Injury cloud over Williamson as NZ look to break duck


Big Picture

Two teams, no points. The Trans-Tasman T20 moves across the water with New Zealand and England looking to get on the board. Australia and the Australians were hard on both, as David Warner led a resurgent short-form side packed with BBL talent to three wins from three, guaranteeing them a place in the final. The identity of their opponent for the decider will be decided over the next seven days, across games in Wellington, Auckland and Hamilton.

New Zealand have faced scrutiny from within about their T20 set-up – in particular the role of captain Kane Williamson – and subsequently called a couple of new faces into the squad for the home leg of the series. Mark Chapman is the most intriguing, already an international with Hong Kong but now focused on the alternative path provided by his Kiwi father. Like Chapman, wicketkeeper Tim Seifert enjoyed a strong Super Smash and is set to take over wicketkeeping duties from Tom Blundell.

England’s back-to-back to defeats to Australia have exposed problems with their T20 approach, too – notably a misfiring batting order, albeit one missing a few key cogs. One of the absentees was pencilled in for a return in this game, but a court appearance in Bristol shortly after the Wellington T20 concludes will prevent Ben Stokes from making his international comeback just yet.

Both teams are on a run of three consecutive defeats in T20I – New Zealand losing twice at home to Pakistan in January; England beaten by West Indies at the end of their summer – and both have injury concerns over their captains. But, barring an intervention by the weather, their fortunes are about to diverge.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand LLLWW
England LLLWL

In the spotlight

Should he be passed fit after suffering a back niggle, Kane Williamson is likely to be the focus of attention. Since dropping to No. 3 to accommodate Colin Munro at the top of the order, his returns have dipped sharply, with scores of 28, 12, 8, 17*, 19, 0, 9 and 8. He averages only 21.66 at first drop, compared to high 30s as an opener, while his strike-rate (111.11) remains pedestrian by modern standards. Williamson is determined to play all formats and Joe Root and Virat Kohli have shown that classical batting has a place in T20.

Jason Roy is, in contrast, the epitome of an aggressive, ball-striking T20 batsman. His role for England is to attack from the outset at the top of the order in white-ball cricket, which inevitably leads to some feast-or-famine returns. However, since making an England ODI record 180 against Australia last month at the MCG, he has four single-figure scores from six innings, only once passing 20. His T20 form, albeit spread over eight months, is particularly barren: 8, 0, 9 and 8 since a half-century against South Africa at Taunton in June.

Team news

New Zealand have added Henry Nicholls to their squad as cover for Williamson – although the captain said he was “100%-ish”. New Zealand have to decide whether to push Williamson back up to the opening slot, where he has a good record alongside Martin Guptill, and utilise Munro’s aggression at No. 3, or stick with their recent tactics. Chapman and Seifert are in line for a debuts, after Tom Bruce and Blundell were dropped from the 13-man squad. Anaru Kitchen and Ben Wheeler are the other options.

New Zealand (possible): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Kane Williamson (capt), 3 Colin Munro, 4 Mark Chapman, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Tim Seifert (wk), 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ish Sodhi

England look set to be without Eoin Morgan again. He did not bat in the nets on Monday after missing the MCG T20 with a groin strain, with James Vince likely to get another chance at No. 4 and Jos Buttler deputising as captain. Liam Dawson‘s spin took punishment in Melbourne and, with the small boundaries at the Westpac Stadium, England could revert to four seamers alongside Adil Rashid. Liam Plunkett could be in contention after a hamstring injury ruled him out of the start of the series.

England: (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 James Vince, 5 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 6 Sam Billings, 7 David Willey, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Liam Plunkett/Tom Curran, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Mark Wood

Pitch and conditions

The Westpac can offer something for swing and seam bowlers – as England discovered when they were rolled for 123 by New Zealand during a 2015 World Cup hammering – and the dimensions mean both teams will likely want to chase. The forecast is for a warm, clear evening without interruptions.

Stats and trivia

Quotes

“We certainly want to get on the board in this tri-series and it becomes very important we play our best cricket tomorrow night.”
Kane Williamson concedes it is make or break for both sides in the tri-series

“We’ve under-performed as a team and because of that we’ve got a bee in our bonnet. We want to make sure the next game is a strong performance.”
England opener Jason Roy says the team are sure to improve



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