By Oli Burley, Sky Sports News,
England are through to their first World Cup semi-final since 1992 after Jonny Bairstow’s blistering century paved the way for a 119-run win over New Zealand.
Bairstow followed up his 111 against India on Sunday with 106 off 99 balls to become the first English batsman to score back-to-back World Cup hundreds, guiding the hosts to 305-8 after an explosive opening stand of 123 with Jason Roy (60).
New Zealand’s reply faltered from the off and when Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor were run out in quick succession to leave the chase on 69-4, their hopes all but evaporated before the innings closed on 186 all out off 45 overs.
The Black Caps should still qualify alongside Australia, India and England for the last four, even if fifth-placed Pakistan draw level with them on 11 points by beating Bangladesh on Friday, on account of their superior run-rate.
England will play either Australia or India in the second semi-final at Edgbaston on July 11 but won’t find out who their opponents are until after the group matches conclude on Saturday.
Ahead of the match, captain Eoin Morgan described his side’s crushing eight-wicket defeat to New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup as “as close to rock-bottom” as he’s been in his career, but four years on England were in the ascendancy from the moment he won the toss.
Bairstow’s third ODI hundred in a row against the Black Caps and ninth overall was a power-packed gem that matched, then eclipsed Roy’s swaggering salvo.
Roy motored into action after nearly being bowled by the first delivery of the match – an arm ball from Mitchell Santner (1-65) that just fizzed past leg stump.
It was a rare alarm as the openers raced to their third successive hundred stand off just 14.4 overs, attacking width and quickly deflating the Black Caps attack.
Williamson rotated his bowlers in vain – Lockie Ferguson’s absence with a tight hamstring all too apparent; Bairstow drilled Matt Henry (2-54) through mid-on in glorious fashion and Roy swatted Jimmy Neesham (2-41) for back-to-back fours as as each batsman scored a fifty for the fourth time in the tournament.
Roy’s frustration at tamely push-driving Neesham to cover when a hundred seemed in the making was no surprise – the Surrey opener thumping the turf in frustration on his exit.
Bairstow would not be denied three figures after becoming the first Englishman to score 500 runs at a World Cup, leaping into the air in celebration after putting a Tim Southee (1-70) full toss to the rope.
At 194-1 New Zealand appeared to have little answer only for the downfall of Joe Root, caught behind attempting to pull, to start a slide to 214-4.
Bairstow’s innings came to a close when he dragged Henry onto his stumps and Jos Buttler, promoted ahead of Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes, picked out mid-off deceived by a brilliant Southee knuckle ball.
Stokes (11) and Chris Woakes (four) couldn’t wrestle back the momentum and when Morgan (42 off 40) mistimed an Henry off-cutter, home hopes of a total over 350 vanished despite a late flurry from Adil Rashid (16) and Liam Plunkett (15).
New Zealand’s top-order trauma reared its head once more as Henry Nicholls fell first ball, missing the chance to overturn an lbw decision won by Chris Woakes – replays confirming the ball would have gone over.
Martin Guptill’s poor run in the tournament continued when gloved Jofra Archer down the leg-side and Buttler took a diving, one-handed catch to his left to reduce New Zealand to 14-2.
That left captain Kane Williamson (27) and Ross Taylor (28) to shoulder the burden of rebuilding – a task that they embraced until the skipper was run out at the non-striker’s end as Mark Wood (3-34) tipped a Taylor drive onto the stumps.
Taylor was the architect of his own downfall soon after when he attempted a second run to Adil Rashid’s arm only to be run out by a yard.
Neesham (19) shared a 50-run stand with Tom Latham before dragging a Wood delivery from around the wicket into his stumps and Colin de Grandhomme pulled a Stokes loosener straight to Root at deep square.
Latham played himself into form as the match dribbled to a conclusion, reaching his 15th ODI fifty from 57 balls, the only moment of concern for England coming when Bairstow appeared to injure his upper arm attempting a sliding stop on the boundary.
The Yorkshireman didn’t need to leave the pitch for treatment having dished out plenty of his own earlier in the day.