It's not just with a white ball that England and the Kiwis have riveted viewers recently either. This summer’s Test series between the two produced its own high-octane trilogy as Baz-Ball 1, 2 and 3 exploded onto our screens. Ageing gunslingers were pitted against one another as Anderson and Broad went back to the future against Boult and Southee. Jonny Bairstow became cricket’s Rambo blasting sixes in seemingly impossible chases. Daryl Mitchell emerged as New Zealand’s unlikely Gary Cooper epitomising heroic resistance and whilst the series may not quite have been ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’, New Zealanders will possibly have seen England coach Brendon McCullum in the role of Judas.
With the combined white and red ball scales tilted in England’s favour after 2019 and 2022 and just the desert semi-final as the feather, or rather white fern, in the Kiwi black caps, it might seem odd to think of England’s Brisbane win as a kind of redemption. But generally, whilst England’s Test cricket has flourished in the McCullum and Stokes era, white ball progress under Mathew Mott and Jos Buttler has been, if not backwards, at least considerably less spectacular. Jos Buttler’s world cup form and captaincy had not imposed his side on the tournament in the way he or England would have wanted. Defeat to Ireland and the abandoned showdown with Australia had left England teetering precariously over a precipice in the manner of an Italian Job Mini Cooper. Any wobble against New Zealand would have been Hasta la vista baby for Jos and his team.
New Zealand in action (Source: AP)
As it was, as the curtain fell, anyone who had come in late to only seen the ending, might have felt that England’s win was comfortable. It was anything but. There was more than a passing resemblance to last year’s Abu Dhabi semi -final. On that occasion, with 57 needed off the last four overs, Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham played Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to pull off a heist to storm New Zealand into the final.
The pair were looking to reprise their roles in the sequel, but the Gabba’s bigger boundaries proved a bridge too far and both perished well before the final scene. Glenn Philipps and Citizen Kane Williamson were valiant in defeat, but had not quite done enough. Captain Jos had led from the front with the bat and marshalled his troops in exemplary fashion, despite Moeen Ali’s cameo as Harold Lloyd spilling the simplest of catches as viewer’s jaws dropped in shock and surprise.
With Australia lurking, England and New Zealand will need to win their last group games against Sri Lanka and Ireland respectively to have the chance of meeting again in the semi - final or final. If they do, be sure to book the edge of your seat. With glory and revenge at stake, it will be a thriller.
Also Read: 'We didn't think too much about past poor performances'- Jos Buttler