It was in Napier, the art deco-styled coastal city on the North Island playing host to Friday evening’s fourth T20 between New Zealand and England, that Alan Mullally once left a dead shark in Mike Atherton’s bed as a prank.
On his first tour with England in the winter of 1996-97, the left-armer was ribbing his captain for a lack of fishing success and was then left out of the next match. Even if there were chiefly cricketing reasons at play, a bloodied 90kg mako with a note attached to its fin “Athers, this is a fish” – probably did not help Mullally’s case.
There are five enthusiastic newcomers in the current touring party (six if you count Mullally’s fellow southpaw, Sam Curran, who had already won caps in the other formats). But as much as the head coach, Chris Silverwood, intends to continue the relaxed environment of his predecessor, Trevor Bayliss, the chances of Eoin Morgan finding the catch of the day under his covers after a defeat feel slim.
Tuesday’s collapse in Nelson has made the only day-night match of this tour a must-win given Morgan’s continued assertion that, while blooding players is high on the list of priorities, a series victory remains top. With that in mind, sitting 2-1 down, the experienced Jonny Bairstow and Chris Jordan are both in line for returns to the XI one match sooner than previously planned.
England will want another look at Tom Banton, the 360-degree Somerset opener who briefly crackled on debut for 18 before being bowled on the scoop. As well as a seamer making way – Pat Brown is shading Saqib Mahmood by way of returns but has played one more match – James Vince, whose loose dismissal for 49 felt the most squandered opportunity on the day, may well be the one left out.
After Adil Rashid’s first two outings demonstrated a touch of rustiness following his shoulder injury – England say he still feels “70-80%” by way of confidence in the joint – another opportunity should still be handed to Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg-spinner who struck with his fifth ball in international cricket.
This sweet moment for the 23-year-old from Bolton was, like the best exponents of his craft, a rewarding piece of calculation too. Suspecting Tim Seifert to be lining up the reverse slog-sweep, Parkinson had the confidence to fire down a slider that nutmegged the right-hander and lit up the stumps.
Parkinson admitted afterwards he was “gutted” to only get two overs (one for 14) though understood why Morgan held him back from a later spell; the wind had changed and two left-handers were at the crease. Nevertheless, with a strong action and the bravery to toss the ball up, he looked the part in this brief showing.
“There were no nerves playing the game, that was more the build-up, waking up in the morning and trying to go to sleep the night before,” said Parkinson. “Trying to get through the time between waking up and then getting to the ground and training too. The actual game came as a relief.”
Parkinson is one of four England players in both squads on tour (Mahmood, Sam Curran and Joe Denly, nursing an ankle injury, are the other three). His spot follows a second season as the T20 Blast’s leading spinner and a 10-wicket championship match at Hove played over the same weekend that England won the World Cup.
Just hours after the Sussex match he and his twin brother, Callum – the Leicestershire left-arm spinner who was glad to see England bowl first on Tuesday due to a bleep test the next morning – lost their mother, Maria, aged only 50. “I like to think that I’ve used the tragic thing that happened in July to spur me on. If hadn’t used it in a positive way then I don’t think I’d be here playing for England,” said Parkinson.
At Napier’s McLean Park, a rugby-cum-cricket ground with a reputation for runs, Parkinson will be bowling to shorter square boundaries. England’s batsmen failed to adapt to similar dimensions during the second game at Wellington’s Cake Tin and now have a fresh angle to deal with in Trent Boult.
It will be Boult’s first white-ball international since a central role in the dramatic end to the World Cup final; he replaces the rested Lockie Ferguson as one of two new arrivals along with Shane Bond as a temporary bowling coach. Like Mullally and his shark back in the day, the left-armer will be keen to make mischief.