New Zealand caught England on the hop as Sophie Devine celebrated her 100th T20 appearance with two wickets and a 50.
All looked fine and dandy for the hosts as Danni Wyatt (35) danced down the pitch to the first ball of the match and deposited it over the long-on boundary. But once she and Tammy Beaumont had added a reassuring 20 in 20 balls, things started going downhill. Beaumont smeared at a straight one from Jess Kerr (13); Nat Sciver (4), captaining again in Heather Knight’s absence, was excellently caught by Hannah Rowe running left on the square-leg boundary, then Amy Jones went next ball very well caught by Thamsin Newton low down in the covers. Suddenly it was 25-3 inside the powerplay.
That meant the two young Londoners, Sophia Dunkley (21) and Maia Bouchier (25) – she debuted here in place of the luckless Emma Lamb – looked calm and collected as they played shots all round the ground. But neither could build a commanding total as the Kiwi bowlers were well supported in the field.
They had obviously gone into the first game at Chelmsford severely undercooked. Here the bowlers were in better control of line and length, and the fielders held the catches that had been shelled last time.
They prevented England’s lower order making hay, so a total of 127-8 looked 15-20 runs short of the needful.
The Kiwi Reply
The second innings will give Lisa Keightley food for deep thought. The bowlers offered up no fewer than 19 wides, a total embarrassing at county level, unacceptable at regional hub level, and here? (New Zealand bowled three.)
Freya Davies was preferred to Katherine Brunt, but confirmed here concerns about her action. It slants the ball from off to leg, with few signs that she can test the outside of the right-hander’s bat. All too often her deliveries sent Jones hurtling to her left.
Tash Farrant began well, testing the batters’ judgement of line, swing and pace. But she couldn’t maintain that form through the innings. She too was guilty of a sequence of leg-side wides.
Sciver, who opened, and Sophie Ecclestone bowled their usual tight stuff, an astonishing number of Ecclestone’s deliveries not finding the middle of hesitant bats. Neither could conjure up a wicket.
Sarah Glenn bowled a few searching deliveries, but isn’t in the same form as last year.
Mady Villiers’ underemployment as an off-spinner is a mystery. Both Knight and now Sciver treat her as an optional extra. She was allowed to bowl the sixteenth over, and promptly took a wicket, hanging on brilliantly to a tracer shell from Maddy Green (21).
She took two more outstanding catches in the deep, the first the more demanding, as it was falling to earth in front of her. She is such a capable cricketer than you feel one day she might be offered a more prominent role in affairs. And she plays with a smile.
Jones, who had the misery of that golden duck earlier, showed magnificent form behind the stumps, repeatedly claiming deliveries scooting away to her left. On review, one such was found to have grazed Hayley Jensen’s glove – a remarkable take – but by then the Kiwis were only four short of victory, and yet further wides from Farrant saw them home.
The game will come as a benefit to the England squad who are rarely tested to the full by the opposition they meet. It will renew the Kiwis’ self-belief, adding to the savour of the contests still to come.
New Zealand 128-6
NZ win by 4 wickets
The third and final T20 is on Thursday 9 September at Taunton.