When Chris Jordan paddled the final ball of an 11-over-a-side thrash for four, the 9,000 or so spectators watching at Eden Park could scarcely believe their eyes: England and New Zealand were heading into a super over for the second time this year.
What followed may have lacked the stomach-churning intensity witnessed at the end of the World Cup final in July but the result was still the same, with Eoin Morgan’s side emerging victorious – albeit by a more convincing margin than the number of boundaries struck on the day.
Batting first in the six-ball shoot-out, Morgan and Jonny Bairstow had struck a six apiece and posted 17 runs in total. Jordan was then the man entrusted with the ball, leaking just eight runs and claiming the wicket of Tim Seifert via a sparkling catch from Morgan to complete a 3-2 series win for this inexperienced touring side.
The late touch of drama and de ja vu followed a boundary-fest in the match proper, New Zealand posting 146 for five from their 11 overs before England achieved parity six down. The personnel may have been different, but there continues to be little that separates these two countries in white-ball cricket.
Morgan opted to chase upon winning a delayed toss at 2.10pm, confirming Dawid Malan would step down after Friday’s unbeaten century in Napier as part of the rotation policy. Matt Parkinson and Pat Brown also made way, with James Vince, Saqib Mahmood and Adil Rashid brought in. New Zealand, meanwhile, swapped out Blair Tickner and Daryl Mitchell for Scott Kuggeleijn and Jimmy Neesham.
But further rain pushed the start time back to 4pm, setting up a shortened slogathon in the process. The big screen at Eden Park claims it is “a safety-conscious stadium” but to spectate from either end was hazardous given the short straight boundaries and two experts at exploiting them – Martin Guptill and Colin Munro – opening up for New Zealand.
The pair raced out of the blocks in a stand of 83 from just 31 balls, Guptill reaching his half-century from 19 of them. This right-hand, left-hand combination, allied with a flat drop-in pitch, made mincemeat of the Curran brothers, Chris Jordan and Mahmood. When Adil Rashid’s second over went for just five and winkled out Guptill, caught at deep mid-wicket, the Yorkshireman became an early contender for man of the match.
When Mahmood followed this up with a seven-run over that also removed Colin de Grandhomme caught in the deep, England had somehow applied the brakes. But new man Seifert emerged in bristling fashion with a 16-ball 39 that, along with Munro’s 46 from 21, helped give New Zealand’s innings some momentum at the back end.
Seifert’s treatment of Sam Curran’s 10th over was particularly brutal after the left-armer had finally snuffed out Munro, scooping and slapping a couple of sixes before a length ball was drilled through extra cover. But the elder sibling extracted some revenge by lighting up his stumps with a yorker, before Ross Taylor was run out of the final ball.
England’s chase hit the skids early on, reduced to nine for two after seven balls after Tom Banton was out lbw to Trent Boult – the opener not saved by DRS, despite an initial mix-up involving the Hawkeye projection – and Vince chipped Tim Southee’s first delivery to mid-off.
But Morgan wrested back the momentum with a seven-ball 17 – ended when toe-ending Boult to long-off – before Bairstow and Sam Curran started slotting straight sixes for fun in a stand of 61 in just four overs. The former has been talking about Eden Park’s dimensions all tour and cleared the rope five times, while the latter, prompted to keep the left-hand right-hand combination going, did so twice.
Suddenly England’s chase looked relatively under control. But when Bairstow, Sam Curran and Lewis Gregory fell in the space of three legal deliveries – Curran stumped off a wide from Mitch Santner – it left Sam Billings needing to scramble for the final runs with the lower order. And though the Kent skipper struggled to get bat on ball himself, Jordan went six, two, four off Neesham’s final over to tie the scores and set up another super over.
This time, however, there could be no quibbles over the result that followed.