England’s new-look limited-overs side made another emphatic statement against New Zealand, following up their one-day series win with a 56-run victory in the NatWest Twenty20.
Having so long played catch up in white ball cricket, England finally have a team who are ready to lead the way, wrapping things up at Emirates Old Trafford with a spell of five wickets for four runs.
Yorkshire’s Joe Root, England’s three-format master, top-scored with 68 from 46 balls as the hosts posted 191-7, before debutants David Willey and Mark Wood took three wickets apiece to roll the Black Caps for 135.
While Root’s superb form is almost a given at present, the way Wood and Willey combined to strangle New Zealand at the close is yet another feather in the cap for England up-and-comers.
England chose to bat first after naming an unchanged XI to that which sealed the 50-over series in Durham.
They raced out of the traps, scoring at 10 an over to reach 60-1 in the powerplay.
Jason Roy set the tone, flogging Mitchell McClenaghan for two sixes in the second over.
The first was a jaw-dropper, fetched from outside off and deposited 10 rows back over wide long-on.
Roy was dropped on 20 but had no such luck when Alex Hales called him through for a crazy single.
Hales set about atoning by taking 13 off Mitchell Santner’s next over, with Root settling immediately as he cut Tim Southee for four before lifting him for six down the ground.
The batsmen kept their feet on the accelerator, bringing up the fifty stand in just 29 balls when Root changed his mind mid-stroke and still managed to guide Southee to third man for four.
The Kiwis needed a response and debutant Santner produced it.
Hales (27) was beaten for length, but it was his dismissal of Durham match-winner Jonny Bairstow, of Yorkshire, moments later that will linger, shading the ball past the Yorkshireman’s outside edge and kissing off stump.
At 85-3 at the halfway stage the hosts briefly slowed up, Matt Henry turning in three tidy overs.
But the shackles were cast off emphatically as Nathan McCullum shipped 23 from his final visit.
Root and Sam Billings each hit two fours and the latter closed out the over with six over long on.
McClenaghan kept New Zealand in it by accounting for both batsmen, Billings caught off the top edge and Root’s impressive knock ending with an underpowered flash to deep cover.
Ben Stokes ensured the momentum would not be lost at the last, hitting four of his 13 deliveries to the ropes as England mustered 27 from the last two overs.
The New Zealand chase suffered an early setback when Willey hooped the third ball of the innings back into Martin Guptill and took out leg stump.
Brendon McCullum was typically unfazed, taking four off his first delivery before unloading another boundary and a muscular pull for six on Steven Finn.
The Kiwi captain was clearly in the mood for maximums, pumping Willey back over his head before sending the first two balls of Wood’s T20 career into the stands on opposite sides of the wicket.
McCullum’s frenetic stay ended on 35 from 15 balls when a Wood yorker slanted towards leg and ricocheted into the stumps via an outside edge.
A loose start from Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid and an unforgiving Kane Williamson ensued no let-up as the tourists raced to 73-2 from the powerplay – 13 runs better but one wicket worse than England’s mark.
Williamson was scoring freely but could not find a stable partner.
Ross Taylor was dropped by Bairstow on 16 and gone two balls later when Rashid invited the mis-hit, while Colin Munro and Luke Ronchi both gifted their wickets to Stokes with dreadful shots.
Williamson reached 50 in 31 balls and almost single-handedly took the score to 128-5 after 14 overs.
At that stage all three results were still on the table, but six balls and three wickets later it was over.
Wood took two of them, clattering Santner’s off stump and picking off Southee for a golden duck, but the decisive moment was Williamson’s demise.
The New Zealander fell to a magical direct hit from Willey, who pounced at cover and released in an instant.
The Northamptonshire all-rounder then finished things off with the ball, removing Nathan McCullum and McClenaghan with successive deliveries.
Root thinks England’s new approach has been refreshing.
“I thought that was a good score, we went looking for wickets and it was hard for them to chase it down,” the Yorkshireman said.
“We need to keep developing as a side so we need to make sure we keep moving forwards.
“It’s hard to explain, everyone has gone out this summer with a freedom.
“It’s really refreshing to see everyone commit to it and absolutely go for it.”