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Cricket-Debutant Atkinson helps England to easy T20 victory over New Zealand

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - England's Johnny Bairstow and Harry Brook smashed half centuries before debutant Gus Atkinson took four wickets to power England to a 2-0 lead over New Zealand in their four-match Twenty20 International series with a 95-run victory on Friday.

After winning the toss and opting to bat, Bairstow finished with an unbeaten 86 off 60 balls and Brook impressed with 67 from 36 as England finished on 198 runs for four.

Atkinson made an immediate impression by taking the wickets of Devon Conway, Tim Seifert, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson.

Already named in England's preliminary squad for the World Cup in India, which begins in October, Atkinson was given his chance to prove his worth and wasted no time taking it.

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England started slowly but once Bairstow and Brook got going there was no stopping them as they combined for 131 runs.

"In recent times I've tried to play the ball on merit as much as possible. If I feel I can take an option on, I'll take it," Brook said.

"I try and move around in the crease as much as possible, I'm just trying to hit the ball where it's meant to be hit."

To the disappointment of the Old Trafford crowd, Brook was finally taken out in the 17th over. After hitting five fours and five sixes he attempted another big shot but did not quite get hold of it and Finn Allen had a simple catch.

New Zealand made a faster start than England had but wickets continued to fall at a steady pace.

Adil Rashid claimed two to reach 97 T20I wickets, taking over from Chris Jordan as England's leading T20 wicket-taker.

It was debutant Atkinson, however, who stole the show. He finished off proceedings in style, taking three wickets in the 13th over to finish off New Zealand.

"They just told me to do what I've been doing and that's what I tried to do and it went great," Atkinson said.

"I try to keep as cool as possible and whatever happens, happens, thankfully it went well."

The third T20 of the series will be at Edgbaston on Sunday.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes; Editing by Ken Ferris)