Just when New Zealand may have fancied the Twenty20 cricket series momentum was theirs, along came England’s Dawid Malan.
In a mind-boggling hitting display, England’s No 3 with backup from his skipper Eoin Morgan smashed the hapless Black Caps bowlers all over McLean Park to seal a 76-run win in game four on Friday.
Malan’s unbeaten 103 off 51 balls, and Morgan’s equally rapid 91 off 41, boosted England to a mammoth 241-3 which was way out of reach and levelled the series 2-2 to set up a Sunday afternoon decider in Auckland.
The mini Eden Park straight boundaries will look even more inviting to the visiting batsmen if the hosts can’t turn around this horror show with the ball.
It was a record England T20 total and the second-highest New Zealand had conceded, behind only Australia’s 245-5 at Eden Park in February last year. And it was the Black Caps’ third-highest T20 defeat by runs on a night to forget in Napier.
Facing mission improbable, the Black Caps never got close. They were dismissed for 165 in 16.5 overs; captain Tim Southee topscoring with 39 off 15 balls and England legspinner Matt Parkinson snaring 4-47.
McLean Park has witnessed some power hitting over the years – Corey Anderson clattered a few onto the Harris Stand roof and Chris Gayle peppered nearby houses – but for sustained brutality this from Malan was hard to top.
The crowd of 5562 thought so, too, and stood to cheer him off warmly at the innings break.
Under the blazing Hawke’s Bay sun, Malan slayed England’s fastest T20 international century off 48 balls, 12 fewer than Alex Hales’ previous record against Sri Lanka.
The Black Caps had only conceded one faster T20 century: by South Africa’s Richard Levi who blasted a 45-ball ton in Hamilton in 2012.
Malan and Morgan’s stand of 182 off 12.2 overs was a third wicket record in T20 internationals, after spinner Mitchell Santner removed openers Tom Banton and Jonny Bairstow for the very tidy figures of 2-5 off two overs.
While the hitting was sublime, the bowling was ragged and got even worse as the Black Caps fried in the near 30degC heat after cool finishes in Wellington and Nelson.
When they missed their lengths they missed badly as Malan powered anything full through the covers and anything short over mid-wicket to the short side boundaries.
Yorkers were in short supply on a dream batting surface as full tosses or half-trackers got the deserved treatment. When the pressure went up, there was little response or variation from the men in black and no stopping England.
One of the stars of their Nelson win, Blair Tickner on his home ground went for 50 off four overs and legspinner Ish Sodhi felt the full wrath of Malan who smashed him for 28 off one over: 4, 6, 6, 4, 6, 2. Sodhi’s tough series continued, conceding 49 off his three and Southee didn’t escape the carnage either with 1-47 off four.
New Zealand also gave Morgan two let-offs from full tosses above waist height, as if they didn’t have enough problems.
On 51 (against Santner) and 59 (against Tickner) the skipper was caught at deep mid-wicket only to be called back for a free hit.
Morgan clattered seven sixes before holing out to Southee in the final over, one more than Malan whose previous highest T20 score was 78.
New Zealand’s hopes of an unlikely victory sat with power duo Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, needing better than 12 an over.
They gave home fans a glimmer with an opening stand of 54 off 4.3 overs, including Guptill smashing one over the Graeme Lowe Stand roof.
But when he was caught off a full toss the slide began, and gained alarming pace when the Colins, Munro and de Grandhomme, departed off successive balls to Parkinson who was suddenly on a hat-trick. At 70-4 it was goodnight, as early as the eighth over of the chase.