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Cook happy to keep fate in own hands

Alastair Cook admitted to a sense of relief after England dodged the Cardiff rain for long enough to defeat New Zealand and secure a Champions Trophy semi-final berth.

An abandonment of England’s final Group A fixture - and a significant dent to the hosts’ qualification hopes – looked to be on the cards when persistent showers delayed the start of play by more than five hours.

Yet there was still enough time to squeeze in a reduced contest of 24-overs-a-side and England ultimately prevailed by 10 runs when defending a total of 169 all out underpinned by Cook’s 47-ball 64.

"At the end of the day, we just wanted to get through to the semi-finals and keep things in our own hands,” said Cook, who was dropped three times by Nathan McCullum.

“It was a relief we managed to get on with the weather and it was a pretty good performance.

“It is tricky batting first in a 24-over game to know what a good score is, but we got a competitive total and I thought we bowled very well.”

New Zealand were always on the back foot in their chase, which featured a defiant 67 from Kane Williamson, after losing both openers in James Anderson’s second over.

“Clearly, we knew that those first overs would be key,” Cook added.

“It is important you strike early when you are defending and I thought in those first four overs it was fantastic bowling by Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad when the ball nipped around a bit.”

By the time skipper Brendon McCullum became the fourth batsman to depart, in the 12th over, the asking rate for the Black Caps was approaching 10 an over.

Williamson and debutant Corey Anderson did their best to keep the game alive, but England, for whom Ravi Bopara also impressed with 2-26 from five overs, were not to be denied.

“We managed to keep taking wickets when we needed to,” reasoned Cook.

“Normally you have five bowlers in Twenty20 but Ravi did a fantastic job as did James Tredwell (who played in place of the injured Graeme Swann).”

England now top Group A, but could yet be deposed if Sri Lanka record a comprehensive win over Australia at The Oval tomorrow.

It therefore remains to be seen whether Cook et al will take on India or South Africa in the last four, but the captain insists he has no preference.

“We don't mind who we play; we are just glad to be in there,” he said.

“We had a quarter-final in one way today and now we look forward to a semi-final, whoever that may be against, and we are looking forward to playing well.

“Any of the sides in this Champions Trophy would be dangerous to play and you have to be at the top of your game to win.”

New Zealand can still join England in the semi-finals, but now require assistance from elsewhere.

A Sri Lankan victory tomorrow would send the Black Caps home, while Australia must win handsomely if they are to overhaul their neighbours on net run-rate.

“It’s never nice when you leave destiny in someone else’s hands,” said New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum.

“We’ve obviously got to watch tomorrow’s game and see what unfolds. We had our opportunity today and we passed it up.”

There was laughter among the assembled journalists when McCullum was asked if he has faith in Australia to do New Zealand a favour.

“We’ll see what unfolds I guess,” he replied with a smile.

“We would love Australia to play some excellent cricket tomorrow but obviously not too good either.

“As I said earlier, we had our opportunity today and we missed out, so if we find ourselves out of the tournament we can’t be upset.

“But if we do get another opportunity through Australia doing the job for us tomorrow, then who knows what can happen in that semi-final?”

Reflecting on his team's defeat in Cardiff, McCullum added: “I thought we did a really good job with the ball, especially in the latter part of that innings, to restrict them to the score that we did.

“We were comfortable chasing that total, but they bowled brilliantly at the start and put us under a lot of pressure.”

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