Who Needs Exercise? After a six-month hiatus, England’s Twenty20 team played like the world champions that they are, beating New Zealand by seven wickets. Liam Livingstone threw a six deep into the stands to end the match with six overs to go: getting the band back together never looked so easy.
Jos Buttler’s newest recruits – Brydon Carse, making his T20 debut, and Luke Wood and Will Jacks, playing only their fourth and fifth white ball games for England respectively – were all impressed and Dawid Malan and Harry Brook shared a 54 -year partnership that reflects their individual styles.
Malan started slow but struck with increasing weight as England hit 100 in the 11th. He celebrated his half-century with a sovereign six. In the end, Brook was the one who gave the crowd the spectacle they had come to expect from him, including two massive sixes against Ish Sodhi.
Even on a low-scoring pitch like the Riverside, the 139-to-nine record was the kind of result that suggested Tim Southee’s team would return to their hotel well before the restaurant closed. In March, the newly crowned world champions were glossed over Bangladesh 3-0 in an After-the-Lord Mayor’s Show series. Here they gathered fresh from a month of Hundred Cricket: Buttler had described his players as “battle hardened”. They ran through the New Zealand fighters like heavy artillery through a light brigade.
For Carse, who wasn’t even in the original squad announced last week, a three-to-23 return at his home ground of Durham was the best start he could have wished for. “If you’d asked me a few months ago I wouldn’t have thought I would play T20 international cricket,” said the 28-year-old, who had been touted for a possible Test appearance in front of a side this summer after an injury ruled him out . “Obviously I have big ambitions to play for England in any format.”
There were also three wickets for Wood, at a bowling show in England that was as well-oiled as a hipster’s beard. Half of the New Zealand squad had also played at the Hundert Stadium, but they found it difficult to adapt to the pace of the pitch and the game.
For a brief moment, it looked like openers Finn Allen and Devon Conway would pick up where they left off with Southern Brave. Allen returned the game’s third ball past Wood at an angle that suggested he was aiming for the International Space Station. The next two deliveries were hooked for sixes. England, who have never hit a ball they didn’t want to change, had a new one before the end of the first half.
But Wood switched ends and his second over left Conway behind. Carse, who had challenging length from the start, threw away Allen’s tenth ball throw and when a woodcutter was enough for Tim Seifert’s off-stump, New Zealand trailed by three points before the end of the power play.
Glenn Phillips alone provided some measure of hope in the midfield. He dispensed with ostentatious stroke play and instead relied on a mixture of nurdling and hard running. He scored 41 points from 38 when he fell victim to a sharp catch from Sam Curran, who had to chase away a drifting ball from long range. Sodhi hit a six but Carse took two more wickets in the last over.
New Zealand had to start strong and thanks to their captain they managed to do so. Buttler had retired in order to give Jacks a chance to open with Jonny Bairstow and Bairstow hadn’t seen a ball for England in a white-ball game since last July. He only met three of Southee here: the first he hit in a four, the second slid down the leg, and the third, holding his line, was bumped into Daryl Mitchell’s hands as he slipped.
England showed a degree of respect for a slow wicket: Jacks waited until the fourth over to launch his attack, tackling Lockie Ferguson three times in a row with his favorite saber for offside. Sixteen came from the over and 15 from the next by Mitchell Santner. England scored on 10 overs and were almost halfway through on their target when Jacks went too far, looking only to fend off a Sodhi long hop.
Brooke, meanwhile, continued to send out the bowlers like wild flies. “He was incredible,” said Carse, his Northern Superchargers teammate. “I’m glad I haven’t had to play against him in the last 18 months. He just seems to hit everything and the pace he’s hitting is great for him and for English cricket.”