By Kieran Wellington
- England and New Zealand played out another closely-fought battle, this time in the T20 format, as Chris Silverwoodended his first series as England head coach with a win (just!)
- After being 2-1 down in the five-match series, Eoin Morgan’s charges showed their enviable ability to get over the line in must-win games once more, despite rotating his starting XI throughout
- The series smacked of deja vu in the last match at Auckland, with a super over needed to split these sides once again, emulating the scarcely believable denouement to the World Cup Final – England again the victors.
NEW ZEALAND – What players impressed the most during Chris Silverwood’s first series in charge of England? For England to scrape a series win with a mixture of senior and inexperienced players against a strong New Zealand side away from home is a decent statement.
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Eoin Morgan (c) – 9/10 – The perfect leader. Composed on the field, takes the pressure all on his shoulders to deflect any undue heat from the young players and most importantly leads by example. Hit more sixes than anyone in the series (15), including one in the super over that lead England to a deserved and entertaining victory.
Sam Billings (vc) – 3/10 – I was pleased pre-series that England had decided to back Billings with some captaincy responsibility, as he has never felt like a player with an established international career, despite all his good work for his county Kent. However, despite some decent work with the gloves, his return of just 34 runs from five innings was simply not good enough, especially with the wealth of batting options England possess.
Jonny Bairstow – 6/10 – Selected by England for this T20 series alone after being ditched from the Test team after a dearth of runs in the summer, the Yorkshireman sparked into life when it mattered most in the fifth and final match. Despite a golden duck in Wellington, Bairstow contributed strongly to two of England’s three victories, particularly in Auckland, where he bludgeoned five maximums in a brutal 18-ball 47 before setting the perfect platform in the Super Over with captain Morgan.
Tom Banton – 5/10 – One of the most exciting white-ball talents in the country, the opener celebrated his 21st birthday just after the Auckland success, which shows how green the Somerset man still is. Some lively cameos showed flashes of his dynamism at the crease, particularly during the convincing win in Napier, but needs to build on his first three outings as an international player.
Pat Brown – 4/10 – Another who made his England debut during this series, the Birmingham Bears pacer didn’t quite crank it up to find top gear. Came away with the worst bowling average among his England colleagues (42.66), but still learning at this level.
Sam Curran – 7/10 – An opening bowler who can only reach the low 80s on the speed gun needs plenty of skill and guile to succeed, and Sam Curran has skill in abundance. We should also remember these were his first T20 internationals in England colours, despite having already marked his debuts in the Test and ODI formats. Six wickets was second only to Chris Jordan from an England perspective, and chipped in with some valuable lower-order runs too, especially in Auckland.
Tom Curran – 7/10 – Started the series with a maiden – about as rare as a unicorn in T20 cricket – and his ability to remain unpredictable with all his change-ups is an important asset, one which England will rely on more and more as the elder Curran brother continues to develop. An economy of 8.46 proves he is difficult to get away in this format, which helps build valuable pressure on the opposition.
Chris Jordan – 9/10 – The pick of England’s bowlers and looks ever more like the leader of the T20 attack. Having played international cricket in some guise off and on for the last six years, Jordan is finally finding consistency at the highest level which in turn allows a self-confidence as he turns to the tougher tools in his bowling armoury. The best yorker bowler in England is a fine title to hold, and he can hit a long ball too. Supreme in the Super Over.
Lewis Gregory – 5/10 – Despite featuring in every match, the Somerset all-rounder was under-utilised by captain Morgan, which left him feeling like a bit-part player who doesn’t seriously feature in the thinking for England’s strongest XI. Despite this, Gregory took a wicket with his first ball in international cricket and had the best economy rate of any England bowler (7.25). Disappointed with the bat though, with just 21 runs in three innings.
Saqib Mahmood – 3/10 – In an extremely similar boat to Pat Brown, the Lancashire quick didn’t quite hit the heights in terms of pace or performance that county cricket fans have seen him produce in the Blast. The most expensive of any England bowler, conceding 11.5 runs an over throughout the series, Mahmood still has plenty to prove at this level.
Dawid Malan – 9/10 – This man can do no wrong in international T20 cricket, hence it’s no real surprise to see him third in the ICC’s batting rankings for this format. A record-breaking century in Napier was breathtaking to watch as the new Yorkshire signing clicked through the gears effortlessly. A series average of 69.33 was somewhat tainted with a slight dig from captain Morgan in a press conference, where he warned against players protecting their average: Malan didn’t run on the keeper’s throw for the last ball of that sensational 241/3: an England T20 record.
Matt Parkinson – 7/10 – With Rashid struggling with a shoulder injury throughout, it’s comforting – and slightly strange as an England fan – to see another leg-spinner producing match-winning performances. Despite only having six overs to impress across the series, Parkinson took 4/47 in Napier to flatten any Black Caps onslaught in pursuit of that huge 242 target. Whether he can tighten his economy-rate up in lower-scoring matches is yet to be seen.
Adil Rashid – 6/10 – Still a key member of any white-ball cricket England play, the fact he can still produce with a niggling shoulder injury is testament to his quality. Has the ability to make batsmen look foolish with his googly, three wickets in the series was more down to the Kiwis marking Rashid as the main threat and playing him with caution than any deficiency in Rashid’s own performance.
James Vince – 7/10 – Because of its shortened format, the T20s can often feel like a trial run at international level for the longer (and the more highly revered) formats. Malan essentially got picked for The Ashes down under after a 90-odd in a T20 international. But with the T20 World Cup this time next year in Australia, it was so pleasing to see Vince play with poise and add some telling contributions which has left England scratching their heads as to their best top five, with Jason Roy and Joe Root both left out here. Good problems to have, certainly.
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