Broad hails strong performance
England's Twenty20 captain, Stuart Broad, envisaged his side playing the "perfect game" in this World Twenty20 after Luke Wright calmed the jitters about their top order in a six-wicket defeat of New Zealand with seven balls to spare in their Super Eights tie in Pallakele.
Things change quickly in T20. Only New Zealand's Brendon McCullum, as the match finished, was ahead of Wright in the leading run-makers for the tournament. After all the talk of their batting frailties, England had three batsmen - Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales also - in the top five.
Broad, visibly uplifted after the torment of England's misconceived batting displays against India and West Indies, said: "Today's result means a lot. Although it wasn't perfect we put in a lot of strong performances. I genuinely believe that we will get that perfect game and I think we will be pretty unstoppable when that happens."
That perfect game might have to happen on Monday. England face Sri Lanka at Pallakele and will have to win to be assured of a place in the semi-finals. "It will be an electric atmosphere for us on Monday and it will be important for us to keep our composure," Broad said. "It will be loud, it will be hectic and there will be a lot of fans shouting for Sri Lanka but that will be exciting for us."
Wright paced his innings to perfection, stroking 16 from his first 16 balls but then scoring 60 from his next 27 with five sixes, including four in the space of seven balls faced. New Zealand's emphasis upon spin, with Rob Nicol's part-time offbreaks also called up for three overs, was logical enough in view of a dry pitch and England's reputation, but it failed to bring dividends.
The rate got up to nine an over midway through the innings and stubbornly remained there for quite a while. England needed 54 from the last six overs before Wright's six-hitting spree settled the game, with Tim Southee also punished as he failed to hit his yorkers. Wright took the Man-of-the-Match award, suggested that Steven Finn's three wickets should have won it, and praised Eoin Morgan's influence at the non-striker's end for the pacing of his innings.
"It is easy to start panicking then and sat in the dugout you look out to the middle and get a bit nervous but the guys showed a lot of calmness to get us over the line as they did," Broad said. "If we can really keep our wickets intact you will see the power we have. The key for us is to express ourselves but also to have the skill to pack that last 10 overs full of batsmen."
Wright, who made 99 in the group stage against Afghanistan, banished the memory of his first-baller against West Indies, an attempted leave which he steered to slip, a shot that had added to the uncertainty surrounding England's top order. Against New Zealand, he played naturally, not trying to be something he isn't, a strong hitter who allowed himself time to get in and then reaped the benefit.
"It was just nice to get past the first ball after the last innings," he said. "After that I was able to chill out a little bit and build a partnership. In the last game I tried to leave it and I found myself out so it wasn't as if I was going at it too hard. One thing you find is that if you do have a batter in, people can bat around you and it's amazing how much you can catch up and score."
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo