England 149-4 (Wright 76, Morgan 30) beat
New Zealand 148-6 (Finn 3-16) by 6 wickets
ICC World T20, Group 1 Match, Pallekele
Report by Daniel Grummitt
England kept the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown alive by beating New Zealand by six wickets in Pallekele. Steven Finn had taken three wickets to help restrict the Black Caps to 148 for six from their 20 overs, while Luke Wright hit his second half-century of the tournament to steady the nerves in England's reply.
England had continued their trend of losing early wickets and that of struggling against spin bowling as Craig Kieswetter, tied down in Dan Vettori's first over - the fourth of the innings - tried to sweep a ball that was too full for the shot and was bowled. Alex Hales, who had played fluently in making 22, perished in Nathan McCullum's first over not long afterwards, also bowled, to leave England on 38 for two.
This is when Wright, along with Eoin Morgan, came to the fore. They began cautiously, but both men began to use their feet against New Zealand's spinners and gradually brought the required run rate, which had threatened to top 10 an over, back under control.
Morgan largely put away his favoured reverse sweep in favour of shots down the ground, while Wright peppered the mid-wicket area. The match turned decisively in England's favour during the 15th and 16th overs bowled by Tim Southee and Rob Nicol. Southee was dispatched by Wright for two sixes as he went for 16 off the 15th over, with Nicol also picked up over long-on on consecutive occasions by Wright in the following over.
After needing 54 off 36 balls before the onslaught, England now needed a much more manageable 23 off 24 and were barely troubled thereafter, in spite of losing Eoin Morgan for 30 in the next over and Wright for a superb 76 off 43 balls with seven still needed. Doug Bracewell, playing instead of Jacob Oram, who had a stomach upset, claimed Wright in his only over after catching Morgan spectacularly on the long-on boundary, but he also conceded the winning run as Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow scampered the winning single off his fifth delivery.
Wright, deservedly, took the plaudits and the man of the match award, but was quick to pay tribute to Morgan and Finn, saying, "It was a very important win, we are very chuffed. I love batting with Morgan, he's so chilled out there. I think Steven Finn should have been here (collecting the man of the match award) with the way he bowled."
Finn had been comfortably England's best bowler and had taken two early wickets as he bowled with pace and control. He had Martin Guptill LBW in his first over and followed that up with the wicket of dangerman Brendon McCullum in his next.
Danny Briggs and Tim Bresnan - playing instead of Jade Dernbach and Samit Patel - had bowled tidily, returning figures of one for 36 and none for 29, while Graeme Swann took one for 20.
New Zealand had found themselves on 80 for four after 14 overs at one stage, but James Franklin played quite brilliantly, making 50 off 33 balls, and helped haul them up to their eventual total of 148 for six with some help from Ross Taylor (22 off 23 balls) and Nathan McCullum (16 not out off 10).
Taylor said afterwards that he thought this had been a pretty good score, and when England's top-order was looking suspect against the spin of Vettori and McCullum, he may have fancied that he was going to be proved right. However, Luke Wright continued to show that he is a much-improved cricketer from the mere slogger that he was when he first broke into the England side with a cleverly-paced innings which still contained some of his trademark shots, as England subjected the Kiwis to their fifth successive defeat against them in Twenty20 Internationals and kept their semi-final hopes alive.
© Cricket World 2012
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