When New Zealand’s bowlers made fine use of overcast conditions after winning an important toss, and bowled out England for just 146 at the Wanderers, the most unhappy lot would have been Kumar Sangakkara and his team. For the Sri Lankans to stay alive in the tournament England would have had to make it three wins in three.
England’s 146 was too little a score to defend even on a difficult wicket as this. New Zealand, even though they stuttered in the middle, managed to overhaul the target with four wickets in hand in 27.1 overs. Brendon McCullum (48) and Martin Guptill’s (53) 84-run opening partnership was enough to guide the Islanders to the semis with top honours in the group.
England, though, will not worry too much about the result, having already qualified for the semifinals. For England to turn things around from a 1-6 home loss to Australia was a major achievement, and the manner in which they have applied themselves — save for this innings — has been remarkable.
Earlier, on the day, England won’t be too hard on themselves for it was not as though they threw their wickets away. Andrew Strauss got a ball to kick from a crack in the pitch and could do little more than edge Kyle Mills to the keeper. Joe Denly could not bring his bat down in time when a nippy inducker from Shane Bond kept New Zealand pacers take team to semis; Sri Lanka out a touch low.
Owais Shah chose to flick a ball that left him and edged to the keeper while Eoin Morgan committed to a cut shot against a ball that got big on him. Though Brendon McCullum parried the offering, Ross Taylor at slip was alert enough to grab the ricochet. At 50 for 4 New Zealand were right on top of the game.
Paul Collingwood dug in, in typical fashion and was involved in the second sporting gesture of this tournament when he wandered down the pitch after playing a shot and McCullum hit the stumps. Though it was the last ball of the over, the ball was not yet dead, and New Zealand were well within their rights to appeal for and win the decision. Having done so, however, Daniel Vettori reconsidered and allowed Collingwood to bat on.
Although he clocked three sweetly-struck sixes, the damage was not irreparable as Collingwood fell for an innings-high 40. Ravi Bopara chipped in with a fighting 30, but mediumpacer Grant Elliott got stuck into the middle-order, snaring a career-best 4 for 31. England fought, but they managed only 146 from 43 overs.