Trent Boult set for T20I return as England hope to bounce back

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NAPIER: “It’s been a great learning day for us,” said Eoin Morgan after a chastening defeat in the third T20I at Nelson. It wasn’t exactly said with relish, but there was obvious conviction in his words as he offered up a subtle variation on one of the abiding themes of his England captaincy.

Throughout England’s four-year rise to become the 50-over world champions, Morgan’s reaction to their intermittent setbacks had been to present an unapologetic public face – “no, we will not stop playing our natural attacking game” – even if, in private, he was obliged to give a more honest appraisal of scorelines such as 20 for 6 against South Africa at Lord’s in 2017, or 8 for 5 against Australia at Adelaide.

The difference in those contests, of course, was England’s focus was on fine-tuning a team that was already good enough to take on the world, so presenting an unshakeable belief in the men and the methods was a key part of the process. The remit at this stage of this new-look outfit, on the other hand, couldn’t really be much more different.

With the next T20 World Cup only a year away, and with a raft of automatic picks taking a well-earned break, the value of days such as occurred on Tuesday, when England squandered five wickets for ten runs in 18 balls to throw away an enviable chance to go 2-1 up in the series, will only be known in hindsight, if the players concerned take on board the lessons and process them for their next crunch encounter.

That said, England have had previous of learning on the hoof in this format. Their run to the final of the World T20 in 2016 was built on a wide-eyed acceptance of the team’s relative naivety, as the team took their licks (not least from Chris Gayle in Mumbai) and found the appropriate response, as players such as Jason Roy and Jos Buttler had the first proper flex of their muscles on the world stage. Had it not been for Carlos Brathwaite’s epic finale in Kolkata, they’d have had more to show for their studiousness than a handful of happy memories.

The relative stakes could hardly be lower in this particular series – a post-World Cup fever dream being played beyond the other side of the world, and in a time-zone that deters even the most hardened of English night-owls from tuning in to pay attention. But the opportunity to bed into the fabric of the England set-up, and get some hard-earned experience without attracting any definitive judgements from a public that is broadly speaking looking the other way.

That said, they are up against an opponent that really rather fancies getting one over their World Cup vanquishers. New Zealand took their time to find their range in this series after a stutter in the opening match. But with Colin de Grandhomme swinging from the hip in the middle order and Martin Guptill threatening to find some form at the top, they’ve got the weapons to put England’s rookie-dominated outfit under yet more pressure.

PITCH AND CONDITIONS:

The solitary floodlit fixture of this five-match series is being played on a drop-in pitch at another of New Zealand’s rugby-dominant venues, with their habitually short square boundaries that will doubtless challenge any spinner who dares to lose his length.