- England v New Zealand, 2nd T20, The Oval
Birthday boy KP returns for England
June 27, The Oval
Start time 6.30pm (1730 GMT)
Kevin Pietersen, who turned 33 on Thursday, was in the England dressing room on Tuesday evening and, all being well, he will return to don their flashy new red pyjamas and take to the field for the second T20 international against New Zealand on Thursday. In between he netted with his team-mates (and was excited enough to tweet about it) and although his contribution will be largely meaningless in the broader sweep of an Ashes summer, particularly after his strutting, unbeaten 177 for Surrey at the weekend, the sight of him in an England shirt for the first time since March will settle a few nerves.
Who makes room for him after the batsmen, Eoin Morgan excepted, all impressed as England narrowly failed to pull off their highest successful run chase in T20s is another matter. Morgan, standing in as captain for the rested Stuart Broad, joked after the first match that it would be Pietersen's job to come in and win the second and that would probably fit the bill for a partisan Surrey crowd, as well as England's limited-overs coach, Ashley Giles. With Pietersen in the XI, England will also be able to rival New Zealand and Brendon McCullum for IPL glamour, in another sell-out match that comes a day after the launch of the domestic FLt20 in slightly more muted circumstances.
For New Zealand, there is the opportunity for another series victory in England's backyard after their ODI reverse. Over 15 contests in all three formats since early February, New Zealand have won five (three ODIs, two T20s) to England's seven (two Tests, three ODIs, two T20s) and no neutral onlooker would begrudge McCullum's team making it 6-7 after nearly five months of cricket in which the difference between the two countries has consistently belied the gap in the rankings.
Form guide: (most recent first)
New Zealand WLWLL
In the spotlight
From an England perspective, the spotlight is unlikely to stray from Pietersen for long but should a few photons be going spare they wouldn't be wasted on Ben Stokes. The Durham allrounder made his first England appearance in two summers on Tuesday; his bowling stood up better than several of his more senior colleagues and although he couldn't quite secure victory with the bat he showed his power with one towering six.
Tom Latham was given an opportunity with bat and gloves and, one missed stumping apart, gave a good account of himself. His merry hitting helped sustain the momentum of New Zealand's innings, he took a superb diving catch to dismiss Luke Wright, England's top-scorer, and then managed to run out Jos Buttler at a crucial stage (possibly with the aid of a little luck). With BJ Watling's injury and uncertainty surrounding Luke Ronchi, Latham has the chance to further his claims.
Chris Woakes' evening ended after around ten minutes in the first T20 - his one over costing 19 runs - and he could be withdrawn from the firing line after a testing few weeks, with Pietersen slotting in up the order. Danny Briggs played a crucial role in Hampshire's FLt20 win in the tournament's opening game and was hoping to still play at The Oval. If so, James Tredwell will have earned a night off.
England 1 Michael Lumb, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Ben Stokes, 9 Danny Briggs, 10 Jade Dernbach, 11 Boyd Rankin
McCullum suggested that Guptill would struggle to be fit for the second game and if New Zealand decide against risking further damage to his hamstring, James Franklin will get another chance as a pinch-hitting opener. Kyle Mills and Doug Bracewell are the other fast-bowling options in the squad.
New Zealand 1 Hamish Rutherford, 2 James Franklin, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt, wk), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham, 6 Colin Munro, 7 Corey Anderson, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Ian Butler, 10 Mitchell McClenaghan, 11 Ronnie Hira
Pitch and conditions
The pitch, situated towards the south-west side of the square, was exceptionally quick and bouncy, with one short boundary that both teams targeted to good effect. Morgan felt New Zealand's 201 for 4 was ten runs below par, though a chance of rain on Thursday might dampen the prospects for a repeat.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand's win was only their third over England in ten T20s - and their first in this country.
- Since returning to England's T20 side last year, Luke Wright has scored 346 runs at 31.45 and taken 10 wickets at 18.10. Before that, he averaged 15.43 with the bat and 36.50 with the ball.
- Hamish Rutherford's 62 at The Oval was his first international half-century since making 171 on Test debut in March.
"It's very small margins especially in Twenty20 on a very good wicket. One blow and we would have won the game."
Eoin Morgan thinks there was not much between the two sides
"He got out first ball - that can happen."
Brendon McCullum wasn't too concerned by James Franklin's failure
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here