Buttler-inspired England down NZ, keep semi-final hopes alive

BRISBANE: Captain Jos Buttler led by example with a scintillating knock before his bowlers held their nerves and powered England to a crucial 20-run win against New Zealand in the T20 World Cup here on Tuesday.

As far as New Zealand were concerned, Glenn Phillips continued his red-hot form to smash a fiery half-century, but that was not enough as England kept their semi-final hopes alive in the competition.

England rode on a solid start by Alex Hales (52; 40 balls) and Buttler (73; 47 balls) to post 179 for six. The openers added 81 runs in 62 balls after England opted to bat. In reply, New Zealand ended at 159 for six.

The win took England past defending champions Australia to second spot.

On a surface that aided a bit of spin, Phillips (62; 36b; 4x4, 3x6) took on England leg-spinner Adil Rashid, smashing him for two successive sixes as New Zealand needed 54 runs from the last four overs.

But the English pace attack made a strong comeback. Mark Wood (3-0-25-1) was superb at the back-end before Sam Curran (2/34) and Chris Woakes (2/34) restricted New Zealand.

Curran took the prized scalp of Phillips in the 18th over, almost sealing the game in his team's favour.

It was the first defeat for the Group 1 leaders after four matches, and they will face Ireland in their final Super 12 league fixture on Friday.

A rain-marred loss to Ireland, followed by a washout against Australia had left Buttler's side in a spot of bother.

England now have to go past Sri Lanka in their concluding group match on Saturday to make the last-four.

Coming off a scorching century against Sri Lanka, Phillips made England pay for a dropped chance as the Kiwi No. 4 cruised to a 25-ball half-century in their chase of 180.

It was England's struggling Test skipper Ben Stokes who triggered the collapse, dismissing Kane Williamson (40; 40b) with a slower ball.

Stokes, who had an injury scare after hurting his index finger, came back and broke Williamson's match-decisive stand with Phillips, after it had yielded 91 runs off 54 balls.

Wood, then, gave away just three runs and dismissed Jimmy Neesham (6) in an excellent 16th over.

Playing his 100th T20I, Buttler brilliantly seized the initiative with a 35-ball fifty in a knock that also took him past former skipper Eoin Morgan as England's leading run-scorer in T20Is.

Buttler hit seven fours and two sixes while Hales had seven boundaries and one maximum.

Moeen Ali dropped a dolly when Phillips was on 15, but the Kiwi batter overcame the early hiccup and made his intention clear by taking on the Wood, when he whacked him over mid-on for a six.

Fortunately for England, the drop did not cost them much with the pacers sealing a fine win.

Earlier, the Kiwis came back at the death and took four wickets, including that of Buttler off a run out, and conceded just 22 runs in the last three overs.

Tim Southee had a superb penultimate over where he dismissed Harry Brook (7) and Stokes (8) in three balls, something that denied England 10-15 extra runs.

Luck also favoured Buttler who looked a bit edgy early on and got two reprieves, on 8 and 40.

He got his first life inside the powerplay, when his Kiwi counterpart Kane Williamson seemed to have taken a blinder at the covers, only for the ball to spill out of his hands.

Buttler switched gears after the departure of Hales and took on speedster Lockie Ferguson, and this time too, he had his luck on his side with Daryl Mitchell dropping a sitter at square-leg boundary.

Continuing his good run after his return, the 33-year-old Hales posted his third half-century in 12 innings since his comeback.

The duo did not give the Kiwi pace attack any chance and primarily scored off ground strokes.

At the halfway mark, England were 77 for no loss with the duo providing a perfect launch pad for the late order.

But the New Zealand spin duo of Mitchell Santner (1/25) and Ish Sodhi (1/23) put the brakes on the England scoring rate.

Left-arm spinner Santner was tidy as he varied his pace and bowled wide to slow down the run-rate. It paid dividends for Santner as he deceived Hales with a wide delivery.

Moeen Ali (5) was promoted to No. 3, but the move did not yield any result as the all-rounder was dismissed by Ferguson (2/45) in the 14th over.

( Source : PTI )
Next Story