Wood repays the faith as England bowlers make their stand

Was a match of 564 deliveries and 533 runs decided by one ball? On a surface becoming increasingly tricky for batting, Kane Williamson was closing in on back-to-back centuries. It was less serene than his innings against Australia, but he had come through a rattling blow to the helmet from Liam Plunkett to steer his side to the 30-over mark of their chase. The requirement certainly wasn't easy - 155 needed off 20 overs - but Williamson had the bit between his teeth.

Then came Mark Wood. A bowler who has had three ankle surgeries in a year and has an ODI bowling average of a tick under fifty. He's also in possession of a central contract which indicates, even when he had doubts about whether the ankle would allow him to return, there was a huge amount of faith and hope invested in him.

And this was why. Banging the ball in back of a length with a cross seam, exploiting some variable bounce which had developed during the second half of the game, he made a delivery rise and nip back at Williamson, cramping the New Zealand captain and taking the glove to Jos Buttler.

"He's a very good bowler, unique in the fact that he bowls at such good pace, off maybe a five-metre, 10-metre run-up, which you don't see too much around the world," Williamson said. "And he's performed very, very well for England over a period of time, especially coming back after injury on very good surfaces. So certainly a strength of their bowling attack."

It was not the first time this summer that Wood had claimed a kingpin of the opposition. During the first ODI against South Africa, at Headingley, Hashim Amla had been leading a strong chase. He had dominated Wood early on with a collection of beautiful drives, but Wood then cannoned one into his pads as he shuffled too far across. From there South Africa faded away. The same was true of New Zealand after Williamson's departure.

"Guys like him are so valuable to the team," Eoin Morgan, England's captain, said. "I think given games that we've played against South Africa recently where we've turned games around, the game in Leeds where Amla and Faf [du Plessis] got going, and we managed to take two wickets quite quickly, and the Southampton game where we pulled it out of the bag out of nowhere, it breeds a bit of confidence."

Wood's delivery was the match-seizing, semi-final securing, ball but there was collective excellence around him. The England attack battled a buffeting gale which, while helping push the showers quickly across the ground, was also strong enough to blow over the electronic sponsors' boards on the boundary edge, repeatedly blow off the Zing bails, and also send Bruce Oxenford's hat flying towards long-off.

It was a bowling line-up which took a different shape than may have been expected. After all the pre-match talk of England having not played two spinners here last year, they recalled Adil Rashid, who responded with an impressively accurate ten overs, although in the end it was still just a one-spinner innings with Moeen Ali not called upon because of the impact of the quicks. Rashid was a beneficiary of Ben Stokes' improving fitness, which would have allowed him to bowl his full ten overs if needed.

"I thought they did an outstanding job. They were truly the highlight of the day," Morgan said. "Our batting performance was probably par or below par. So pretty average. So I thought the bowlers today as a collective unit were brilliant, really."

The tone was set by Jake Ball who began the innings with back-to-back maidens and whose performance was a reward for faith from the captain and selectors. He was named Man of the Match for his 2 for 31 off eight exacting overs. It's the outcome England are hoping will pay dividends for Jason Roy, although he has yet to turn the corner having battled to lay a foundation before walking across his stumps at Adam Milne. After this bowling display, Roy remains the only significant negative facing England, and one they appear willing to continue to absorb.

Ball had been looking like a weak link in the pace attack after conceding more than 80 in three of his last seven outings. Steven Finn, the man he pipped to the final spot in the original squad because of a greater variation to his bowling, could justifiably have come straight into the team, or David Willey for his left-arm angle.

Instead, they stuck with Ball and promoted him to the new-ball vacancy created by Chris Woakes' injury. He did not concede a run until his 18th delivery - and that because of a misfield at backward point - finding zip which had been lacking against Bangladesh, albeit on a very docile Oval surface. The pick of his early deliveries was the fourth ball, a sharp nip-backer which whistled through the gap left between Luke Ronchi's bat and pad to remove middle stump.

"It was a settler for me," Ball said. "The little bit of rain we had in the break just juiced the pitch up a little and there was a bit there for the bowlers. The cross-seam [deliveries] and the rain made the pitch a little more uneven, a few balls jumped up and fortunately they found the edge today."

Ball would later return and follow Wood's dismissal of Williamson, removing Ross Taylor when he clubbed a catch to midwicket towards the end of a three-over spell for 11 runs that helped build the pressure on New Zealand. When allied with Liam Plunkett's hostile bursts - he cleaned up the lower order to claim his second consecutive four-wicket haul - and the growing confidence in Stokes' workload, it was a day that ticked a lot of bowling boxes for England.

And that was timely. The omission of Rashid from the opening match and injury to Woakes had brought some scrutiny despite the convincing nature of the victory against Bangladesh. The plaudits for this side are so often centred around the batting, to the extent that a total of 311 felt a little underwhelming, but today it was the bowlers who should take the acclaim.