From the moment Kane Williamson won the toss and elected to bowl, this match had an ominous feel to it. The pitch always looked as though it would be best to bat on first, and using the reasoning that they wants to best use the conditions for the bowlers seemed a little trite considering the ball has not moved around in any game of the tournament so far. And so it proved to be once again, with England winning comfortably without really getting out of second gear.
New Zealand will rue their fortune. In their first match they were most likely halted from victory by rain. Here, they were forced to bowl and field through drizzle that perhaps deserved to have the match halted, but instead they had to carry on in conditions not made for retaining the ball in any condition. Through this England batted solidly if not spectacularly, with Root leading the way again as the benchmark he has become for this team. With support from Hales and Stokes the Black Caps were kept at bay, and the final 10 overs for 80 runs was driven by Jos Buttler’s resolve. Indeed, to look at England’s batting line up is to see a lot of all-round players rather than specialist batsmen, and the thought would always be that they could roll over under pressure. So far here they have not. Under tough conditions the Kiwi bowlers stuck to their task but letting the total slip over 300 was always going to make chasing a tough ask.
Having been lauded for his somewhat fortunate innings against Australia, Luke Ronchi’s golden duck was far less (but mostly expected) than the Black Caps needed in this chase. When Guptill again fell after making a start, it was left to Williamson and Ross Taylor to salvage the chase. At 2/158 after 30 overs the platform had been set, and with 153 required off 20 overs it was down to an T20 scenario. However, when both set batsmen fell within 10 runs of each other, the New Zealand middle order – as part time as England’s all-rounder laden middle order – was unable to mirror their opponents charge, and fell meekly to be bowled out for 223 and a big loss. Williamson’s 87 had been serene, but he needs support if New Zealand are to win games like this. How he must have kicked himself for his decision at the toss. England’s bowlers were swift and accurate, while the addition of Adil Rashid gave them the attacking spinner they needed to push for victory.
England has now qualified for the semi-finals, and while New Zealand will fancy they can knock over Bangladesh in their final match, they will be relying on England defeating Australia on Saturday for them to be able to join the home side in the final stages of the tournament.