Jos Buttler (73, 47b, 7x4, 2x6) made the most of two reprieves to guide his team to 179, before the England bowlers defended the total to earn a 20-run victory in a must-win Super 12 fixture against New Zealand at the Gabba on Tuesday.
This victory means England stays in the hunt for the semifinals of the T20 World Cup.
The England captain nearly returned to the dugout for eight – Kane Williamson running backwards to pull off a stunner. Replays, however, showed that the ball had hit the ground when Williamson landed.
Buttler made use of the dropped chance and justified his decision to bat after winning the toss. The England captain forged an 81-run opening partnership with Alex Hales. Hales, too, shrugged off early jitters and brought up his half-century in just 39 balls by slashing a Mitchell Santner delivery through deep third.
Though Hales was stumped on the very next delivery, Buttler took charge and got past his 50 in 35 balls. He hit consecutive boundaries to start Trent Boult’s third over – the innings’ 15th — and went past Eoin Morgan to become England’s highest run-scorer in T20Is.
Liam Livingstone landed a couple of lusty blows from the other end but departed for 20 in the 18th over, with the team’s total at 153. Buttler’s innings ended in the 19th over when Williamson stopped a Ben Stokes drive on the circle and threw it back to the bowler’s end.
Even though England lost its last four wickets for just 23 runs, it set a steep target of 180, taking 15 runs from the final over.
Defending a tall total, England introduced Moeen Ali in the opening over – a move aimed to make the most of the surface that aided spinners. While Devon Conway and Finn Allen struggled against Ali, it was Chris Woakes who struck in the next over. Buttler took a diving catch down the leg side as New Zealand lost Conway early on.
However, making the most of a dropped catch by Ali, when he was on 15, Glenn Phillips (62, 36b, 4x4, 3x6) forged a 91-run partnership with captain Williamson to give New Zealand a glimmer of hope.
Phillips hit four boundaries, but it was yet another timid innings from Williamson – a run-a-ball 40.
When New Zealand was slowly bouncing back into the game, with 61 needed off 30 balls, Williamson’s departure and just three runs from the 16th over by Mark Wood turned the tide for England.
With Phillips batting till the 18th over, the 22,547 fans present at the Gabba would have hoped for a much closer finish than New Zealand requiring 26 in the final over. Sam Curran (two for 26) conceded just five runs in the final over and New Zealand ended at 159-6.
Australia’s chances of qualifying for the semifinals suffered a blow after England’s win. Even though the two teams are on equal points, the defending champion is still far behind England’s Net Run Rate and now, even a big-margin win over Afghanistan on Friday may not guarantee the Aussies a place in the last-four.