England 179 for 6 (Buttler 73, Hales 52, Ferguson 2-45) beat New Zealand 159 for 6 (Phillips 62, Curran 2-26) by 20 runs
Ten days into the Super 12s, England finally turned up at the T20 World Cup and delivered a clinical performance in a must-win game against New Zealand at the Gabba. Victory in their final group game against Sri Lanka on Saturday should be enough to send them through, barring a significant net run-rate swing.
Jos Buttler chose to bat first on a used pitch and produced his first significant innings of the tournament, making a superbly-paced 73 off 47 balls after two reprieves to set up England’s total of 179. He became England’s leading scorer in men’s T20Is in the process, on the night he won his 100th cap.
New Zealand, who would have qualified for the knockout stages with a win, looked well-placed in the chase. After 14.4 overs, they were 119 for 2 as Glenn Phillips, picking up from where he left off against Sri Lanka, dominated a 91-run partnership with a slow-scoring Kane Williamson.
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But unlike in last year’s semi-final in Abu Dhabi, a game which loomed large over Tuesday night’s match in Brisbane, England managed to strike regularly towards the end: Ben Stokes removed Williamson, Mark Wood rushed James Neesham, and Sam Curran closed out the win with a superb spell at the death.
New Zealand’s net run rate is healthy enough that they will almost certainly qualify for the semi-finals by beating Ireland by any margin in their final group game, while Australia’s title defence is hanging by a thread on home soil: they either need to beat Afghanistan and hope England fail to beat Sri Lanka in Sydney, or thrash Afghanistan to ensure they overtake England on NRR.
Buttler sets England up
Under Eoin Morgan, England were a chasing team: he did not choose to bat first in a T20I once in his last five-and-a-half years as captain. Under Buttler, there has been a shift: they have now won seven out of eight completed games when batting first since the start of July, and have posted at least 175 every time.
After a relatively quiet start, seeing off Trent Boult and Tim Southee’s new-ball bursts, Alex Hales took charge in the second half of the powerplay, racing to 37 off 25 as England took 48 from the first six overs. He hit the first ball of the fifth over straight back over Southee’s head for six, then hit back-to-back boundaries through the off side.
Williamson thought he had taken a huge catch to dismiss Buttler for 8 in the final powerplay over, diving low to his left to snaffle a miscue off Mitchell Santner, but replays confirmed the ball had squirmed through his hands and hit the ground before he snaffled it at the second attempt. He apologised, and said afterwards: “I knew I’d bobbled it and thought I’d squeezed it into my chest… a little bit embarrassing in the end.”
England struggled against spin through the middle on a used pitch which offered plenty for Santner and Ish Sodhi, who took 2 for 48 in eight overs between them. Hales was stumped while charging Santner after reaching a 39-ball half-century, and Buttler was dropped again on 40 when Daryl Mitchell put down a straightforward chance off Lockie Ferguson.
England scrape past par
England shuffled their batting line-up, with Moeen Ali promoted to No. 3 with a licence to take down spin and Dawid Malan ending up as low as No. 8. Moeen holed out to long-on before Buttler reached a 35-ball fifty, while Liam Livingstone’s bright cameo was ended by a brilliant Ferguson yorker as he attempted back-to-back scoops.
New Zealand dragged things back with regular wickets: Harry Brook was caught at long-on looking for back-to-back sixes, Buttler was run out and Stokes was pinned lbw by Ferguson, but England’s lower-middle order kept on swinging and scrambled up to 179, which looked just above par.
Phillips on fire
Buttler threw Moeen the new ball and was nearly rewarded with the wicket of Devon Conway, who dragged his back foot behind the crease just before Buttler whipped the bails off after Moeen beat him on the outside edge. Buttler himself was key to the wicket when Conway did fall, flinging himself low to his right as Conway attempted a paddle-scoop off Chris Woakes.
When Finn Allen fell to Curran’s short ball, picking out Stokes on the rope, New Zealand were 28 for 2 after five overs and struggling, but Phillips was quickly up and running. He started streakily, inside-edging a 96mph/155kph Wood thunderbolt – the quickest ball of the World Cup to date – past his leg stump, and then survived thanks to an inexplicable drop from Moeen.
Facing Adil Rashid, Phillips skewed a leading edge straight to Moeen at cover, who seemed to take his eye off the ball or lose it in the lights. He failed even to get a hand to a straightforward chance, and when Phillips crunched three sixes over the short midwicket boundary in quick succession – one off Wood, and two in a row off Rashid – it looked as though it would prove a costly drop.
Stokes, who had hurt his left index finger while taking the catch to dismiss Allen, removed Williamson in his only over, the ball steered to Rashid at short third, and Buttler sensed an opportunity. He brought Wood back for the 16th over, a move vindicated by Neesham’s miscued pull, which Curran settled underneath at deep midwicket and celebrated with a roar as he turned to the crowd.
Woakes, whose 19th over in the 2021 semi-final had cost 20 runs, then struck at the death as England closed in, having Daryl Mitchell caught at long-on off a slower ball by Chris Jordan, on as a substitute fielder for Livingstone. Curran then removed Phillips to end the game as a contest, again caught by Jordan, and closed it out with a combination of yorkers, bouncers and slower balls at the death.