New Zealand ended their three-match losing streak with a 12-run victory over England in a tri-nation Twenty20 cricket international on Tuesday, inspired by an innings of 72 from captain Kane Williamson. Williamson posted his eighth T20 half-century but his first in 10 innings since January last year to guide New Zealand to 196-5 as it batted first after winning the toss. England was held to 184-9 in reply.
Williamson shared an 82-run second wicket partnership with Martin Guptill (65) which laid the foundation for the innings and with his strike rate of 156.5 — 72 from 65 balls — put an end to rumblings that he might be out of place in the shortest format.
New Zealand won for the first time in three matches after consecutive Twenty20 losses to Pakistan prior to the tri-series, then to Australia in its first match in the trans-Tasman series. England has now lost its last three games after back-to-back losses to Australia who have already qualified for the tri-series final.
New Zealand plays Australia in Auckland on Friday.
"Obviously it was a very important win for us in the context of this series," Williamson said. "It was in some ways a must win just to get slightly ahead of the third-placed team at the moment which is a very strong England team.
"They made us work really hard, we had to play very good cricket which we were fortunate enough to do today."
With late support from Mark Chapman (20) and Tim Seifert (14 not out) — both on debut — Williamson ensured New Zealand matched its highest score at the Wellington Regional Stadium and set England a difficult chase on a piebald, drop-in pitch which had confounded both captains.
The pitch, which had a huge bald spot caused by the loss of grass growth during a record hot summer in Wellington, played much better than expected and rewarded bold strokeplay, especially from batsmen who hit under the bounce.
"It was important we assessed the wicket, we didn't know how it would play and it certainly played a lot better than it looked," Williamson said. "Guys got off to a very good start for us and we were able to build partnerships throughout."
Williamson was relieved after a recent lack of form in T20 cricket to make a Man of the Match contribution.
"You always want more runs and you always train hard to contribute as much as you can to a team performance," he said. "Don't get me wrong, there's been a number of occasions recently when I wanted to contribute more and it wasn't to be. It was nice to spend some time in the middle today to help our side get a good total and that was the best part."
After the early loss of Jason Roy for 8, Alex Hales went on a boundary-hitting spree which ensured England sped along at a pace faster than the early one set for New Zealand by Guptill and Williamson.
Hales hit six fours and three sixes to reach 47 from 24 balls and seemed to have turned the match in England's favor. But Ish Sodhi, the world's best T20 bowler, and Colin Munro, the world's best T20 batsman and only a part-time bowler, combined to slow England's pace.
Sodhi removed Hales with one of the worst balls he has bowled in international cricket, a rank long-hop which the surprised batsman skied to Colin de Grandhomme on the boundary. Munro then bowled two valuable overs of gentle medium pace at a cost of only 11 runs to help brake the England scoring rate.
Sodhi also grabbed the vital wicket of England captain Jos Buttler for 2 to further damage the England run chase. Dawid Malan played a heady innings of 59 from 40 balls which kept England in the match until late but England's chances faltered when he was out at 158-6.
Mitchell Santner struck an important double blow when he dismissed Malan and Sam Billings for 12. Williamson brilliantly ran out James Vince for 10 and Trent Boult helped snuff out any late order resistance when he bowled Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett with successive deliveries in the 18th over.
England finished on 184-9 with Adil Rashid 8 and Mark Wood 5.
"Maybe we gave them 10 or 15 runs too many and that proved to be the difference in the end," said Buttler who stood in for the injured Eoin Morgan. "We were just off with our skills.
"The wicket obviously played a lot better than everyone thought and produced a really good game but we probably didn't quite bowl as well as we could have."
(With AP Inputs)