It was some coincidence that the quasi-final which was the fifth T20 between England and New Zealand - the teams standing at 2-2 - should be tied then go to a super over, just like the World Cup final. And it was some fixity of purpose which saw England, in both cases, over the line.
The atmosphere on a damp Sunday evening at Eden Park, in front of a crowd below ten thousand, was nothing like the tumult on that Sunday evening in July when Lord’s witnessed the most extraordinary climax of any cricket match - perhaps of any sporting event. Even so, England needed the steely-eyed and single-minded determination of Eoin Morgan to steer them home.
Back in July Morgan, with outward calm, had strolled over to Jofra Archer during the Super Over after he had been called for a wide then swung for six by New Zealand’s hitter Jimmy Neesham. This time he had the far more experienced fast bowler Chris Jordan to bowl the Super Over, and this time Morgan helped by taking the catch which won the day, and this series 3-2: an exceptional feat for an England team close to being the T20 Lions.
Initially, however, Morgan had far more pressing concerns: after only four overs of the match, New Zealand had scored 70 runs for no loss. Starts do not come more explosive, even in this golden age of white-ball hitting. Morgan has never betrayed any negative emotion in front of his bowlers but a trace of vexation would have been pardonable as Sam Curran’s over was hit for 17, Tom Curran’s for 20, Jordan’s - for all his experience - 18, and Adil Rashid 14.
Rain had postponed the start from 2pm to 4pm, so the game was reduced to 11 overs per side. This meant the first four overs constituted the Powerplay, when only two fielders could be placed outside the semi-circles. Some relief was at hand therefore after New Zealand had rocketed to 70, but even five fielders could seldom protect the straight boundaries, which were 55 yards from the bowler’s stumps: in other words a straight hit had only to carry 75 yards, which is only a chip or even a putt for today’s batsmen.
Morgan dragged it back so that New Zealand did little more than double their total in their last seven overs. Saqib Mahmood, bowling quick and back of a length, contributed an over that cost no more than seven, and Rashid one that cost only five. All the traditional parameters flew out of the window in such an abbreviated match with such abbreviated boundaries: where a spell of ten overs for 25 runs used to be considered economical, so here was a two-over allotment.
England’s reply rather resembled the Light Brigade’s charge. They had to score at more than 13 runs an over - more than two runs per ball - to win this series, and they charged selflessly. The cagier batsman took one ball to play himself in and get off the mark. Lewis Gregory, in his first England series, spared no thought for his career and was out second ball, for six.
England were in danger of over-heating when they lost three wickets in their first three overs, including Tom Banton, who was given out LBW after technology failed to notice that the ball hit his front pad as it swung down legside, before hitting his back pad in front. Morgan also went, after kick-starting the innings with 17 off seven balls, so England were lagging at 48 for three after their four-over Powerplay.
This was the cue for Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran to hit 20 off the fifth over and 22 - highest of the day - off the sixth, so England were back in with 90 off six. Never before had the younger Curran walked in and instantly struck fours and sixes - and having done so here, to go with his left-arm variations, his case to be part of England’s side for the World T20 finals is strengthened.
Bairstow bristled and launched, like a howitzer, flat straight sixes. He was chosen to be man of the match, as he added eight more runs off three balls in the Super Over, but it should have been Jordan.
For gradually England’s innings faded out. Sam Billings took ten balls to score 11 runs; he and Tom Curran were too intent on scooping over the keeper’s head, instead of driving over the bowler’s head. With only three balls left, England still needed 13 to win, as Jordan walked in to face Jimmy Neesham.
It had been Neesham of course who had teed off against Archer in the World Cup Super Over, after England had set New Zealand 16 to win. This time, would you believe, it was Neesham who had 16 runs to play with when he bowled the final over of the match - and Jordan, Archer’s best friend in cricket, smote six off a full toss, two and four to tie the totals on 146.
Ben Stokes was away in Whangarei practising with the Test specialists, so on this occasion Morgan had the chance to open. He drove the second ball from Tim Southee, New Zealand’s captain, for six and scored nine off three balls to Bairstow’s eight: 1,6,1,6,1 and 2 made up the 17.
It was Archer’s first ball that was called a wide in the World Cup, here it was Jordan’s second - and the extra delivery he had to bowl was driven for four by Tim Seifert, so New Zealand had scored seven off two balls: 11 needed off four. Then Seifert also tried to be too cute and scoop, and missed, before lashing Jordan’s fourth ball away over extra-cover.
