HAMILTON: What just happened? That was the overriding sentiment, you imagine, in the New Zealand dressing room after Friday night’s pongo-fest. At the halfway stage of the game at Eden Park, Martin Guptill’s hundred looked to have put the hosts on the way to sealing their spot in the tri-series final; when Aaron Finch hit the 32nd and final six an hour and a half later to complete Australia’s extraordinary chase, New Zealand were out on their feet and left to groggily contemplate a group decider in two days’ time. Jaws, and morale, must be picked off the floor if they are to ensure England don’t take advantage in Hamilton. Somehow, despite having lost all three games in the series so far, Eoin Morgan’s team can still claim the trophy. Their cause will be boosted by the return of Morgan, who has recovered from a groin strain, though they will resist the temptation to throw Ben Stokes straight into the fray – he has trained with his team-mates after arriving in New Zealand but is likely to be saved for the one-dayers. England have to do more than just beat New Zealand to reach the final – given their inferior net run rate, they must do so by a clear margin. Should they bat first and score 180, for example, they would need to keep New Zealand to 160 or below; if New Zealand were to make the same score, England’s requirement would be to chase it down in 18 overs or fewer. There has been some grumbling about the state of T20 cricket after the Auckland run-glut but, while the scores were always likely to be bigger on New Zealand’s grounds, that match was an outlier in every sense. With the exception of Dawid Malan, England’s batting has misfired but they remain in with a shot of salvaging something from this experimental tri-series and won’t mind another high-scoring shootout. The same goes, most likely, for those hoping to grab another catch or two in the crowd. In the spotlight: Amid the flurry of records and numbers in Auckland, Martin Guptill’s achievements were somewhat overlooked. His second T20I century was a masterclass in controlled top-order aggression and along the way it saw him pass Brendon McCullum as the leading run-scorer in the format (and reach the brink of 100 sixes). England know what he can do after his 65 from 40 balls helped set up New Zealand’s one win so far in Wellington. Sam Billings seems forever in need of an opportunity to nail down his England place – but, in fact, he has played in nine of their last ten T20s. Although that run encompasses three innings as opener, deputising for Alex Hales, before dropping back down to No. 6, his highest score is the 29 made in Melbourne a week ago. Despite being an electric fielder, he does not offer a bowling option and, with Stokes hovering, needs to produce. Teams news: New Zealand will hope to have Mitchell Santner available, having missed the Eden Park carnage with a knee issue. Ben Wheeler was taken out of the attack for bowling two high full-tosses on Friday and, after conceding 64 runs from 3.1 overs, could well be taken out of the firing line in Hamilton. Morgan has declared himself fit to return after missing the last two games, with James Vince likely to make way. The recurrence of Liam Plunkett’s hamstring problem means a change to the attack, Tom Curran the obvious replacement. Published in Daily Times, February 18th 2018.