England v NZ, Champions Trophy, Group A, Cardiff June 16, 2013

NZ come up short when it counts

On Groundhog Day for England and New Zealand, gloom descended on the Kiwis despite their previous form

It was, as the Welsh might say, a diflas evening in Cardiff, dank and miserable, and much of its misery was reserved for New Zealand. If the match had been abandoned, New Zealand would have qualified for the semi-finals, but the rain relented in the nick of time for England and, as the floodlights lit up a blanket of grey cloud, gloom slowly descended upon the side in black.

New Zealand must now hope for a narrow win for Australia against Sri Lanka at The Oval to sneak into the last four on net run rate. Sri Lanka merely need to win; Australia would need to win comprehensively. But New Zealand's ability to get within 10 runs of England's 169, despite being 50 for 4 midway through their 24 overs, means they cannot yet be discounted.

"We've obviously got to watch tomorrow's game and see what unfolds," their captain, Brendon McCullum, said. "Whatever unfolds from here is going to require some luck and, if we get the opportunity, great, but if we don't we know we passed an opportunity up." He then steeled himself to utter the hardest words for a New Zealand captain to say: he wished Australia all the best.

This was Groundhog Day: the 15th time New Zealand and England had crossed swords in 2013. The contest has been keen throughout in all formats. These two sides must have felt they knew everything about each other there was to know: their respective idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses and fashion sense. New Zealand even won the three-match ODI series which preceded this tournament but in the match that really mattered they did not quite have enough to give.

At least there would no mutterings about ball tampering on a dank and cheerless evening like this. England could not have got the ball to reverse if they had run over it with a tractor, ripped chunks out of it with a hacksaw and smeared it in Pont Gar cheese. And why bother when they could respond to an invitingly mucky night with some conventional English seam and swing?

"I thought they bowled brilliantly at the start, swung the ball and with good pace," McCullum said. "But for us to get so close could be valuable if it comes down to run rate."

Their best chance of a get-out for New Zealand came in the 20th over of their innings. Five balls before the match became legitimate, and Duckworth Lewis would come into effect in the event of rain, Corey Anderson, who was only summoned as an emergency replacement on Saturday, lay on the ground clutching his leg after slipping in a running mix-up with Kane Williamson.

New Zealand were in danger of being eliminated and there was one-upmanship going on about whose TV was the biggest.

As his calf was strapped, there was drizzle in the air and rumours of heavier rain in the Bristol Channel. Fifty spectators dressed as yellow bananas in the Main Stand, and by then shining through the gloom like a searchlight, began to peel themselves back up again in protection against the drizzle. A downpour then would have meant one point each and taken New Zealand through. Jeers came from the crowd as minutes ticked by. But the downpour never quite came.

Even then New Zealand weren't quite spent. Tim Bresnan conceded 19 from his next over and for New Zealand suddenly the requirement was 36 from three overs. The tension was nearly enough to send Mrs Bresnan into labour. As it is, England stay in the tournament for at least another three days and there will be cricket obsessives in Yorkshire who will believe that it is her duty to cling on for all she is worth.

Then Williamson, whose 67 from 54 balls had kept New Zealand in the match, was caught at cover by James Anderson, but the bowler, Stuart Broad, was perilously close to a no-ball. After several replays, the third umpire, Steve Davis, gave Broad the wicket, but a man with a 52-inch plasma telly texted ESPNcricinfo to say that Broad had overstepped. Another man then texted to say his TV was 55 inches and he was not quite so sure. New Zealand were in danger of being eliminated and there was one-upmanship going on about whose TV was the biggest.

"It was a close decision but I don't have a problem with it," McCullum said. Many other captains would have taken the chance to hide behind an easy excuse. Not for the first time in his captaincy of New Zealand, McCullum revealed himself to be impressively even-handed, endlessly competitive yet when the contest is over willing more often than not to take the rough with the smooth.

There again you have to be philosophical when your older brother has seven catching opportunities in 24 overs, accepts four and drops three of them. "The ball kept following him around," Brendon said, fraternally. "He's a brilliant fielder. I think he is still probably in credit in terms of his fielding ability." But both brothers will have needed no reminding that Nathan dropped Alastair Cook three times, the third of them an absolute clanger at backward point when an easy chance rebounded off his chest.

