England and New Zealand square off in a crucial Twenty20 tri-series clash on Tuesday (February 13), a game between two struggling teams aiming to shrug off recent sluggish efforts in the shortest form.
With an undefeated Australia having already booked a final’s berth, England and New Zealand will be fighting it out as the tri-series shifts across the Tasman. For England, their arduous 14-week tour Down Under has finally ended and a new campaign starts in New Zealand which also comprises ODIs and a two-Test series.
England’s limited-overs sheen radiating after a convincing One-Day International (ODI) series victory over Australia has eroded after a pair of thrashings to start the tri-series. In a surprising contrast to their vaunted 50-over team, success has not translated in the shortest format recently with England losing three straight T20Is and thoroughly outclassed by Australia in Hobart and Melbourne.
Granted, England have been considerably weakened in the tri-series without several mainstays exacerbated by captain Eoin Morgan’s absence in Melbourne but their scratchy performances against Australia – marked by underwhelming batting efforts – were notably disappointing.
In a needed tonic, England’s misfiring batting order should relish playing on the smaller New Zealand grounds in a golden opportunity to get back into form after being strangled by Australia’s revamped attack. Even though they are weakened, England boast a slew of match-winners and they will need to fire quickly with the match in Wellington almost must-win for the tourists.
A defeat won’t quite eliminate them but England will be staring down the barrel and it will be a major underachievement if they don’t qualify for the final after coming into the tournament on a high after their ODI triumph.
Like England, No. 2 ranked New Zealand are in the midst of a form slump having lost three straight T20Is in their worst skid in nearly four years. They were battered by Australia in the tri-series opener on February 3 but haven’t played since and their players have enjoyed a welcome breather.
A refreshed New Zealand have a chance to bounce back in the comforts of home but need to address batting concerns. Against a rampant Australia, New Zealand’s batting looked notably meek outside of dynamic openers Colin Munro and Martin Guptill, while much pressure rested on allrounder Colin de Grandhomme in the lower order.
In a bid to energise their line-up, former Hong Kong batsman Mark Chapman and wicketkeeper Tim Seifert have been brought into the squad and could make their debuts to counter England’s batting firepower.
It looms as an intriguing matchup between two teams fighting for survival in the tri-series and who will be seeing each other repeatedly over the coming weeks.