BRISBANE: Clinical England rescued their Twenty20 World Cup campaign as they held their nerve to beat New Zealand by 20 runs at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday.
England, who had been facing almost certain elimination had they lost, moved into the top two in Group 1 along with their opponents with one round of matches to go.
Only the top two reach the semi-finals.
It puts enormous pressure on hosts and defending champions Australia, who must now win their last match against Afghanistan and hope England or New Zealand stumble.
“We had a poor performance (losing against Ireland) but there’s a lot of confidence in the group,” said England skipper Jos Buttler, who propelled England to 179-6 after he smashed 73 off 47 balls. Alex Hales also struck a half-century.
England ward off Glenn Phillips to go level on points with Australia and New Zealand in Group 1 of the #T20WorldCup… https://t.co/q9rNjckNh1
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“We were aiming for 160-165, but we managed to push beyond that — we left it all out there tonight,” said Buttler.
The captain played a crucial role with the bat as England finally started to show why they were one of the pre-tournament favourites. Their fate is now in their own hands.
England got away to a perfect start in the field when New Zealand opener Devon Conway leg-glanced a ball from Chris Woakes and Buttler took a spectacular diving catch.
It got worse for the Kiwis when Finn Allen pulled a slower ball from Sam Curran to Ben Stokes at deep mid-wicket, leaving New Zealand 28-2 after five overs.
The Black Caps were struggling against a tight bowling attack, but the momentum swung firmly towards them when Moeen Ali dropped the in-form Glenn Phillips when he was on 15 and New Zealand 64-2.
Group 1 is still wide open with a game to go for each team 👀Who do you think will clinch the semi-final spots? 🤔… https://t.co/uxoyFiL1xX
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Phillips skied an attempted pull shot straight to Ali, who somehow didn’t get a hand on it.
Phillips, who blasted a century against Sri Lanka in New Zealand’s last match, made the English pay as he raced to his half century off only 25 balls.
Buttler was ringing the changes with his attack as he tried seven bowlers in the search for a breakthrough.
His seventh choice finally paid off when Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson (40) squeezed a Stokes delivery to Adil Rashid at short third.
James Neesham came and went for six but Phillips kept on smashing the England attack all over the Gabba.
He lost Daryl Mitchell, caught on the boundary by substitute fielder Chris Jordan off Mark Wood, before falling the same way off Sam Curran almost immediately.
Once Phillips fell, New Zealand’s challenge was as good as over as the lower order struggled to find the boundary.
“Credit to the way England played,” Williamson said.
A captain’s knock 💪Jos Buttler’s stunning 47-ball 73 earns him the @aramco POTM 👏 https://t.co/bR2qsgS8ev
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“They put us under pressure. They played beautifully, hats-off to them, they were pretty clinical.
“It was a slightly above-par total. We tried to take it a little deeper, but credit to the way they bowled.”
Earlier, Buttler was dropped twice during his entertaining knock, before passing former captain Eoin Morgan as the highest run-scorer for England in T20 internationals.
Williamson was left to rue letting Buttler off the hook.
“He’s one of, if not the best player in the game,” Williamson said.
“If you do that he’ll make you pay, he made the boundaries look small, which they certainly are not.”
New Zealand, England and Australia are all on five points after four games.
But New Zealand, last year’s beaten finalists, top Group 1 on net run rate, with England second.
New Zealand, who could have sealed a spot in the semi-finals with victory, play Ireland on Friday — the same day the hosts are in action against already eliminated Afghanistan.
England face Asian champions Sri Lanka on Saturday to wrap the group up.