Old Trafford, Manchester
A McCullum-led New Zealand team leaves England without a series victory. A month ago, who would have thought this to be possible? After fighting back and drawing the test series 1-1, the Kiwis blew a 2-1 lead to lose the ODI series 2-3 to an electric debutant-infused English ODI side, before finally losing the one-off T20 game at Manchester.
England had won only 3 of their last 12 T20 internationals. Billings, Wood and Willey, following in the long tradition of surname innuendos for England cricket, made their T20 debut against a New Zealand side gunning for revenge. But England now have Stokes, and they now have a superhuman named Root, and even without their power wicket-keeper Buttler, they put on a remarkable performance that saw them win the T20 by their biggest margin—56 runs.
After posting 191/7 with a Stokes-inspired burst towards the end—an innings that combined the audacity of Root with many supporting acts—the Kiwis began like they began every ODI of the World Cup. At one stage, New Zealand was at 89/2 in 8 overs, well on way to an easy victory. McCullum had already gone after a madcap innings of 35, giving them a 12-an-over start in the first four overs. But then, at 89, Taylor went, and by the time Williamson went in the 15th over for yet another half century, the team lost their last 5 wickets for 4 runs.
That’s right—a collapse of the kind England used to suffer only months ago. But McCullum has always believed in this all-or-nothing brand of cricket, so it’s not surprising to see the odd collapse. What’s worrying is that they haven’t been able to decode this mercurial new England side over the entire series. Bowlers like Wood and Willey took 3 wickets a piece, and England’s new spinning hero Rashid picked one and ‘Flintoff 2.0’ Ben Stokes took a few to restrict the Kiwis to one of their lowest totals at 135. They didn’t even last their full quota of 20 overs.
The only time England looked second best was when McCullum and Williamson were at the crease after the fall of Guptill.
The tour that ended is one of the most significant tours in recent history. What we have witnessed is the sudden birth of a new brand of English cricket—a side that has done a New Zealand better than New Zealand themselves. This is a young side willing to learn—and while the test side depends largely on experience, this will bode well for the upcoming Ashes. Australia aren’t as loose as New Zealand, but they’re still vulnerable in English conditions. Cook couldn’t have asked for a better limited overs series, despite not playing it. Players like Root, Stokes and Morgan will be high on confidence, dizzy almost, after being part of a limited over series that gave viewers 2477 runs over 5 ODIs and 1 T20.