For the most part it was a frustrating day in Cardiff but finally England beat the weather that had threatened to derail their Champions Trophy hopes and overcame New Zealand in a shortened match by 10 runs.
The light rain arrived shortly after the toss and did not relent until mid-afternoon, allowing a 3.45pm start and a match of 24 overs a side.
Put in to bat by Brendon McCullum (the original toss and team selections, made and announced before the weather closed in, with a full match in prospect, still stood), England reached 169 before they were bowled out halfway through the final over. Alastair Cook underpinned things with 64 from 47 balls (including four fours and two sixes) that earned him the man-of- the-match award but, worryingly, seven wickets fell for 28 in the final 24 balls.
In reply New Zealand managed 159 for eight. The result leaves the probability that England will face South Africa in the first semi-final at The Oval on Wednesday. New Zealand's fate is now in the hands of Australia and Sri Lanka in the final group match at The Oval on Monday. A Sri Lankan win would mean their elimination and it is possible that Australia could overtake New Zealand should they win but it would need to be by a massive margin. There is little doubt that for once (and possibly only once) the Kiwis will be cheering on their trans-Tasman cousins.
New Zealand were never in the chase once Jimmy Anderson knocked over the openers in his second over. Kane Williamson fought a lone battle, making 67, but England so throttled them in the early stages that they were never able to maintain a sufficient run rate.
A doubt for England then was whether they would be able to get in the requisite 20 overs for it to constitute a match. The grey cloud continued to blanket the ground and the groundstaff hovered by the covers in readiness. An umbrella went up for an over or two before being taken down to general relief.
With one ball of the 19th over remaining, the Kiwi debutant Corey Anderson appeared to get cramp in straining to avoid a run-out and required several minutes treatment. Finally Anderson completed the over and, with 55 required from the final 24 deliveries, with five wickets in hand, the result ought to have been safe.
It needed Stuart Broad to take the key wicket of Williamson to put things beyond doubt. He had played an increasingly robust innings and made his runs from 54 balls, clambering into a poor over from Tim Bresnan as the game approached its climax.
But in attempting to put Broad over long-off he miscued high to extra-cover where Anderson judged a swirling catch well. The umpire, though, suspected Broad had pushed the front crease close and asked for third-umpire clarification. The result was mighty close – millimetres indeed – but Steve Davis decided that Broad had landed fractionally behind the crease before sliding forward as he is permitted to do.
Williamson had added 73 from 45 balls with Anderson, who went on to make 30 before his namesake took another well-judged catch at long-on. With 22 needed from the final over to tie (which would have been sufficient to see them through) Anderson had some leeway to deliver the final six balls and, with that in mind, he delivered an unusually scruffy set, although more than adequate.
Cook's innings was the first time he has hit more than a single six in an ODI innings and stands of 75 with Joe Root and 41 from 29 balls with Eoin Morgan helped England to 169. Four of the England wickets went to Kyle Mills, while Nathan McCullum not only managed to take four catches but also dropped three, so persistently did the ball follow him around in the field.
New Zealand's response had faltered from the start with Anderson, waspish once more on a pitch with a little more juice in it than has been seen in this tournament, taking the wickets of Luke Ronchi and Martin Guptill in the space of three deliveries. The other bowlers defended well, forcing the Kiwis to play to the longer boundaries to the side rather than allow too much licence straight, where they are shorter and considerably more in range for even modest hitters. O nce England had a grip, they did not let go.
Ross Taylor was lbw to Bresnan (his review to no avail), and Brendon McCullum was stunningly caught at deep midwicket by Root. This was a brave catch, one of a young man without fear. Ravi Bopara had bowled short of a length and McCullum flayed it hard and flat to deep square-leg. An old pro, mindful of his dentures, might have taken a view and gone for safety first, but Root plunged forwards and held on superbly. It was a big wicket for England for, although the New Zealand captain has had an ordinary tour, his form during England's tour earlier in the year left no one in any doubt of his capability: form in this type of cricket can return in a single over of mayhem. With his departure England must have known they had the game in hand.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © gareth1953