While England may still need to win their final Super Eights game against Sri Lanka on Monday, they could have been eliminated on Saturday had results gone against them. By contrast, a second successive defeat for New Zealand leaves them requiring a win in their final game and a series of results elsewhere to go their way if they are to progress. For England, at least, their fate is in their own hands.
England were on top for most of this match. While a late innings assault from James Franklin provided New Zealand with a defendable total, they never fully recovered from the impact of Steven Finn‘s excellent early spell and some miserly bowling from Graeme Swann.
In reply England’s opening partnership again failed to shine, but a stand of 89 in 10 overs between Wright and Eoin Morgan took them to the brink of victory.
Wright, in particular, was impressive. Having given himself some time to become accustomed to the pitch – it took him four deliveries to score a run – he put away the loose ball nicely before accelerating decisively having reached 25. From then on he attacked, hitting the ball straight and cleanly and, at one stage, hitting four sixes in seven deliveries. In all he struck five sixes and five fours.
England were grateful for his contribution. While England survived the first over of their innings without losing a wicket for the first time in the tournament, Craig Kieswetter was unable to rotate the strike and, by the time he was bowled missing a sweep, had occupied 14 balls for his four runs.
Alex Hales, who hit three boundaries in the second over, the first of them a beautifully timed back foot drive through cover, looked in better touch but when he advanced down the pitch and missed a straight one, it left England precariously placed at 38 for 2 in the seventh over.
Morgan and Wright proceeded with caution initially, not striking their first boundary until 18 balls into their partnership. But that calm approach began to reap rewards as Wright slogged Nathan McCullum for six before, in the next over, Morgan hit a low full toss from Franklin over long-on for another and then cut a wide ball for four.
England contented themselves with ones and twos for the next couple of overs as the spinners maintained control but, when Tim Southee came back into the attack, Wright drove him for a six back over his head before planting another one far over wide long-on.
From then on, England were barely challenged. Wright slog-swept and then drove Rob Nicol for two more sixes and drove Kyle Mills for successive fours in the next over. Morgan was caught at long-on and Doug Bracewell, introduced into the attack in the 19th over and playing instead of the unwell Jacob Oram, had Wright caught at cover, but by then only seven were required and, when Jonny Bairstow pulled his first delivery for four there was never going to be any late nerves.
A late charge from Franklin helped New Zealand recover from a poor start having won first use of the pitch as 68 runs came from the last six overs. England’s bowlers looked to have taken a firm grip on the game after Finn, bowling with excellent pace and control, claimed the best figures by an England bowler in World T20 cricket and England’s spinners enjoyed the assistance provided by an unusually dry pitch.
It was Danny Briggs, preferred to Samit Patel and playing just his second T20I, who delivered the first over – conceding just six – but Finn made the early breakthroughs. Martin Guptill was trapped in front as he attempted to play across a decidedly brisk full ball, before Brendon McCullum, who had twice skipped down the pitch in Briggs’ second over to drive him for fours, was caught at third man as he edged an attempted drive over extra-cover off Finn.
Graeme Swann, brought into the attack for the seventh over, increased the pressure by conceding only three runs and taking the wicket of Nicol who was caught slog-sweeping.
New Zealand only managed two boundaries from the end of the Powerplay to the end of the 14th over and could muster just 41 runs in those eight overs. Had Morgan produced a better throw, Williamson would have been run out for 16 as he responded to a sharp call for s single from Taylor.
It hardly mattered, though. The return of Briggs in the 12th over saw Williamson fall, caught behind as he edged an attempted cut and, at the end of the 14th over, New Zealand were struggling.
Franklin signalled the acceleration in the 15th over. He hit the first six of the innings – launching Briggs over midwicket – and followed it up with a straight drive back past the bowler that went for four. While England’s spinners conceded just 40 runs from their first seven overs, Briggs’ figures were damaged by his final over costing 16.
Finn, returning for the 17th over, claimed his third wicket when Taylor mistimed a slog top midwicket to finish with his best T20 figures of 3 for 16. Franklin could feel somewhat hard done by, however, as he drove Finn through extra-cover to the boundary only to see the umpire call dead-ball as Finn had dislodged the bails in his delivery stride.
Nathan McCullum sustained the momentum by striking Broad for two sixes in the penultimate over of the innings and Broad contributed to his own problems by over-stepping and donating not just a free-hit but an extra delivery with the seventh ball going for six. But in the end it was to prove too little, too late for New Zealand.