Mark Chapman, Michael Bracewell fifties propel New Zealand to record highs

New Zealand 254 for 5 (Chapman 83, Bracewell 61*, Main 2-44) beat Scotland 152 for 9 (Greaves 37, Neesham 2-9, Rippon 2-37) by 102 runs

The world-famous Johnnie Walker highball forms the focal point of the award-winning whisky tour on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. It is described by the Scotch blender’s own website as a “balanced mix of smoke, fruit and fizz”. A mile away at The Grange, it was New Zealand’s own highball concoction on parade; and the liquid equivalent’s tagline could easily have applied.

For it was a perfect balance of 18 sixes that saw New Zealand notch their highest ever T20I score of 254, and claim victory by 102 runs. Half-centuries for Mark Chapman and Michael Bracewell were the dominant ingredients, as both made their respective T20I career-bests. Chapman’s 83 came in 44 balls, while Bracewell’s unbeaten 61 was even sharper on the palate at 25.

Chapman smashed seven sixes – getting off the mark with a straight one – after having started watchfully with four dots. A straight-arm jab off birthday boy Mark Watt fizzed to the boundary, while Hamza Tahir dropped short and was smoked for first four and then six.

He also pulled a Chris Greaves drag down to Watt on the boundary in what was his first professional knock since mid-April but there was no apparent rustiness.

At the other end, Bracewell should not, in fact, have made any. Scotland captain Richie Berrington will lament a drop in the covers long into the night. A relative newcomer to international cricket, Bracewell’s ball striking is as clean as it gets, and that was particularly apparent in Ali Evans’ 19th over, which went for 26.

There was both deftness – slower balls waited on and tucked away either side of the wicket – and force as he plundered 4, 4, 4, 6, 6 off the last five legal balls of the over. The first six, which brought up Bracewell’s maiden T20I half-century, was slog swept over deep square leg.

Meanwhile, Chapman and Bracewell were supported by several other flavourfully fruity knocks: Dane Cleaver made a quickfire 28, Daryl Mitchell smashed 31, and Jimmy Neesham – whose maximum from the first ball of the 20th took New Zealand past 243, their previous highest T20I total, which they hit twice in early 2018 – fell to the final ball of the innings for 28 from 12 deliveries.

Neesham had wandered to the middle early in the 16th over; his partnership with Bracewell was worth 79 from 29 balls. Such was the scoring rate that at times the in-ground DJ struggled to clip up The Proclaimers quickly enough to cope with the demand for musical fillers.

In the run chase, a trio of George Munsey boundaries in the first over gave Scotland hope. But they had lost four wickets by the by the end of as many overs. Debutant Michael Jones, fresh from 206 for Durham in the County Championship, holed out to Bracewell, before Munsey, Matthew Cross and Ollie Hairs perished within the space of six balls.

Munsey was served neat by Neesham, who did not even glance to see the finger measure. Three balls later, Neesham doubled up, with Cross giving Bracewell catching practice. Then Hairs was run-out by Cleaver trying to steal a sneaky dram.

Ten overs into the Scotland innings came another New Zealand entry into the record books. Michael Rippon, a left-arm wristspinner, became the first man to bowl, well, left-arm wristspin for his country.

Two deliveries in, with the DJ again in his element, a replacement ball was fetched after Greaves had slog swept on to neighbouring Arboretum Avenue. The over cost 17, as Greaves – who last Saturday on this ground made 79 against Stoneywood Dyce in the Easter Premier League – tucked in.

Greaves then fell for 37, Ish Sodhi taking a sharp return grab, while Rippon later claimed Michael Leask and Evans.

For Scotland, two trouncings in a row, have, in the words of head coach Shane Burger, been “a massive learning curve”.

But in a World Cup year, he wants more rather than less: “The more times you get thrown into this environment when they are better than you, and you have to make sure you’re playing at your best, the more we will get better. We need more international fixtures against really good teams.”

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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