Morgan turned and scampered, like many an All Black scrum-half must have done on this ground. He hurled himself to make the match-saving tackle - and held on. If he had not caught it, New Zealand would have scored two, and needed eight off the last two balls - very feasible given the short boundaries - with Seifert on strike.
“Hopefully third time lucky if there’s another Super Over,” said Southee afterwards. Jordan paid tribute to Morgan for “being as calm as he usually is, especially when he takes a blinder like that.” And Morgan admitted that his young side had “messed up” in their two defeats when chasing, but that the series victory was “another step forward for us.”
It was interesting to note that the game throughout, though frenetic, held its shape. It was precisely that, a game of cricket, albeit condensed to 11 - ultimately 12 - overs per side. The key word is “overs”: they give every cricket match its shape. Whether it will be the same when the Hundred is staged next summer, with its blocks of five and ten balls, remains to be seen. Somehow a Super Block does not have the same ring.
New Zealand's super over: they score 8/1
It is Seifert and Guptill.
Strangely, it is Seifert who takes strike.
Seifert shovels to fine leg for one. Next one is a wide, shades of Jofra Archer! Now a full toss from Jordan and Seifery gets under it to muscle it over cover. Agonising chase for England but that's four.
Dot ball! A wider yorker. He tries a fancy flick and misses altogether. 11 needed from 3 now.
Oh Eoin Morgan has caught a screamer running back in the covers to catch a sliced shot. WICKET! Seifert c Morgan b Jordan
That brings Martin Guptill back on strike. New Zealand need 11 off two balls.
Guptill drills it to long on - and there is just a single.
That means they need ten off the last ball, and they are not going to get it. They finish on 8/1
England's super over: they score 17
Bairstow singles down the ground, and that brings Eoin on strike. Slower from Southee, right in the slot and Morgan couldn't have asked for more. Only a single next ball. Eight scored off the first three. Bairstow has pinged a length ball down the ground for six. Single. That makes 15.... Drilled into the outfield for two more and that's 17. England would take that, right?
1 6 1 6 1 2. There is literally no margin for error with the yorker option on this titchy straight boundary.
OVER 11: ENG 146/7 (Billings 11* Jordan 12*)
Wide yorker from Neesham, Billings manages to get it past the bowler. They run hard for two.
One off the next one
WICKET! TK Curran c de Grandhomme b Neesham 12 caught at short third man
That brings Chris Jordan in...
He's whacked the first ball for six!!!
Two off the next ball.
New Zealand need five off the last ball... it's Jimmy Neesham! Deja vu all over again....
Chris Jordan has smeared it away for four, and it is a tie! Would you believe it?! 146 plays 146.
Super over again!
OVER 10: ENG 131/6 (Sam Billings 8* Tom Curran 12*)
All happening! Billings turns one away for four, excellent start to the over. But the Kiwis win the next few balls on points. Only one to third man. Now Neesham cuts it off at mid on. Billings heaves it into the air, it lands safe a deep point and Guptill throws it in.
16 needed off the last over - just like then World Cup Final!
OVER 9: ENG 121/6 (Sam Billings 2* Tom Curran 10*)
New Zealand appeal to DRS for an lbw, Boult to Billings, but not even close for me. Curran crushes a six. Some balls in this over could have been wide, maybe, but only one is called. Tom Curran tries and misses with a scoop. England getting a bit cute here.
Now they run, Billings drops his bat and has to race home empty handed!
12 balls, 26 runs
WICKET! Bairstow c Seifert b Neesham 47
The over begins with Jonny B absolutely toasting one through midwicket for six, but ends with him trying to run the ball to third man and getting a toe end through to the keeper. Jonny roars some adult language. Knighty plays Nanny and apologises to ANYONE DERANGED ENOUGH TO BE UP AT 440am. We're not a sensitive demographic, guys. FOW 100/4
OVER 6: ENG 90/3 (Bairstow 38* Sam Curran 23*)
Sodhi starts with some dodgy stuff, front of the hand sliders, and that is not a successful tactic. Bairstow slaps him back down the ground for three sixes in a row. Baseball style. Hardly has to load up at all, just a flat bat donk for 18 cheap runs. 42 runs off the last two overs and England are back in business here.
