New Zealand eliminated by impressive England
England's cricketers maintained their impressive momentum with their third win in three Super Eight fixtures, as New Zealand were outmuscled in their must-win Group E finale in St Lucia, and sent packing from the tournament by a three-wicket defeat that was more emphatic than the final margin suggested. Chasing 150 for victory after another disciplined bowling display led by Tim Bresnan, England were able to overcome a mid-innings wobble and a late clatter of wickets to coast to victory with five balls to spare, as Bresnan put the seal on a fine day's work with 23 not out from 11 balls.
Thanks to Pakistan's earlier victory over South Africa, England's progress was assured before the match began, but for New Zealand, the stakes were utterly black-and-white. A victory would have propelled them into the semi-finals, but anything less would allow the defending champions, Pakistan, to come from nowhere in the Group and leap into the final four. In the end, that is exactly what transpired, as England's superbly balanced outfit made light of the absence of Kevin Pietersen to turn in a thoroughly professional victory.
As has become the norm for this tournament, England's openers refused to stand on ceremony as they set off to better New Zealand's effort of 149 for 6. Craig Kieswetter belted a four and a six in the first over, bowled by Nathan McCullum, before drilling the third ball of Kyle Mills' spell into the covers to depart for 15, while Michael Lumb took a shine to the extra pace of Shane Bond, milking 19 runs from his first two overs, including a brace of leg-side steers, a checked drive for six, and a loose flick that burst through Gareth Hopkins' webbing as he dived in vain to his left.
At the end of the Powerplay overs, England had hurtled to 57 for 1, compared to New Zealand's earlier effort of 39 for 1, but not for the first time in this tournament, the introduction of the slower bowlers whipped the momentum out of the innings. Daniel Vettori's first over had been swiped by Lumb for 11 runs, but he responded brilliantly by taking all pace off the ball, in tandem with Scott Styris's offcutters, as England stumbled to 66 for 4 after nine.
Styris was the first of the pair to strike, from the fourth delivery of his spell, as Ravi Bopara - standing in for the absent Kevin Pietersen - smashed uppishly into the covers, where Ross Taylor timed his vertical leap to perfection. Three balls later, Vettori suckered Lumb on the sweep with a loopy slower ball that rapped him plumb in front of middle for 32, before Paul Collingwood continued his poor run of form by nurdling another Styris cutter into Brendon McCullum's midriff at midwicket.
As usual, however, Eoin Morgan found a method to master the conditions, as he slapped Styris one-handed over cow corner for a vast six, while Luke Wright tucked into the extra pace of Ian Butler by spanking two slog-swept fours in consecutive deliveries. Morgan then made room outside off against McCullum to dance into a delightful drive over extra cover, and when McCullum's third over was shovelled for 13 runs, England were cruising on 117 for 4 with seven overs to come.
Vettori responded by reintroducing Bond's extra venom, and the change did the trick as Wright immediately holed out to deep square leg to end a fifth-wicket stand of 52 in 38 balls. But Morgan and Bresnan stole a boundary each off the next over to take the asking rate below a run-a-ball, and even when an unlikely collapse revived New Zealand's morale, the result was never really in doubt. Morgan was well snaffled by a leaping Vettori at midwicket for 40 from 34 balls before Michael Yardy unwisely rifled a drive to long-off, but Bresnan belted Mills through midwicket to put the game beyond doubt.
It was a busy day's work for Bresnan, who earlier set the tone for the performance with 1 for 20 in four constrictive overs. He conceded a solitary run from the first over of the match and bowled Jesse Ryder (9 from 11 balls) with a slower ball in his second, then returned at the death to concede just seven runs from the final over of a New Zealand innings that never quite found a fifth gear.
Brendon McCullum did his best to keep the runs flowing at the top of the order, but after a positive start, the introduction of England's spinners stymied his attacking options, as Swann and Michael Yardy limited him to a succession of increasingly frustrated sweep shots. Eventually, he stepped out to Swann and aimed a pull over midwicket, but Lumb on the boundary's edge steadied himself beneath a steepling chance, to send him on his way for 33 from 32 balls.
By this stage, Aaron Redmond - Martin Guptill's replacement at No. 3 - had already been and gone for 16 from 15 balls, at the end of an eventful over in which Stuart Broad on the midwicket boundary first saved a certain four with a sprawling dive, then watched a meaty six sail clean over his head, and finally pulled off a brilliant low catch which he completed with his legs bent at the knees to prevent them touching the rope as he bounced along the turf.
At 68 for 3 after 11 overs, New Zealand needed a positive response with their tournament life at stake, and that was provided by Styris and Taylor, who added 62 in 41 balls to lift their side towards a competitive total. When Styris crunched the first ball of Sidebottom's penultimate over for six over long-on, the pressure was on England to keep their heads in the slog overs. But to their credit, they did. Sidebottom responded to that indignity by conceding two runs from the remainder of his over, and one ball later, Styris was gone, as Wright called decisively at deep cover to slide into a well-judged catch (127 for 4).
New Zealand's keeper, Gareth Hopkins, then lasted just two legitimate deliveries, as he was surprised by a glove-high beamer from the sixth delivery of the same over, before being bowled by the (non free-hit) seventh for 1. Taylor responded with one last six, a baseball slog off Sidebottom, to move to 44, only to fall to the very next delivery, as Bresnan at deep midwicket settled comfortably beneath a skier.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.