Kiwis stumble to win as normal service is resumed for England
Jittery New Zealand soared, stumbled and then fell over the line to beat England yesterday by four wickets in a low scoring contest on a bowler friendly Johannesburg surface to advance through to the semi finals of the Champions Trophy as Group B winners.
This completed an unlikely reversal in fortunes following the Black Caps comprehensive defeat to South Africa in their opening match last week. Victory looked a formality when the Kiwis were 133/1 in their pursuit of 147 to win but a burst of quick wickets ensured that the win was achieved with a stumble rather than a sprint, albeit with over 22 overs to spare.
For England the game was a huge disappointment following the revelatory performances against Sri Lanka and especially South Africa. However, there were mitigating circumstances. Firstly, as they had already qualified England could be forgiven for the visible drop in their intensity levels. Secondly, the pitch was sub-standard with variable bounce and several cracks, so much so that this was a “lose the toss, lose the match” surface. At least England will not have to play here again with their semi final, and the final if they get through that, both at Centurion.
England’s woes started with the second ball of their innings when, after being inserted by Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills managed to get one to climb off a length and induce a nick from Andrew Strauss to wicketkeeper Brendan McCullum for a duck. It didn’t get any better for England as first Joe Denly (5), who was bowled by Shane Bond – who bowled excellently for 3/21, and then Owais Shah were dismissed cheaply leaving the score at 14/3. Shah, the man of the match against South Africa for his excellent 98, fell to a poor shot off Bond to McCullum.
Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan then set about repairing the damage, with Collingwood displaying the same aggression he had showed in the first two matches and Morgan playing an introspective innings this time. Collingwood, who hit three leg side sixes, would have fallen to a highly unusual dismissal if it hadn’t been for the sporting intervention of Vettori. After veering out of the way of a Mills short ball, Collingwood stepped out of his crease to pat down one of the numerous cracks on the surface. McCullum then threw down the stumps and the third umpire gave it out.
Memories immediately went back to last June when then England captain Collingwood refused to call back Grant Elliott after a collision with Ryan Sidebottom. Vettori, the aggrieved captain on that occasion, was left with the decision this time, and it perhaps wouldn’t have been surprising if Collingwood’s inflexibility on that occasion had cost him here, but to Vettori’s credit he allowed the Durham man to stay at the crease.
Fate rewarded the Black Caps skipper when Morgan’s scratchy innings came to an end on nine when he was caught by a sharply reacting Ross Taylor at first slip after the chance had initially been fumbled by McCullum. Ravi Bopara joined Collingwood and the two took England to 80/4 in the 24th over. At this point it looked like England would get to 200 and at least set New Zealand what would be a challenging target on that wicket. Unfortunately for England, Collingwood’s mistimed pull to Taylor off Elliott for an excellent 40 precipitated an all too familiar collapse.
Next to go was Luke Wright, who has disappointed with the bat so far in the tournament, who edged to McCullum off Elliott after being surprised by the bounce. Stuart Broad then offered Elliott a simple caught and bowled before Graeme Swann gave McCullum his fourth catch of the innings also off Elliott, who took 4/31. When Bopara was leg before to Bond for 30, England had slid to 117/9. Although Ryan Sidebottom, in for Graham Onions, and James Anderson were able to add 29 for the final wicket, the final total was below par and New Zealand seemed well on course for the semi finals.
This likelihood seemed a certainty as McCullum and Martin Guptill came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt in halving the target by the eleventh over. New Zealand have a habit of batting collapses though and when McCullum mistimed a delivery from Broad to Bopara at cover the rot started to set in. Next to go was Guptill for a very good 53 off only 55 balls who edged Swann to Anderson.
Broad then took three more quick wickets with Taylor going to a diving Swann at second slip and both Elliott and Hopkins getting edges to Morgan, who was standing in for Prior as wicketkeeper again despite the arrival of Stephen Davies. Morgan then got his third catch when Neil Broom edged Sidebottom and it was left to Vettori and James Franklin to see the Kiwis over the line.
Strauss will have been nearly as pleased by the fightback as he would have been annoyed by the batting performance but will demand better for the semi-final against either Pakistan or Australia. New Zealand are through to the semi-final in Johannesburg – both teams should be applauded for overcoming the more fancied hosts and Sri Lankans to emerge from this tough group.
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