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The Bulletin by Jenny Thompson
September 18, 2007
New Zealand 164 for 9 (Styris 42, McMillan 57) beat England 159 for 8 (Maddy 50, Bond 2-20, Vettori 2-20) by five runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
"You have to be really thinking on your feet," said Daniel Vettori before this match. New Zealand did just that - recovering from 31 for 4 thanks to the big-hitting best of Scott Styris and Craig McMillan and then throttling England to take the five-run victory and head towards the semi-finals.
England took early and late wickets, but it was the middle overs, where Styris (42) and McMillan (57) piled on some crucial runs, that made the difference. Again the opposition's lower middle order sank England, who now face an early exit.
New Zealand were in trouble at 40 for 4 after ten overs, but then came the boom-boom of Styris and McMillan as New Zealand smashed 124 off the last 11 overs of their innings. It was the speed and strength with which the pair picked up their runs that dazzled, both needing 30 balls. The pair each struck four mighty sixes - Styris targeting Dimi Mascarenhas in particular with three consecutive maximums over midwicket.
Later, in a massive penultimate over, with England needing 20 from 12 balls, the experienced Shane Bond took two wickets and there was a further run-out as the pressure told on England. Bond finished with a credible 2 for 20 from four overs, and England came up short - despite Luke Wright's fiery efforts. When he holed out on the cover boundary for 24 off Bond's last ball, England's hopes fell away.
Vettori, who is having a tournament to remember even if it's a format he wants to forget, also played his part when it mattered, firstly removing Vikram Solanki for 24 to break a powerful opening stand of 62 with Darren Maddy, who made 50. Solanki - in for the injured Matt Prior - and Maddy belied critics of England's specialist policy with a special an opening stand; relief for England who had been looking for a convincing opening pair.
With England still cruising, Vettori then hooked England's big fish, Kevin Pietersen. The master of flash, Pietersen tried one improvisation too far and was bowled through his legs, trying to reverse-sweep a quicker dart. Andrew Flintoff fell in the same over, run-out in a mix-up with Owais Shah for 1, and again the momentum switched back to New Zealand.
"England need to think on their feet," Collingwood had also said, echoing Vettori, before this match. They did so - and also thought with their hands, with some tidy catches; their fielding a world improved from their slips against South Africa - but Pietersen's reverse sweep and some mix-ups in the run-outs cost them. And it was New Zealand whose fieldwork - including McMillan's blinding catch at midwicket to remove Collingwood - was calm and thoughtful.
England can take a bare whisker of consolation away from this match. Solanki, in as emergency wicketkeeper, hardly put a glove wrong, including two early catches off edges that were moving away. Their other change, Maddy, also had a hand in some vital dismissals - as Styris and McMillan were building some dangerous momentum - he ran out Styris with a direct hit, then picked up two wickets in his first over, including the dangerous McMillan.
But New Zealand held their nerve and will now face South Africa in their final Super Eight match. It's a match England hope they will win: England need a complicated - and unlikely - permutation of results to progress: New Zealand must beat South Africa, who must also lose to India, while England have to beat India.
Of further - and more long-term - concern will be Flintoff's ankle. Already highly unlikely for Sri Lanka, he bowled only three overs amid worries, and obvious discomfort. But he, as usual, will fight on, even though he - and England - may not have to do battle many more times this tournament.