The English spinners have been a vital factor in the rise of England in limited-overs formats. In the nerve-jangling encounter against New Zealand, their spinners stranglehold the home team’s batters to script a cracking victory.
England romped home with another nerve-wracking victory against New Zealand at Wellington. The match went down the wire, with all the three results looking achievable till the ultimate delivery. Despite the unusual nature of the pitch, it produced a thrilling finish as the fans were on their feet till the final ball.
After battling their way out to a modest 234, England put up a fantastic show with the ball to seal a dramatic win. Their bowlers held their nerves under the pump and pulled off an implausible victory in the death overs, but the foundation was laid by their spinners – Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. Both the spinners bowled good lines and kept things tight to lead England’s fightback.
The series so far has been a lively one with both the teams coming out hard and giving it all to emerge victorious. Two out of three games have been a thriller and one can expect the remainder of the series to be electrifying. England now have a 2-1 lead and the onus of making a comeback is now on the home side.
235 was never going to be enough against the strong batting line-up of New Zealand, but there was considerable turn in the surface, which English spinners were expected to exploit. Chris Woakes did well in getting the first breakthrough after which, Kane Williamson and Colin Munro steadied the New Zealand ship. Things looked in New Zealand’s control when these two were batting. Munro started finding his feet after a few hiccups at the start while Williamson looked as solid as a rock.
The New Zealand skipper was always going to be the key in this run-chase and was doing his job with perfection. At 80 for 1 inside 18 overs, the target looked like a cakewalk for New Zealand at that stage. England needed to break that partnership, they needed a wicket, in fact, they needed a lot of wickets.
Adil Rashid struck in his very second over and got rid of Munro, the partnership was broken, but New Zealand had a lot of batting to come. England, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot of runs to defend. Eoin Morgan didn’t waste any time in bringing Moeen Ali into the attack from the other end. After a poor start, Ali struck in his second over by getting the better of Mark Chapman.
Ali had Tom Latham trapped leg before on the very first delivery and handed the southpaw a golden duck. It was a good review from England and this wicket brought them back into the game as Latham is a good player of spin bowling. Rashid didn’t want to run behind in this race and scalped another key wicket in the form of Henry Nicholls.
Colin de Grandhomme joined Williamson out in the middle, but couldn’t inflict any damage whatsoever. A cameo would have broken the shackles for New Zealand and Grandhomme was the perfect man to play that role, but Ali had other ideas. The maverick batsman was dismissed just for three while trying to play a big stroke. Wickets kept tumbling at one end, but Williamson looked firm. From being comfortably placed at 80 for 1, New Zealand slipped to 103 for 6. They lost five wickets for just 23 runs, that turned the game on its head.
English spinners were accurate and bowled to a plan, Morgan showed immense faith in their abilities and manoeuvred the bowlers well. While defending a total of 235, England needed their bowlers to chip wickets and be economical. Rashid conceded 34 in his 10 overs while Ali leaked just 36. 20 overs were bowled between them in which they picked 5 wickets and conceded just 70.
Williamson and Mitchell Santner pulled things back for New Zealand, but a bit of fortune and brilliant death bowling saw England emerge victorious. Morgan gave his spinners a lot of credit and was quoted in a report from Cricbuzz saying, “New Zealand started well, Munro and Kane got a partnership going but they never got away from us… then the spinners came on and turned the game on the head which was nice. They did a fantastic job. When a lot is expected of you, to have the ability to change the momentum or turn the game on its head, I thought they dealt with that really well.”
Williamson scored his 11th ODI ton, but in vain as they lost the encounter by 4 runs. He said, “If we took smarter options then it shouldn’t have got to that point but credit to England’s slow bowlers, they bowled very nicely on that surface. When we lost a couple of those wickets it was tough to put them under pressure as they were very accurate.” All departments are clicking for England, which is certainly a good sign. For now, they would be looking to seal the series with another win.