A wonderful tour of England will come to an end for New Zealand after they finish featuring in the sole T20 match at Old Trafford on Tuesday. It has been a mixed series for the Kiwis as they drew the two-Test series 1-1, and narrowly lost the one-dayers by a 3-2 margin. In spite of not having won either the Tests or one-day series, New Zealand have nonetheless enthralled the English public and, in fact, have been credited with bringing out a new dimension to the England side, an aggressive, positive approach, which has won the hosts new fans. Surely though, the Kiwis would like to finish on a high.
Going into the last match of the series, England would take a lot of confidence having chased down 192 in 26 overs at Durham. They rediscovered a hero in Jonny Bairstow, thanks, ironically, due to an injury to Jos Buttler. After a memorable ODI debut four years back, Bairstow lost his way. He was tried out in the Tests, but his faulty technique was completely exposed by the Aussies as England got whitewashed. Not surprisingly, Bairstow went on to lose his place in the team. The Durham knock has been like a second coming for him. And he would be keen to utilise the advantage. With Buttler injured, he could provide healthy competition for the wicket-keeping slot.
England are likely to retain the same side that put in a match-winning effort at Chester-le-Street. This could mean England may have as many as three T20 debutants in Sam Billings, David Willey and Mark Wood. Skipper Eoin Morgan would once again be a key for them in the batting department while Alex Hales would be expected to shine at the top of the order. Steven Finn doesn't quite enjoy bowling in T20s, so it would be interesting to see how he goes. Among the other options England have are James Vince, a hard-hitting batsman while Reece Topley is a young left-arm seamer.
Without doubt New Zealand have a strong T20 outfit, but there are worries over the form of their destructive batsman and skipper Brendon McCullum. His hit and block approach worked well for a while, but did not produce the desired results in the ODIs. In T20s, McCullum will find himself at home as he will have the freedom to go on an all-out attack. New Zealand would hope he bats for as long as possible for that often gives them their best chance of winning. Things can turn around pretty quickly in international cricket, and it has not taken long for cricket pundits to point out that McCullum's ultra-aggressive approach hasn't been delivering the desired result.
New Zealand will be missing the services of James Neesham who is injured. But, they have a number of players who can make a serious difference to the team's fortunes. Ross Taylor has played himself into brilliant form in the one-dayers, and would look to maintain the momentum. Kane Williamson has often opened the innings in T20s, but with Martin Guptill in good form, the Kiwis would not be keen to alter the opening combination. Grant Elliott too is likely to reclaim his T20 spot after a gap of a couple of years. In the bowling Nathan McCullum comes in to join Tim Southee and co.
--By A Cricket Analyst