England clinched a 10-run win against New Zealand here on Sunday to book a semifinal berth in the ICC Champions Trophy. Needing 170 for a win, the Kiwis lost their top five batsmen for 62 and in spite of a gutsy 54-ball 67 by Kane Williamson, failed to take the game to the wire.
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With four points from three matches in group A, England are currently on top of the table. After three games, New Zealand are second in the group with three points while Australia (1 point from two matches) and Sri Lanka (two points from two matches) are all in the fray for a spot in the last four. On Monday, Australia and Sri Lanka clash at The Oval. (Points Table)
New Zealand never recovered after losing both their openers for 14 runs. A brilliant spell of seam bowling by James Anderson gave England the advantage. Anderson moved the ball both ways and generated some hostile pace as the Kiwi batsmen failed to find their feet.
Luke Ronchi and Martin Guptill were never in comfort against the English bowlers. Ronchi edged a rising ball to third man and Guptill was bowled off an inside edge.
Ross Taylor reviewed his LBW decision unsuccessfully after a Tim Bresnan inswinger hit him on the right leg. Taylor (3 off 6 balls) appealed to the TV umpire out of sheer desperation but in vain.
Brendon McCullum's departure in the 12th over left New Zealand with too much to chase. The asking rate mounted to 10-plus and the Kiwi captain's exit meant the New Zealanders didn't have any reputed batsman who could step on the gas.
England captain Alastair Cook mixed his genuine and slow-medium pacers to telling effect. Ravi Bopara too, with his cutters and his slow-off-the wicket pace, was always going to be a difficult customer.
Bopara (2/26) picked up the crucial wickets of Brendon McCullum (8) -- Joe Root took a brilliantly judged low catch at deep square leg -- and James Franklin as the Kiwis suffered a batting collapse.
A fighting 73-run stand off 47 balls between Williamson (67, sixth ODI fifty) and debutant Corey Anderson (30 off 24 balls) lifted the Kiwis, but the pressure of scoring more than 10 runs an over against the likes of Anderson (2/32), Stuart Broad (1/25) and Tim Bresnan (2/41) was always going to be very tough.
Earlier, Cook scored a chancy half-century as England were all out for 169 in 23.3 overs. It was Cook's 18th ODI half-century and could not have been better timed as the hosts needed to win to stay in contention in the tournament.
Cook, who scored 64 off 47 balls with four fours and two sixes, was involved in a fruitful 75-run third wicket partnership with Root (38) after the hosts were reduced to 25 for 2 in the fourth over of a rain-hit match.
More than half the match was lost after rains lashed Cardiff and the Sophia Gardens was mostly under covers throughout the day. Good work by the groundstaff enabled a late afternoon start after the rains relented, but sky remained overcast.
Interestingly, the toss happened at its scheduled time at 10 AM local time and New Zealand opted to field obviously keeping the weather forecast in mind.
The match finally started under lights. England lost Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott after both batsmen made crisp starts. Bell was caught by Brendon McCullum at short cover off left-arm pacer Mithchell McClenaghan for 10. It was a full-blooded drive and the Kiwi captain took a blinder.
But it was New Zealand's fielding that let them down badly. At least five catches were put down and Cook alone enjoyed three lives at 14, 37 and 45. Nathan McCullum, who held an easy waist high catch to get rid of Trott, dropped Cook thrice. Interestingly, Nathan McCullum took four catches in the match!
Nathan McCullum finally made amends when he saw the back of the England captain, catching him off his own bowling. Cook made a hesitant start but then opened up as England had to take care of the run-rate as well.
Cook and Root took England past the 100-run mark off 86 balls but McClenaghan took his second wicket to break the partnership. The 22-year-old Root top edged a lusty pull after scoring 38 off 40 balls. Earlier, after hotspot detected a faint inside edge, Root had a review going in his favour after the umpire had given him out LBW off Daniel Vettori when he was on 28.
Cook and Eoin Morgan put on a crucial 41 off 29 balls for the fourth wicket. Morgan (a run-a-ball 15) was LBW to Vettori and Jos Butler (14 off 9 balls) became Kyle Mills' second victim.
Mills finished with four wickets for 30 and McClenaghan took three for 36 as the England lost five wickets in 10 runs off 12 balls in the death.
Mills, the 34-year-old pacer from Auckland, became the highest wicket taker in Champions Trophy history with 28 wickets. He overtook retired Sri Lankan off-spinner Murali Muralitharan's record of 24 wickets. That was the only silver lining on a gloomy day for the Kiwis.