Jonny Bairstow’s second consecutive century, combined with Jason Roy’s 60 helped England put 305/8 on the board. In a must-win game, Eoin Morgan won the toss and elected to bat. Bairstow and Roy continued where they left off against India, carving their way through the powerplay. Roy fell soon after a half century once again, falling to a Neesham off-cutter. Bairstow’s second hundred in 3 days was filled with crisp drives and he celebrated the milestone with a Warneresque leap. After his wicket, England’s middle order collapsed again but Eoin Morgan hung on till the end and cameos from Plunkett and Rashid gave a late charge to England.
New Zealand’s chase did not look comfortable from the beginning. Henry Nicholls was trapped LBW off his first ball and refused to take a review, despite the ball striking him high up on the knee. Martin Guptill gloved a bouncer, which keeper Buttler dived spectacularly to his right and hung on to. At 14-2, Ross Taylor joined Kane Williamson and New Zealand had it all to do. The pair counter-attacked, Williamson once again setting about defying the angles and bisecting even the smallest of gaps.
In contrast, Taylor resorted to butchering anything short or over-pitched. Just when the partnership was blossoming, a Taylor drive caught the bowler Wood’s fingernails and crashed into the stumps at the non-striker’s end, where Williamson was caught short. New Zealand kept sliding towards an inevitable defeat and every wicket was cheered on by the raucous Durham crowd. Tom Latham reminded everyone about why he is regarded highly and got back to form with a patient half-century. The match was interrupted for several minutes, courtesy a streaker who refused to be caught. Once Latham and the streaker departed, the Kiwis offered little resistance and England romped to a 119-run victory.
England banked heavily on their batting to deliver and they were not let down. Bairstow and Roy look in dangerous form just ahead of the semi-finals and the other batsmen have had their moments in the sun. Again, it showed that if at least two batsmen click for England and post a commanding partnership, the rest of the batting unit will guarantee a 300+ score.
New Zealand missed the services of Lockie Ferguson, who has a knack of picking wickets and breaking partnerships. He worked very well with Neesham, breaking the batsmen’s momentum and forcing them to solidify. Ferguson’s replacement, Tim Southee, was playing only his ninth ODI of 2019 and looked rusty. Matt Henry was ineffective in the middle overs and will likely return to bowling in the power-play once Ferguson is fit.
The English pacers used angle to great effect. They bowled from wide of the crease and angled it into the left-handed Kiwi batsmen. This tactic worked well, with Nicholls, Neesham and Santner all falling prey to in-swingers.
England have sealed third spot and qualified for their first semi-final since 1992. Their batting looks in ominous form and they will face whoever finishes second.
New Zealand will hope that their high Net Run Rate will take them through to the semi-finals, where they face the prospect of locking horns with Australia.
Also published on Medium.