OVER 5: ENG 68/3 (Bairstow 18* Sam Curran 22*)
England need a big over - and this is it! Four, four, six, six off Kuggeleijn. The first six is a false shot slice through third man, and then he leans back and carves the ball Windies style over extra cover for six. Nice. Decent comeback as Curran moves around in the crease, and then a slower one. Still 20 off the over though.
Five overs bowled, we have a result no matter what.
WICKET! Morgan c Kuggeleijn b Boult 17
England need a big over, and this is looking like it might be it: Morgan unloads on the unfortunate Trent Boult, a steepling six, a chip over mid on, another big long six. But a wide off ball five extends the duel and Morgan has sliced the ball to long off for a catch, nicely held in the deep. FOW 39/3
That might be the defining moment...
WICKET! Banton lbw Boult 7
An early blow for Banton as he smears a six but now he misjudges and is hit on the pad. Reviews right away. Initially hard to say because it hits something and then something else. He's hoping it's inside edge, then pad... but in fact this is front pad, back pad. Given out. England review. Very close to sliding down leg but given and it stays with the onfield call, even though it was just kissing. FOW 8/1
Dunno if the double pad kiss has confused DRS there, maybe. Anyway. Buju Banton, bye bye.
OVER 5: NZ 83/0 (Guptill 50* Munro 32*)
Mahmood on, an injection of pace. Hurries Guptill up and gloves him. Top edge over the keeper for four. Single to Guptill brings up his 19-ball 50. Another huge six last ball of the over spoils things rather. But still a mere 13 off the over.
Rashid will continue.
OVER 4: NZ 70/0 (Guptill 48* Munro 21*)
Adil Rashid comes on. Guptill swings, misses, Sam Billings has the bails off. Smart work but the foot was always back. Two sixes in a row, the second of them off an utter pie, a full toss.
Only three off the last three balls but even still, another 20 minutes of this and England will be hoping for rain.
OVER 3: NZ 55/0 (Guptill 36* Munro 19*)
Chris Jordan into the attack but I am afraid it's more of the same. Medium pace, straight,length bowling and this over it's Munro's turn to tee off. Six for him, single, now a four and a six for Guptill as well. 17th ball of the innings and the penny finally drops: Jordan bowls a wide yorker and it is a dot. Low full toss is only good for a single, and England have belatedly located a plan.
OVER 2: NZ 37/0 (Guptill 25* Munro 12*)
Brother Tom Curran at the other end. This is all quite juicy for big Martin Guptill. Straight, medium pace, coming on just lovely and it's all right in the slot for Martin. He's panelled a four and a couple of sixes and there are 20 off the over. England need a plan B.
OVER 1: NZ 17/0 (Guptill 5* Munro 12*)
Full one from Sam to start with, Guptill swing and a miss. Second ball is back of a length but Guptill is onto the length very quickly. Crunches that for four. A smeared single brings Col M on strike.
Curran dishes up a slower wide one and Munro helps hismelf to four, and then chips down the ground for six.
There are some actual cricketers out by the cut strip - Eoin Morgan and Chris Silverwood are having a look at the pitch.
Talking of Eoin, an interesting little titbit from his press conference the other day when, unprompted, he said: “If we get guys who are not running off the last ball of the game because they want to get a not-out, there’s something to address.”
That was in reference to Malan, his erstwhile colleague at Middlesex.
It's 2-2 in the T20 international series between New Zealand in England, and winner takes all in Auckland in game five. It's just coming up to midnight in the UK, and the game starts at 1am our time. Over in Auckland, they're having a bit of weather, so let's hope that doesn't spoil things, because this should be a fun match.
The last match saw England level the series thanks to a ferocious assault from Dawid Malan, perhaps he was keen to impressive his new Yorkshire teammates with his hitting. He certainly impressed everyone else, making England's fastest T20 hundred and laying waste to the Kiwi bowling in rare style. Dawid reached three figures in just 48 balls, and this hitting propelled the mighty E to their highest T20 international total. The well-matched qualities of the teams, and the nature of the format, make it hard to say exactly what that means for the chances in this game give but, for Malan at least, it was a huge moment, and he really took his opportunity in the absence of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
It's certainly not an easy 11 to get in these days, and there is even a school of thought that England's best Test batsman, Joe Root, might not be guaranteed a spot. Here's a piece about Eoin Morgan and Joe.