: The Eden Park pitch usually has a bit in it for the bowlers and has traditionally been on the slow side. That could prompt England to play two spinners although the short straight boundaries might dissuade them from doing so. Either way, the game is unlikely to rival match four in Napier for runs scored, particularly if there is some poor weather around which could leave some moisture in the pitch.

Team News

New Zealand: All-rounder James Neesham could return to the New Zealand team after missing game four with illness. Should he return, seamer Blair Tickner looks most vulnerable after a difficult match in Napier in which he was clearly targeted by England’s batsmen. Neesham’s return, and the retention of fellow all-rounder Daryl Mitchell, would have the added advantage of lengthening the home side’s batting order.

Possible XI: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert, Colin de Grandhomme, Ross Taylor, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi

England: The tourists are set to recall Adil Rashid to their starting eleven after the leg-spinner sat out the third and fourth games. Unless England opt for two spinners, Rashid’s return would mean Matt Parkinson drops out despite his four wickets in Napier. James Vince will also likely return to the team probably for Dawid Malan who has yet to be rested in the series, and Saqib Mahmood could also be rotated back in, perhaps for Pat Brown.

Possible XI: Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, James Vince, Eoin Morgan, Sam Billings, Sam Curran, Lewis Gregory, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Saqib Mahmood

What they said:

“I don’t think you can let there be any scarring. You don’t completely sweep it under the carpet and you’ve got to learn from these experiences, but also you dust yourself off and there’s a series to be won in Auckland” – New Zealand skipper Tim Southee is keen to move on from the big loss in Napier.

© Cricbuzz

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