New Zealand looking for Devine intervention to stop England’s chariot

New Zealand team during the first T20I. © Getty Images

New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine looked circumspect with the bat throughout the ODI series and finished the series with scores of 16(24), 6(9), 15(25), and yet when they set out to start the T20I series against England in Wellington on Wednesday (March 3) big things were expected of Devine considering her recent T20 form. But once again she flattered to deceive as she could score only two runs before holding out to Sophia Dunkley off Natalie Sciver.

The seven-wicket consolation win in the final ODI didn’t bring any change of fortunes for New Zealand in the shorter formats and their batting continued to present a familiar story. Once Devine was dismissed, they needed one of the heroes of the last ODI, Amy Satterthwaite or Amelia Kerr, to play an innings of substance. But once that didn’t happen, they stuttered, stumbled to a paltry score with only Katey Martin offering some resistance.

The wicket in Wellington wasn’t an easy one to bat on, but with the next two matches also to be played on the same surface, New Zealand batters have their task cut out. If they are to bat first again on the same pitch when they face England for the second T20I on Friday (March 5), they would hope for a better performance from the top-order, for that Devine might need to live up to her billing.

While the number one ranked T20I allrounder seems to be struggling, there are no such issues for number two. Sciver was instrumental in England’s dominant seven-wicket win on Wednesday taking the key wickets of Devine and Satterthwaite before playing an unbeaten knock of 26 to take them home. Sciver along with Katherine Brunt led the bowling attack cornering New Zealand batters in the power play before spinners Sarah Glenn and Sophie Ecclestone took on the mantle with some disciplined bowling. With the visitors adding off-spinner Mady Villiers to the mix and as the pitch is expected to slow down further, they have a well-rounded attack for the conditions.

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“Katherine and Nat were exceptional again; they’ve been outstanding throughout the series. So, to come out and bowl like that on the first T20 was an amazing effort. Sarah Glenn and Sophie Ecclestone also bowled really well and Mady on her first game. We speak about starting well and that’s exactly what we did,” Danielle Wyatt said during the media interaction after the match.

29-year-old Wyatt’s form was one of the few concerns for the England side, but the opening batter showed signs of returning to form during her 33-run knock on a wicket that was slowing down and formed a 59-run partnership with the in-form Tammy Beaumont.

Having registered their ninth consecutive T20I win (their semi-final against India during the T20 World Cup 2020 was abandoned) and with no visible sign of weakness, England will be favourites to wrap up with the series on Friday itself without much discomfort.

One bright spot in New Zealand’s abject defeat in the first match was the performance of off-spinner Leigh Kasperek. On her first appearance in the series, having been not part of the ODI side, Kasperek picked up the openers with some clever bowling, giving the hosts a fleeting hope of a turnaround.

So far, the England spinners have out-bowled the hosts and their experienced pacers are more adept at changing their pace or bowling off-cutters. New Zealand will be hoping Kasperek can continue her show in the second match on a surface that will assist her and in the company of Kerr will restrict the aggressive England line-up.

Top-order to score the runs, spinners to restrict them batters. The plan sounds simple for New Zealand, but will they be able to keep the series alive come Friday?

Squads:

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Amy Satterthwaite, Kate Ebrahim, Maddy Green, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin (wk), Thamsyn Newton, Hannah Rowe, Brooke Halliday, Gabby Sullivan

England: Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Katherine Brunt, Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danielle Wyatt