England's Luke Wright stands ground in NZ

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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England all-rounder Luke Wright will take a six-hitting shootout on postage stamp New Zealand grounds over the alternative any day.

The tourists blasted 15 sixes off New Zealand's attack in their record Twenty20 total of 214-7, in a 40-run win in the series opener at Auckland's Eden Park, before a vocal crowd of 23,758.

And now they're eyeing Hamilton's Seddon Park tomorrow, scene of South African Richard Levi's assault a year ago of 117 off 51 balls, including 13 sixes.

At the time that prompted New Zealand seamer Kyle Mills to take a swipe at the tiny boundaries in this country, saying it was unfair on bowlers given the advantage batsmen had with their powerful chunks of modern willow.

The straight boundaries at Eden Park measured 65m on Saturday, and all the New Zealand bowlers bar Mitchell McClenaghan went at 10 an over as some power hitting and occasional gentle forward pushes cleared the rope. Seddon Park's boundaries were small all around last year with the rope brought in.

Still, Wright (46 off 26 balls) was keen for another lash at New Zealand's attack with the tourists in the box seat to win the T20 series.

"I don't really mind - I think for the crowd to see high-scoring games is quite exciting. When 120 plays 120 on a bad wicket or massive outfield, it's not as entertaining," Wright said.

"To see fours and sixes, that's what people come to watch. More people have just got to be watching the ball in the crowd to make sure they don't get hit."

Wright also did his bit with the ball, taking 2-29 including the key wicket of Martin Guptill who topscored with 44 off 32 balls.

New Zealand's bowlers offered too many free hits in the slot, straight down the ground, while England did their homework and were brilliantly led by skipper Stuart Broad (4-24) who labelled it the complete performance from his side. Fellow quick Steve Finn (3-39) bowled back of a length and removed dangermen Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor cheaply to crossbat slogs.

"We had different plans to hit the pitch a bit harder and nullify that straight boundary. It's about adapting but it's the same for both sides and it will be the same in the next game," Wright said.

Things will no doubt change for New Zealand in Hamilton, with all-rounders Ian Butler and Grant Elliott both available after missing Auckland with minor injuries.

The in-form Butler will add starch to the bowling and will probably replace Andrew Ellis, for whom the jury remains out as a quality international player.

Coach Mike Hesson labelled the fielding sloppy, having watched his team drop five catches. "Even the ones we did hold seemed to be reasonably difficult. I'm not sure if it was the transition of light or what, but we certainly struggled."

McClenaghan largely got it right while Trent Boult, Ellis and spin duo Ronnie Hira and Nathan McCullum (who went for a combined 91 off eight overs) struggled to implement their plans against England's hitters.

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Still, the coach wasn't about to roast his players despite them giving away a huge start in the three-match series.

"Without doubt [they can come back]. T20 is one of those games if you start well the first two or three overs, you get some momentum and you're away," Hesson said.

"It was a great atmosphere [in Auckland]. We're disappointed we didn't start the tour as we'd have liked. But it's the first game of three. We've got high hopes during this series and the one-dayers and the test series. With the congested programme you can't dwell too much."

- The Dominion Post

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