|ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Group 1, Brisbane|
|England 179-6 (20 overs): Buttler 73 (47), Hales 52 (40); Ferguson 2-45|
|New Zealand 159-6 (20 overs): Phillips 62 (36); S Curran 2-26, Woakes 2-33|
|England won by 20 runs|
England earned a nerve-shredding 20-run win over New Zealand to reignite their hopes in the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
Knowing defeat would all but eliminate them, England survived under intense pressure to successfully defend 179 at the Gabba.
After being reduced to 28-2, the Black Caps looked to have swung the game in their favour when Glenn Phillips and captain Kane Williamson combined for a stand of 91 from 59 balls.
But, with 61 runs needed from 31 balls, Ben Stokes provided the crucial breakthrough by dismissing Williamson for 40 from 40 balls.
From there England impressively turned the screw – and held their nerve under a series of high catches.
In the 18th over, the increasingly dependable Sam Curran had Phillips, who was dropped on 15 by Moeen Ali, caught at long-on for 62 from 36 balls to end New Zealand’s bid.
Earlier Jos Buttler, who was reprieved by a TV review of a catch on eight and dropped again on 40, hit 73 from 47 balls to lift his side to 179-6.
He put on 81 for the opening wicket with Alex Hales, who made 52 from 40 balls, and although England did not fully capitalise they go into the final round of matches with the advantage.
They will qualify for the semi-finals if they beat Sri Lanka on Saturday, as long as Australia do not beat Afghanistan a day earlier and also overturn England’s significant net run-rate advantage.
The fact England’s match comes 24 hours after Australia helps their cause as they will have a clear picture of any net run-rate requirements going into their final game.
England hold their nerve
The margin of victory looked relatively comfortable in the end but the night was anything but.
For a period in New Zealand’s chase, on a ground where England have suffered many an Ashes heartbreak, it looked like Buttler’s side were slipping to defeat.
But rather than being an Australian-supporting bearpit, the Gabba crowd was largely England supporting and those fans leapt to their feet in celebration as the late catches were taken.
Buttler played the crucial hand with the bat when it was needed most, making the most of the opportunities presented to him to reach a good total on a tiring pitch.
The bowling was an all-round effort by the seamers with Curran and Chris Woakes taking two wickets apiece and Mark Wood and Ben Stokes one.
Sri Lanka will be no pushover on Saturday in Sydney – they are the Asia Cup champions and are coached by England’s former boss Chris Silverwood – but England have kept their quest alive.
Phillips’ onslaught is survived
England were in control of the chase early on, after Woakes had Devon Conway caught down the leg side in the second over – Buttler taking a leaping catch to his right – and Curran deceived Finn Allen with a slower-ball bouncer to see the back of the opener before he could wreck havoc.
But next came the moment that could have ended England’s World Cup.
Phillips miscued one off Adil Rashid and Moeen looked set to take the simplest of catches, only to hardly get a hand on the ball.
Phillips responded by thrashing 17 from a Rashid over, including two huge leg-side sixes. He scored a century in New Zealand’s win against Sri Lanka – a man unwise to drop.
With the game slipping away, Stokes had Williamson, who was trying to lead his side in his typically measured way, caught at short third on the cut.
Five balls later, Jimmy Neesham, who took New Zealand to victory over England in last year’s semi-final, pulled Mark Wood to deep mid-wicket.
In the next over Daryl Mitchell – a thorn in England’s side in Test cricket earlier this year – was caught at long-on as Woakes produced a 17th over that cost only five.
Still, while Phillips remained there were always doubts but Curran removed the right-hander as he tried to clear the ropes once more to seal the contest.
Buttler capitalises on unusual New Zealand lapses
The day could have been entirely different had New Zealand taken their chances to dismiss Buttler.
Williamson was leaping at extra cover when he thought he had taken Buttler but replays showed the ball had bounced out as he hit the ground, the England captain called back having almost reached the dugout.
Although hit hard, the next chance for Mitchell was easier at deep square leg. Buttler punished that with two fours in the rest of Ferguson’s over, the first smacked over Ferguson’s head and the next a slower ball brilliantly swatted away.
Hales was the more aggressive of the two early on – he flat-batted Southee over long-on for the first six – as England gave themselves a platform to build from for the first time in the tournament.
New Zealand bowled cannily, however, and England did not quite get away despite promoting Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone to attack after Hales was stumped off spinner Mitchell Santner,
Santner also dismissed Moeen, caught at long-on for five, while Livingstone was bowled by Ferguson attempting a ramp – a ball after taking four with the same shot.
Buttler eventually departed run-out at the non-striker’s end in the penultimate over, during which Harry Brook was caught for seven at long-on.
Stokes was pushed down the order and made only eight from seven balls as England struggled to finish strongly, something they will look to improve on.
‘England were clinical’ – reaction
England captain and player of the match Jos Buttler: “I said at the toss you don’t become a bad team overnight. We had a bad performance but we know we’ve got great players in our line-up so there was still lots of confidence in the group and we left it all out there tonight.
“It is a ruthless tournament. Last year we saw South Africa go out having won four out of five games, so it can be tough to get through.
“But now we know it’s all in our hands and you expect to be under pressure in World Cup cricket, that’s what it’s all about.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson: “Credit to the way England played. They put us under pressure from the get-go with the bat and we struggled to get the breakthroughs to change the momentum. It was a tough surface, but they played beautifully. We were in the game second half and we needed a few things to go our way but hats off to England, they were clinical.”