Sophie Devine smashed 29 off 20 deliveries to help New Zealand women level the three-match Twenty20 international series against England with a six-wicket victory at the Cobham Oval in Whangarei.
The 25-year-old’s innings was the decisive one for the White Ferns, but the win had been set up by openers Rachel Priest and Suzie Bates. They made the platform with a controlled 64-run partnership in less than 10 overs, despite all that the tourists could throw at them.
Lauren Winfield contributed 48 before Heather Knight’s 15-ball unbeaten 30 led England to 122 for five from 20 overs. Charlotte Edwards’ side had won the toss and elected to bat first on a wicket which still looked to have plenty of runs in it.
After a quiet first over, Winfield took on Holly Huddleston, in to replace Lea Tahuhu, with two sweetly-timed boundaries. Thirteen came from the over and England looked to be up and running, but after playing out a maiden to Erin Bermingham, Edwards lofted an easy chance to Sara McGlashan at cover to depart for an eight-ball duck.
At the end of the powerplay overs England were 30 for one and, as the fielders dispersed to the boundary, runs became hard to come by. The pressure told on Sarah Taylor, as she edged through to Priest attempting a reverse sweep.
Natalie Sciver looked comfortable but advancing to the flighted off-spin of Georgia Guy she played over the ball and was bowled, leaving England struggling at 66 for three in the 14th.
With four overs left, Winfield’s determined 59-ball knock came to an end as she skied Bermingham to Amy Satterthwaite at cover.
England were still below par at 82 for four, but Knight took 10 off the 18th over and then plundered another 19 off the last set of six, bowled by Devine, including a huge six over midwicket, before she was run out off the last ball.
The hosts got off to a decent start as Priest, later named player of the match, punished anything off a good length, hitting six fours in a powerplay that brought 39 runs without loss.
Priest and Bates had 50 on the board in the eighth over and set the game up for their team when the former was eventually out for 41 off 33 balls.
It was the returning Kate Cross, in the England side in place of the rested Katherine Brunt, that enticed her to drive to long-on where Knight safely pouched the catch.
In her next over, Cross then accounted for an out-of-sorts McGlashan. When Laura Marsh tempted Satterthwaite out of her crease with a nicely flighted delivery and Taylor removed the bails, England were back in the game with New Zealand on 77 for three.
But that was to discount the hard-hitting abilities of Devine. To date she had not made an impact in this series, although she picked up Cross for four through square-leg and then hoisted Danielle Hazell for six over midwicket in the next over to bring the rate back below a run a ball.
Despite losing Bates for 33 in the 18th, caught by Winfield off Marsh, Devine continued to dominate the bowlers and find the boundary.
England took the game to the last set of six, but Kate Broadmore finished the match by clubbing Marsh’s second ball over wide mid-on.
The teams now move down to Christchurch for the last T20 and two more one-day internationals.