Williamson stars as New Zealand find lift-off

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New Zealand 196 for 5 (Williamson 72, Guptill 64) beat England 184 for 9 (Malan 59, Hales 47) by 12 runs

Kane Williamson provided a stirring riposte to suggestions he should step aside from the T20 side by top-scoring with 72 as New Zealand put themselves on course for a spot in the tri-series final. Williamson starred alongside Martin Guptill with the bat as New Zealand posted an imposing 196 for 5. Though Dawid Malan steered a strong attempt to haul in a demanding target England fell 12 short to leave them needing a favour off Australia to stay alive in the tournament.

Alex Hales, who struck an unbeaten 80 on this ground in 2013, launched the chase with 47 off 24 balls and Malan’s fine form continued to keep the asking rate in sight. But chasing 197 does not leave much room for error and the back-to-back losses of James Vince, run out by Williamson from mid-off, and Jos Buttler, unable to defeat the stiff Wellington breeze to clear long-off, left it on Malan’s shoulders.

New Zealand made life tougher for themselves with a brace of drops in the deep, the first by Mitchell Santner at long-on also palming David Willey’s shot for six, making it 18 off Ish Sodhi’s final over and leaving England needing 48 off 24 balls with five wickets in hand. That became 39 off 23 after Malan’s second six, but Santner responded to the drop by holding his nerve with the ball to have Malan taken at long-on. England will, again, rue a match where they had their chances.

Williamson, who before the game reiterated his desire to play all three formats following recent questions over his place, survived a run-out chance first ball when Mark Wood, the bowler, couldn’t hit from just off the pitch and then added 82 in nine overs with Guptill, while there were handy camoes from Mark Chapman and Tim Seifert on their New Zealand debuts (Chapman having previously played for Hong Kong).

Having misread pitches in Australia, England this time went with a pace-heavy attack – recalling Wood and Liam Plunkett – but, by and large, the faster it came the easier it was for New Zealand (four overs from Colin Munro and Colin de Grandhomme later went for just 26) although Adil Rashid also took some punishment. Once again, England did not think outside their five-man attack.

Buttler had been pleased at the chance to bowl first on a two-toned pitch that prompted much talk after England twice struggled to adapt to setting a total in Australia. In the end, the pitch played much better than it looked but the bowlers were inconsistent early on. Guptill provided the early momentum, hitting cleanly through the line, and by the end of the Powerplay New Zealand were 50 for 1.

Briefly England stemmed the rate after the fielding restrictions relaxed, but then Guptill and Williamson kicked on. Guptill targeted Rashid, taking him for consecutive sixes over the leg side – the first raising a 31-ball fifty – while Williamson started to relocate the middle of the bat, which has proved elusive in the last few weeks.

Guptill could barely believe it when he scooped a low full toss from Rashid to short fine leg then de Grandhomme fell first ball to a spectacular catch at long-off by Chris Jordan, who leapt and held a one-handed grab above his head while remaining inside the boundary.

But any hope England had that the double blow would stem the boundaries was shattered by Williamson who collected three sixes in five balls after the wickets, taking his tally for the innings to four. Williamson helped 20 runs come from Wood’s third over, two sixes followed by a wonderful wristy flick which showcased his classical timing and placement.

Chapman started by giving Williamson the strike and then pulled his fifth ball for six. A superb 18th over from Jordan cost just three and removed Williamson, but Wood was taken for another six by Chapman, who found deep midwicket three balls after Sam Billings dropped him in the same position. Seifert ensured a strong finish as he latched on to Jordan when he missed his yorkers in the final over with consecutive sixes.

Ahead of the match, Jason Roy talked about the “bee in the bonnet” of England’s batsmen after some poor performances and it will still be buzzing around his head as a lean run continued when he chipped to mid-on. England, though, were ahead of New Zealand on the comparison thanks to Hales finding his range with three sixes, only for him to then pick out deep midwicket against a Sodhi long-hop.

Vince played one dreamy lofted cover drive for six then ran as though he was dreaming, taking on Williamson at mid-off and opting not to dive with a direct finding him short. In the next over Sodhi claimed the huge scalp of Buttler who appeared to have connected sweetly with his shot down the ground, but Tim Southee ran around the rope to take a well-judged catch.

Malan had been 23 off 23 balls when Santner couldn’t haul in what would have been a spectacular grab at long-off and proceeded to speed to his fifty from just another 13 deliveries making it three in four innings at the start of his T20I career. However, after he departed Trent Boult showed the value of full-and-straight to snuff out any chance of England’s allrounders snatching the game away.

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