Jonny Bairstow leads England to 175 but fightback gives New Zealand hope
Jonny Bairstow hammered 73 as he carried England to 175 for eight in their T20 series decider against New Zealand.
Bairstow was in bruising form at Trent Bridge, giving the Black Caps an unwanted reminder of last summer’s memorable Test century in Nottingham, nailing six sixes and five fours as he made the most of a 41-ball stay.
With England leading 2-1 at the start of this fourth and final match, Bairstow threatened to drag the game away from the tourists but his departure in the 12th over heralded a shift in momentum.
With captain Jos Buttler resting himself New Zealand snapped up four for 35 to chip away at the middle order and finished well as England managed just 38 off the last five overs. Six wickets fell to spin, with Mitch Santner claiming three for 30.
Bairstow began in electric form as he came out swinging and rendered his opening partner Will Jacks a virtual bystander.
The Yorkshireman, favouring the leg side, jabbed Matt Henry for six over midwicket, milked Santner’s first visit, then greeted Kyle Jamieson by twice heaving him over the ropes. When Tim Southee attempted to exert some contol with a fuller length, he was pumped over long-on.
Jacks, who would later nick Ish Sodhi for 16 to complete a quiet series, was confined to rotating the strike as his partner accounted for 43 of the first 50 runs.
No English batter has ever reached a half-century inside the six-over powerplay before but Bairstow came within two runs of the feat, all at a flamboyant strike rate of exactly 200.
With Jacks gone, Bairstow continued to carry the show, bringing up the England hundred by stepping back and lifting a Santner drag-down for his sixth six. He was gone next ball, looking for another big blow down the ground, but he had left a formidable platform.
England threatened to waste it somewhat as Dawid Malan and Harry Brook – the former in possession of a preliminary World Cup spot that the the latter covets – both failed to convince.
The Brook bandwagon has put pressure on the selectors since he was omitted from the provisional squad for next month’s tournament, but he made four from eight balls and was caught off a modest Sodhi delivery.
Malan made his way to a sluggish 26 but picked out deep square when he tried to pick things up against Santner in the 16th. Moeen Ali went the same way moments later as England threatened to fall away and Sam Curran also came and went quickly.
Liam Livingstone hit a couple of sixes as he chipped in 26 before Henry dismissed him with the closing ball of the innings, while Rehan Ahmed also cleared the ropes on his home international debut. But New Zealand finished strongly, keeping the total well below the predicted peak during Bairstow’s assault.
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