A 43-run thrashing in three overs whittled New Zealand's prospects of making the World T20 semi-finals down to chance.
Tim Southee, Rob Nicol and Kyle Mills were dispatched to the far outposts of Empire by England's Luke Wright in the 15th, 16th and 17th overs. Wright's runs, as part of 76 off 43 balls, were the catalyst to give England a six-wicket win, their first in the Super Eights. His third wicket partnership with Eoin Morgan was worth 89 runs. England moved from 95 for two to 138 for three, just 11 short of the target.
New Zealand posted 148 for six after deciding to bat first. England chased it down with seven balls to spare.
Spinners Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum initially deceived England opening batsmen Craig Kieswetter and Alex Hales through drift and flight. They were helped by pressure from Kyle Mills whose first three-over spell returned none for 11. 38 for two was as good as it got for New Zealand.
The loss meant the only way New Zealand's top four chances remained alive was if Sri Lanka won this morning's match against the West Indies. Luckily for them the hosts cruised to a nine wicket win after chasing down West Indies' 129 for five in 15.2 overs.
To reach the next round New Zealand now need: a) a win against the West Indies tomorrow night; b) Sri Lanka to beat England; and c) some benevolent calculators to ensure they are second in the group on run rate.
New Zealand's effort against England left a third consecutive hollow feeling. The team has competed against each opponent but lacks killer instinct. Think: a 13-run loss to Pakistan, a super over loss to Sri Lanka and now this. They have parity and even excel over sustained periods but, unlike the Brendon McCullum century against Bangladesh, no-one has taken control of a match.
England seized the initiative through steepling bounce generated by Steven Finn's short-of-a-length deliveries. He claimed Martin Guptill and McCullum in the powerplay which thwarted any momentum. New Zealand only righted the situation through late hitting from James Franklin and Nathan McCullum.
Captain Stuart Broad made the sensible decision to keep Finn on for three overs early. The move cramped New Zealand's style; shoulders could not be prised open and the scorecard ached for boundaries and strike rotation. New Zealand only scored off half the 36 powerplay deliveries. Finn returned to capture Ross Taylor slogging to deep mid-wicket for 22. He finished with three wickets for 16 runs.
The New Zealand total only gained respectability when Franklin joined Taylor in the 12th over at 67 for four. They put on 40 for the fifth wicket. Nathan McCullum assisted with 16 not out.
Franklin stood tall and waited for the ball onto the bat. His shot selection and placement were pinpoint to make 50 at a strike rate of 152.
To put his innings in context, New Zealand only eked out 34 for two at the end of the six-over powerplay. Compare that to the losses to Pakistan (they were 51 for one) and Sri Lanka (43 without loss). The start was ominous.
In an aside, Finn inadvertently nudged the stumps in his follow-through three times which induced a dead ball under International Cricket Council laws. McCullum was dismissed the ball after one of those. The stunt had become tiresome by the third occurrence when Franklin timed a ball through the covers for four, only to have it retracted. It begged the question: why does there need to be a replay? Surely the onus goes on the fielding side to remove and tap a stump with the ball (as per the laws) should there be a run out attempt. Otherwise it should be ruled "no ball" so the batting side is never penalised.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Danny Briggs worked as a wingman for Finn early, despite playing his first match at this tournament. Broad opened with him - a smart move to alleviate anxiety - and he responded with a spell of two overs, none for 16. Eight of those came from McCullum boundaries off his last two balls. The 21-year-old had previously played one one-day and one T20 international.
Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates Airline (www.emirates.com/nz).