Black Caps bounce back from loss
After one giant leap from mediocrity, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum was keen to keep the bubbly on ice for a day or two at least.
A blazing captain's knock from McCullum and an inspired return from Ian Butler sent the Twenty20 series to a decider in Wellington on Friday night.
In a huge turnaround, New Zealand bounced back from a meek 40-run defeat in Auckland to topple England by 55 runs at Hamilton's Seddon Park last night, and restore faith that the two limited overs series will be seesawing battles.
McCullum's blistering 74 off 38 balls, including five sixes, guided the Black Caps to 192-6. England had never chased down a T20 total that high and they folded for 137, with Butler marking his first international since December 2010 with figures of 4-0-9-2.
Big-hitting Jos Buttler (54 off 30) prolonged the inevitable before James Franklin took a career-best 4-15 to mop up the tail.
McCullum glanced off the plaudits for his knock but heaped praise on Butler and the bustling Mitchell McClenaghan (2-24) who crippled England's chase to 47-5.
"I'm delighted for them. Butler in his return to the side was magnificent. It was brilliant and the way he got his wickets, he hurried the batsmen and extracted some pretty good bounce," McCullum said.
Momentum can swing so wildly in cricket's shortest form. With a decent total to defend, the listless bowling New Zealand performance in Auckland transformed into an electric opening stanza which sealed the contest.
"T20 is a bit like that, you only have to be a little bit off and if one team plays reasonably well, there's a bit of a gulf between the two sides," McCullum said.
"We're delighted with the performance after us being pretty poor the other day."
Trent Boult swung the white ball prodigiously and fellow leftie McClenaghan did his now-familiar routine.
Opener Alex Hales got a ripper then dangerman Luke Wright nicked out, first ball. Jonny Bairstow denied McClenaghan his hat-trick but the damage was done.
Butler deserved his recall as the form domestic all-rounder, and added plenty of fizz in place of Andrew Ellis.
He charged in at near 140kmh, and a testing short of a length which was missing in Auckland. He struck with his third delivery when Bairstow played a false hook.
Bowling his four overs on the trot, Butler enticed dangerman Eoin Morgan to sky one, also had a catch dropped by Hamish Rutherford - their only fielding blemish - and a close lbw shout turned down.
McCullum, the world's leading international T20 runscorer, lived up to his billing in his most significant innings since taking over the captaincy in December.
As some more miserly Wright bowling (2-24) applied the brakes, New Zealand needed another kickstart.
The 19th over was the key as McCullum savaged his opposite number Stuart Broad, the four-wicket standout of England's game one victory.
Having paced his innings well, McCullum took 22 off the over including consecutive sixes over mid-wicket and another over cover as Broad emerged looking ill with figures of 4-0-53-0.
"Baz [McCullum] played fantastically well but after 15-16 overs I thought we were really in the game," Broad said.
"I got it slightly wrong towards the end. I thought 190 wasn't out of our sights on such a small ground but as soon as you lose three wickets in the first six we were struggling.
"I made the wrong decision at the toss [to bowl first] and the dew changed the wicket quite a bit. It swung and the guys said it was a little bit two paced."
Rutherford (40 off 27) and Martin Guptill (47 off 31) looked a polished opening pair, rattling up 75 off 50 balls with help from a couple of edges over the 50m southern boundary.
Despite another rousing ovation for Ross Taylor, in his home city, the magic hadn't yet returned.
Taylor's reintegration looks like it will take time as he lasted just six balls then slogged out to deep mid-wicket, his second such departure in as many innings.
The Dominion Post