CHESTER-LE-STREET: England entered the World Cup semifinals for the first time since the 1992 edition, beating an erring New Zealand by 119 runs to fuel their “dream” of winning a first title.
Jonny Bairstow, who smashed 106 off 99 balls to become the first Englishman to score a back-to-back century in a World Cup, was primarily responsible for taking the hosts to 305 for eight on a pitch that slowed down as the game progressed.
New Zealand did well to limit England to a little over 300, considering the start provided by Bairstow and Jason Roy (60 off 61) who shared an entertaining 123-run stand afterEoin Morganopted to bat.
However, moments of brilliance from England and some ordinary cricket from the Black Caps led to their downfall as they folded up for 186 in 45 overs.
New Zealand, who lost their last three league games to end with 11 points from nine games, remain in hunting to clinch the fourth and final semifinal spot.
They have a much better net run rate compared to Pakistan who have nine points and must beat Bangladesh by a big margin in their final league match, the remaining semi-final berth for New Zealand pipping any hopes.
England, on the opposite, have got their act together following the defeats against Sri Lanka and Australia. The pre-tournament favorites are looking at the better of India and New Zealand. If things stand on the points table as they are, second-placed India will meet third-placed England in the semifinals
A professional performance on Wednesday has raised hopes of England finally winning their first World Cup following heart-breaking losses in three finals (1979, 1987 and 1992).
New Zealand, who lost to England for the first time in a World Cup since the 1983 edition, were virtually out of the game after losing their top four for 69 runs. Both their key players, captainKane Williamson(27) and Ross Taylor (28), were run out to leave their team in deep trouble.
Williamson, who was backing up too far, was rather unlucky as Mark Wood found his futures through. In the following over, Taylor went for a risky second run, which was worth noting that moment of the game. The fatal run-outs came after New Zealand lost their openers, Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls, early in the chase to leave them at 37 for two in 10 overs.
Earlier, Bairstow, who had smashed 111 against India in England’s last contest, raced to his ninth ODI hundred, to a perfect platform in a virtual quarterfinal
Openers Jason Roy (60 off 61) and Bairstow were in punishing mood, sharing a century stand for the second game in a row. Bairstow looked in ominous touch again, hitting as many 15 fours and a six in his enthralling knock.
With England cruising at 194 for one in the 31st over, it seems the home team will beat New Zealand out of the game.
But New Zealand fought their way back into some tight bowling.
Trent Boult (2/56) was impressive again and removed Joe Root (24) Just at the right time to trigger a mini collapse Bairstow and the dangerous Jos Buttler (11), leaving England at 214 for four.
Spinner Mitchell Santer, who had opened the bowling, then removed the in-form Ben Stokes (11) to make it 248 for five
The onus, then, was on captain Eoin Morgan to come up with the late fireworks, but he too perished after scoring 42 off 40 balls.
New Zealand were dealt a severe blow before the start of the game with pacer Lockie Ferguson being ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Tim Southee, playing his first game of the tournament, leaked 70 runs in nine overs.