Atkinson four-for condemns New Zealand after Bairstow, Brook tees off

On his debut, Gus Atkinson took a wicket with his fourth ball

As he and Jonny Bairstow destroyed New Zealand’s assault during a century stand at Old Trafford, Harry Brook made sure that the discussion about his 50-over World Cup absence would continue to simmer under. 

With the best statistics by an Englishman on his T20I debut, Gus Atkinson then validated his entry as a quick man of international pedigree as New Zealand was soundly defeated in the second T20I.

When Brook added 67 from 36 balls, including five fours and as many sixes, as England sped to a dominant total after electing to bat first, it was Brook’s adventurous strokeplay that had the fans on their feet. Bairstow batted through England’s innings for 86 off 60 balls.

With his fourth ball in international cricket, Atkinson, who was measured at 95 mph/152 kph at the Hundred last month, took a wicket. He then came back and blasted out the final three balls in the span of an over. 

Atkinson concluded with 4 for 20, causing New Zealand to lose their third-heaviest T20 match to England and fall behind 2-0 in the series. New Zealand went from 72 for 3 to 103 all out with only three batters scoring in double figures.

“He’s got extra pace, and pace can create wickets.”

Jos Buttler said at the toss when questioned about Atkinson of Surrey, or the Oval Invincibles in modern currency, who is England’s newest quick bowler.

Although he had been on the club’s books since 2017, the 25-year-old was little known outside of the county borders at the beginning of the season. 

However, impressive performances and, more importantly, a propensity to push the speed gun well above 90 mph, had seen him rocket up the pecking order and into England’s 50-over World Cup squad despite having never received a cap in any format.

After receiving an extra few days to recover from his efforts in the Hundred final, the first cap came as expected, and it didn’t take long for pace to produce the first ever international wicket. 

When Devon Conway tried to hit his way out of difficulty after his start was tight and the wheels were visible (second ball, 92 mph/148 kph), he instead flicked another 90 mph/145 kph delivery down the throat of deep backward square leg.

After both of their openers failed to reach double figures and Glenn Phillips sent an Adil Rashid full toss straight down the throat of long-on, whereupon Brook once more came to the rescue with a carefully timed leap, New Zealand was reduced to 44 for 3 and unable to maintain the needed rate of almost 10 an over. 

The jigger was as good as up when Daryl Mitchell was trapped behind the first ball by Brydon Carse’s deck-hitting strategy after Mark Chapman had smashed Liam Livingstone’s opening two balls for six and four respectively but fell in the same over.

Even so, it was a weak conclusion as Will Jacks bowled Mitchell Santner for his first T20I wicket, Adam Milne reversed Rashid straight to slip (which Moeen Ali expertly caught as a result of his quick thinking), and Atkinson came back to conclude the match in the space of five balls. 

After Tim Southee was out trying to scoop and Atkinson’s yorker thudded into the base of middle and off stumps to dismiss Lockie Ferguson first ball, Tim Seifert, who had fought valiantly for 39 from 31, top-edged a bouncer straight up. The game ended with six over remaining, just like it was on Wednesday at Chester-le-Street.

After Buttler won the toss and decided to bat, England’s powerplay performance of 40 for 1 gave rise to the possibility that the situation would not be ideal for utter carnage. Although Jacks brought Ferguson in for two fours and a six in the space of three balls, Bairstow continued to move forward at just under a run per ball. 

However, not everything was coming out of the middle, as demonstrated by Southee’s flimsy pull that looped to mid-on in the following over.

Santner twisted one up in the old-fashioned fashion to dismiss Dawid Malan for a four-ball duck, bringing the score to 43 for 2. Malan was a T20I banker for England but was coping uncomfortably with questions about his 50-over World Cup berth. 

A score of 76 for 2 at the midway point would not have intimidated New Zealand despite Bairstow smashing Santner into the crowd for his maiden six and Brook hitting Ish Sodhi twice in quick succession over deep extra cover (the last shot barely making it to the field).

Bairstow and Brook took some getting used to being a couple of Yorkshiremen in Lancashire’s backyard. The third-wicket pair for England were ready to lay the foundation; they gradually increased their partnership to fifty runs in just 30 balls before being told to go all out. 

After reaching his 40-ball half-century, Bairstow slog-swept Southee over the ropes before slamming him for four, then six, the latter of which was a huge straight drive into the pavilion. Brook then pounced on a second wide, slower ball and flogged six more over long-on, bringing the over’s total to 23.

By tucking into Sodhi, Bairstow added a third six in as many balls, and Brook added a fourth with an impudent reverse-slap. Milne halted the scoring with a 15th without a boundary, but Brook showed his skill by dabbing and driving Ferguson for another pair of fours. 

He then chased Southee down once more with 6-4-6 from back-to-back balls. He reached fifty from 31 balls with a baseball smash to the ground, then whipped a full toss past midwicket before choosing the wide leg cutter again and driving it over long-on.

The partnership reached 131 from 65 balls by the time Brook left the field in the 18th over, trying to mistime Sodhi to long-on. This was the greatest stand in T20I matches at Old Trafford. Milne put up a strong performance to finish with figures of 4-0-23-0, and although only 24 runs scored from the final 16 balls, England was already essentially out of reach.