Exciting decider on cards with resurgence of New Zealand even as numbers favour England

Sophie Devine celebrate a wicket with her teammates © Getty Images

Since New Zealand beat England in the first-ever T20I in Hove in 2004, they have met each other 27 times and New Zealand won only six of them losing 21 matches. When it comes to the series stats England won all but one series against the White Ferns. So, when they returned to Hove for the 2nd T20I in the ongoing tour of England, numbers were in favour of the hosts with New Zealand’s last win against them in the format coming in 2015. But on the day numbers didn’t matter and the visitors reversed their fortunes with a four-wicket win to level the series on Saturday (September 4).

Despite overall numbers saying England are the favourites, New Zealand go into the decider in Taunton on Thursday (September 9) in the three-match series with some confidence from their display in the second game. Knowing their only series win against England came in the country – back in 2010 – might not count for much but the visitors didn’t seem like an outfit with the dismal numbers when they ended up on the right side of the result with some all-round display.

Allrounder Maddy Green already knows that this immediate result will count for much more than the numbers from the past and hopes to take the momentum from Hove to Taunton as she believes New Zealand will be up for the challenge in pressure situations.

“The ability to play games and to be put in the pressure situations is only going to help us in the deciding game. [If] we get in a similar situation, players know how to execute their roles under pressure against a quality team,” Green said at a media interaction ahead of the match on Wednesday (September 8).

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“We have been here for three-four weeks as a group and it’s great to be outside. I think it has been good for the group and we are taking a lot of confidence from our win in Brighton the other night.”

One of the biggest plus for New Zealand was Sophie Devine’s return to form as she managed to put in an all-round performance – two for 28 with the ball and 50 off 41 deliveries to guide the tricky chase – in her 100th T20I to be instrumental in their win. The 32-year-old seems to have put her mental health issues from early this year behind and by her own admission is in good mind space. When Devine performs New Zealand invariably do well.

That’s not to say New Zealand don’t have any issues in hand, while the bowlers came back strongly after conceding 184 in the first T20I to put in a collective performance in the second batters haven’t been able to replicate a team effort in their department. Apart from Devine’s fifty in the Hove game only significant contribution came from the experienced Amy Satterthwaite when she scored 43 in Chelmsford when others failed around her. Green’s 19 and 21 were the second-best contributions in both matches respectively.

New Zealand would know that won’t be enough in good batting conditions in Taunton and they would expect veteran Suzie Bates – having registered two single digits scores – to come good along with Devine, Sattherthwaite and Green. Middle order of Brooke Halliday, Katey Martin and Hayley Jensen also would need to make some handy contributions if New Zealand have to register a rare series win in their recent history.

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Coming to England, Natalie Sciver – who led the side in the absence of Heather Knight in first two T20Is – talked about lack of partnerships in the second game and how they couldn’t make that final push to a competitive score after the defeat in Hove.

“Unfortunately, we just fell away at the end of our batting innings and couldn’t quite get the partnership together that would have got us 10-15 more runs that we needed probably to take it deep in the second innings,” Sciver said.

England will be bolstered by the likely return of Knight and Sciver can go back to being the best batter in the side having suffered two rare consecutive failures. It’s difficult to say whether they missed the service of Knight in the series so far as they scored a mammoth total in the first match despite her absence. There isn’t much to read into Amy Jones failure at number four in the second game as the wicketkeeper-batter seemed to be enjoying a great run in her role as the middle-order enforcer.

From the bowling perspective, it can be argued that England missed Katherine Brunt, who had figures of two for nine in the 46-run win in the first match, in the face of defending a moderate total in the second game even though Natasha Farrant has been good with the ball for the hosts. Anya Shrubsole’s absence didn’t help things either as they failed to defend the 127-run they put up on the board. Freya Davies would have to pick things up if Shrubsole or Brunt don’t make it to the decider.

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There aren’t many other changes expected in either of the sides with Knight coming in for Maia Bouchier – who was impressive on her debut – being the only likely change. For New Zealand, pacers Claudia Green and Molly Penfold will have to wait for another day to make their international debuts even as Lea Tahuhu continues her rehabilitation after the foot surgery.

Will past numbers matter in the decider or will New Zealand ride on the confidence of the win in Hove? We won’t have to wait much longer as Thursday is almost here.

Squads

England: Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Danielle Wyatt, Emma Lamb, Maia Bouchier, Charlie Dean

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Amy Satterthwaite, Suzie Bates, Lauren Down, Claudia Green, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Jess Kerr, Katey Martin (wk), Leigh Kasperek, Molly Penfold, Jessica McFadyen (wk), Thamsyn Newton, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu