As expected, this T20I series between Aotearoa and England is going every which way in terms of results and we should expect this to continue throughout the T20I summer. Aotearoa's Blackcaps grabbed a win in the second game, putting up 176/8 in the first dig, then responding strongly with the ball to dismiss England for 155 and bounce back from a sloppy series opener.
This type of series between two competitive teams makes it niggly to suss things out game by game, as a bloke or a team may catch fire for a moment or do the opposite, before normal service resumes. Even after two games with two different performances from the Blackcaps, some players are still up to their neck in a trend, or some blokes are just doing what they have always done and we'll start with the rock of the batting line up Ross Taylor.
Taylor only grabbed 28 @ 116.66, although once again Taylor came to the crease and an intriguing juncture where the innings sat in the balance. Game tahi saw Taylor come in at 72/3 early in the 11th over, yesterday Taylor came in at 85/3 early in the 9th over and these are perfect Taylor periods where there is time for Taylor to settle and control the innings. The two blokes who batted around Taylor both made up for a slower strike-rate from Taylor as Colin de Grandhomme cracked 28 @ 233.33sr and Jimmy Neesham snapped up his opportunity with 42 @ 190.90sr.
I don't know about youz, but there is a feeling of knowing that Ross Taylor's there in the middle and everything will be all good. The top of the batting line up is heavy with whackers - although far better balance is offered with Jimmy Neesham at #7 - and Taylor's presence ensures that the innings is re-assessed before aiming for a target. Taylor leads all run-scorers in this series and he does so with an overall strike-rate of 122.03; not the biggest strike-rate, but the class has been evident.
De Grandhomme showed his ... de Grandhome ability. I'm not sure what cricket the commentators (including the awkward presence of recent Blackcaps staff Mike Hesson and Craig McMillan) have been watching because the notes about de Grandhomme throwing his wicket away at an unfortunate time, make zero sense. The belief was that de Grandhomme has been moved up to bat #4 and he needs to show his batsmanship in that position, so maybe don't swipe across the line to a good delivery from Lewis Gregory.
I don't doubt that de Grandhomme has the batting skill to do differently, but if there is one thing I and we know about Mr CDG, it's that he kinda only gives it a whack. Any spot in the line up, any game situation and de Grandhomme will probably look to 'access the boundary' as all the cricket cool kids say. Anyone hoping that de Grandhomme will contain himself to settle an innings, will more often than not be let down.
And I don't believe that de Grandhomme is selected to bat #4 for how he defends and works singles, which made those commentary notes even stranger. I reckon de Grandhomme comes in at #4 to fuckin' smash the ball and that's because Taylor's there coming in next to handle the repercussions. From the first two games, a rather clear style has been present; go hundies up to, re-assess with Taylor (and Mitchell, Neesham to a lesser extent) and do what needs to be done late in the innings.
Taylor executed his role, de Grandhomme was the same ol' de Grandhomme we have come to love (and/or hate) and Colin Munro unfortunately did what Munro does of late. Munro is averaging 14 in this series and regular readers will know exactly what Munro averaged in three games vs Sri Lanka as I have consistently referred to his 8.33avg in Sri Lanka since that tour. Munro will likely more opportunities in this series, I suspect he will play every game and he's the bloke in this batting line who needs runs the most.
In reflecting on game tahi, the strangest move was not using Mitchell or de Grandhomme with the ball on a Hagley Oval pitch that would have nibbled at their variations and control. In Wellington, de Grandhomme didn't bowl which is fine, but captain Tim Southee did give Mitchell a trundle and it simply felt like a more sensible bowling performance across the bowling unit.
Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi all bowled 4 overs with 2+ wickets and Santner was again the chief-destroyer with 3w @ 6.25rpo. Neesham struggled, no worries there and Mitchell picked up a wicket with a tidy spell. I highlighted Sodhi's dip in T20I production previously and this was a solid outing that will offer a splash of confidence, although the bowling innings felt sharper as a collective; the bowlers came with a different focus, intensity compared to the first outing.
The lovely thing about this Blackcaps group is the bounce back factor which ensures that the kiwis aren't being dismantled in multiple games. They may be a smidge off in a game, then they rectify it and perform better in the next game, which was exactly the case here - more so for the bowlers than the batsmen. We have seen the solid and the crappy so far in two games, leaving me eager to see what the status-quo is for this bowling unit across the series.
Next up, they play in Nelson on Tuesday.
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Peace and love 27.