It seems he did not find Cardiff the easiest seeing ground, which is worrying both for McCullum and Glamorgan as he has just signed up to play for the county in the Friends Life t20. He might be checking the long-term weather forecast, and the small print in his contract.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on June 18, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    It's unfortunate that we lost, although it can be said that we didn't lose because of the no-ball incident. The no-ball was a huge factor and it is a crying shame that somehow the third umpire decided that it was a legal delivery despite video evidence to the contrary. However, these big decisions often seem to favour the home or perceived better team. Notice how in football matches there are rarely penalties given against Manchester United or how they somehow manage to get extra minutes (Fergie time) added on to every game. The no-ball decision was just another one of these, a moment where it was easier to make the decision in favour of the perceived better team than to make an unpopular (but just) decision.

    That said, we lost because we didn't take our catches. As they say, 'Catches win Matches', and the dropping(s) of Cook gave England a ton more runs than they would otherwise have got.

    Finally, if Ronchi ever plays for NZ again I will be astonished. Just not good enough.

  • Shane on June 18, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    @Hayden Ward - you are indeed correct. The rule relates to a decision as to whether a batsman is out or not. An undeniable part of that question is whether the delivery is a legal one or not, as the principle that a wicket is a very high price to pay applies whatever aspect of the 'wicket' is being analysed. In this case, nobody could say that the ball was a legal one, so the benefit of the doubt definitely should have been applied to this situation. Ergo, the 3rd umpire made a major error which had a massive bearing on the result of this match, and the Champions Trophy fortunes of several teams. Bad look for the game.

  • Denise on June 17, 2013, 13:22 GMT

    What should have happened in last night's game, which was so vitally important, is that B McCullum and Guptill should have opened. Not leave it to Ronchi who is so out of form. McCullum should have shouldered that repsonsibility. In turn, that would have freed Guptill up to play his natural game, not look vaguely panicked about all the slashing and missing going on at the other end. Ronchi wasted 10 balls we could have done with at the end. As for the story above, I love the bit about the guys and their tellys. Crack up.

  • John on June 17, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    The neutral on-field umpire did not call "No ball". The neutral 3rd umpire, using the best available technology did not give a no-ball. Yet people watching on tv and the internet can somehow see better than these officials.

    I watched it, live and on the replays, and I couldn't tell whether it was a no-ball or not. Yes, it was very close, but I'm not going to substitute my judgment for that of the people whose job it is to make these decisions. As for the suggestion that the decision was based on financial considerations- give me a break. What total and scurrilous nonsense.

    @Hayden Ward: there is no law saying that the benefit of the doubt goes to the batsman. There never has been. The decision always has been the umpire's to make. The umpire (in this case two umpires) makes the decision to the best of his ability and that's it.

  • Dummy4 on June 17, 2013, 13:05 GMT

    It is clear that New Zealand batsmen were very poor in their approach. Initially they should have put wickets in the hand and then later on go for attack. But New Zealand was in trouble when score was 62/5 and all the main batsmen were sitting in the pavilion biting nails. From this situation a knock of Williamson has reduced the margin of defeat but defeat was inevitable. Of all the sides only New Zealand team had played a ODI series with England and should have known the strengths and weakness of English side more than any other side in the tournament. Unfortunately they did not give any justice to their talent and could not chase not a tough target which England have posted. I do not think Kiwis deserve to be in semi finals. Anyhow India will take on either Sri Lanka or Australia in semi finals I guess...

  • Dummy4 on June 17, 2013, 12:58 GMT

    New Zealand seem to expect less match winning performances up front for 'weaker' players like Williamson who get in and play the gaps. New Zealand has produced some hard hitting all rounders, but only the best of them - Chris Cairn - have produced an ICC win. There are many complex ways to play the hard hitting approach, like Shri lanka and West Indies do. But New Zealand seem to keep going to hard when circumstanced dictate a change of approach.

  • Steve on June 17, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    The Ronchi experiment as an opener failed badly. Even though it is early days for him in NZ colors, he is can't be a long term future prospect pushing 32. NZ is better off grooming a 18-20 something wkt keeper & batsman than short term solutions. J Franklin has done little to justify his place of late on a consistent basis. NZ must now look to groom another bowling all rounder to fill-in this slot.

  • John on June 17, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    @SpartaArmy on (June 17, 2013, 6:55 GMT), "more often than not it is hard to witness more than 40 overs in a day in England". Really? Your not exaggerating just a little there? Care to cite some stats to back that up?

  • Dummy4 on June 17, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    @Paul Bascand. If the Oz-SL game is washed out, NZ go through on much better run-rate than SL.

  • bhanu on June 17, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    ECB should seriously consider building indoor stadiums or ICC should only allow T20 games in England. One way or other, Test or ODI, no matter what format it is more often than not it is hard to witness more than 40 overs in a day in England.

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