Three games down and Aotearoa's Blackcaps are 2-1 vs England in this T20I series, after another steady display in Nelson. Batting first, the kiwis put up 180/7 via nifty knocks from Martin Guptill (33 @ 194.11sr), Colin de Grandhomme (55 @ 157.14sr), Ross Taylor (27 @ 112.50sr) and Jimmy Neesham (20 @ 133.33sr) and then the Blackcaps managed to defend it in restricting England to 166/7.
The pace lads did the trick this time, with Lockie Ferguson and Blair Tickner each taking 2w @ 6.25rpo, with 11 dot balls each which was a game high. This was another chance to see Tickner in action at the higher level, which left me with a similar vibe to Scott Kuggeleijn as both these seamers feel like they have the pace and hostility to dominate domestic batsmen, but how does that translate to bowling at international batsmen?
It worked out for Tickner and he not only took key wickets of Tom Banton (18 off 10) and James Vince (49 of 39), Tickner also showed lovely control in being awkward to hit. Tickner will face a different challenge if he gets another crack in this series as England's batsmen will be aware of what he does well - heavy ball, pace that creeps on you, nice variations - and definitely won't be willing to let Tickner get four cheap overs in.
Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner took a wicket each, which were again key breakthroughs as every batsman in England's top-four got a start. It wasn't the greatest day for either, summed up in part by Sodhi taking his wicket with a full toss wide outside off, which Dawid Malan yanked over to Martin Guptill. Malan hit 55 @ 161.76sr and was leading England down the right path, sometimes those crappy balls do the damage.
The presence of Colin Munro also offered a bit of funk, as his energy in taking catches and executing a underarm dab to run-out Sam Billings played a hefty role in bringing the game back in favour of Aotearoa. Munro was hyped, like slightly over the top hype for all those moments, which common sense would suggest stems from a frustrating time with the willow as Munro again stuttered up top.
Here are the batting stats for Aotearoa's top-six...
Colin Murno: 3inns, 34 runs @ 11.33avg/103.03sr.
Martin Guptill: 3inns, 76 runs @ 25.33avg/146.15sr.
Tim Seifert: 3inns, 55 runs @ 18.33avg/103.77sr.
Colin de Grandhomme: 3inns, 102 runs @ 34avg/167.21sr.
Ross Taylor: 3inns, 99 runs @ 33avg/119.27sr.
Jimmy Neesham: 2inns, 62 runs @ 31avg/167.56sr.
Remember that Munro struggled in Sri Lanka, as I've mentioned numerous times recently and he's sliding deeper into to this T20I run-scoring hole at the moment. I don't believe Munro will be dropped vs England though and instead, I reckon Munro will play all five games and then be assessed; giving Munro two games to rectify this situation. What went down in the field will help and Munro found a way to impact the game without his bat, he just needs to suss some runs.
Colin de Grandhomme was nice in Nelson, whacking 55 @ 157.14, which is now part of a 2019 campaign in which de Grandhomme is averaging 32 with a strike-rate of 156.52. That's a drastic improvement on 2018 when de Grandhomme averaged 10.75/128.35sr and this coincides largely with a move up the order for de Grandhomme, which leads me back to Ross Taylor's wizardry.
When Taylor isn't quite going as large as de Grandhomme, it's easy to see how folks overlook what Taylor does in the middle stages. Taylor hit 27 @ 112.50 and once again, basically for the third game in a row, Taylor controlled the innings at a vital time to ensure that the Blackcaps put up a competitive target. De Grandhomme faced more balls and had a bigger impact on the game in terms of runs, Taylor came in with a ball to go in the 8th over and the Blackcaps on 69/3, batting all the way through to 17.4 overs.
Taylor was batting for 10 overs, half the game. He faced 24 deliveries and while he didn't face half of those 10 overs, Taylor was there, supporting de Grandhomme and Neesham as they went about whacking boundaries. This is notable because of what has happened in the other games of this series...
Game one: 10.1ov - 19.3ov.
Game two: 9.1ov - 17.4ov.
Game three: 7.5ov - 17.4ov.
Most important here is the period in which Taylor has been batting and as Taylor has moved down a spot or two in T20I cricket during this period of his career hitting a nek level, I'd suggest this is by design. This period is when Taylor settles the innings after top-order hitting and then Taylor sets up another onslaught later in the innings. Taylor has a series strike-rate of 119.27 which isn't massive for T20 stuff, however it's rapid when we consider Taylor's role and the wizardry is in Taylor's ability to settle and stabilize while sitting on 119.27sr.
Combine the period of Taylor's batting with the duration and it's a perfect storm. Taylor has faced 83 balls this series, which is the most of any batsman from either team and the next best Blackcap is de Grandhomme with 61 balls faced. Aotearoa has their best batsman facing the most deliveries during a key period - I'd say it's the most important period because you can't have hitting either side of the middle without the stability in the middle, others will say that the hitting is most important.
The key is Taylor's strike-rate and anything over 110sr in that role, is digestible. The basic premise of the best batsman being used to deal with the bulk of the innings makes sense and while Taylor has hit a nek level across all formats, his work in T20I can't be slept on.
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Peace and love 27.