England find Wright formula
Luke Wright got England’s defence of the World Twenty20 back on track by putting New Zealand to the sword in a six-wicket success at Pallekele.
The Sussex batsman thumped five sixes en route to 76 from 43 balls, underpinning a successful pursuit of 149 completed with seven deliveries to spare.
New Zealand never really got going with the bat and were grateful to James Franklin’s breezy 33-ball 50 after Steven Finn had returned 3-16.
England face Sri Lanka in their final group game on Monday, with victory likely to be enough to guarantee Stuart Broad’s side a place in the last four.
For the time being, the reigning champions can take great heart from an improved display with bat and ball.
Wright’s efforts were particularly impressive. After Craig Kieswetter and Alex Hales had fallen inside the first seven overs, he dominated a partnership of 89 with Eoin Morgan that took England to the brink of victory.
Criticised in the past for an all or nothing approach at the top of the order, Wright provided further evidence of his increased maturity today by pacing his innings superbly.
Tim Southee and Rob Nicol came in for particular punishment as the accelerator was applied, the former conceding 32 from two overs having suffered at the hands of Hales early on.
Both Kieswetter and Hales will regret the strokes that led to their dismissals. England’s wicketkeeper missed a sweep to be bowled by Daniel Vettori, who proved typically parsimonious, while his opening partner, after dashing to 22, charged down the track and lost his leg stump to Nathan McCullum.
Assisted by the in-form Morgan, who was largely becalmed in compiling 30, Wright eased any fears of a batting collapse with a fine exhibition of clean ball-striking, particularly when hitting down the ground, and intelligent shot selection.
By the time he was caught at cover with seven required, leaving Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow to finish the job, New Zealand’s fate had been sealed.
Finn was England’s other stand-out performer after Ross Taylor had elected to bat first on a dry surface.
The seamer, operating at a healthy pace, trapped Martin Guptill plumb lbw in his first over, had dangerman Brendon McCullum caught at third man in his next and returned to account for Taylor, who pulled tamely to deep midwicket.
Graeme Swann kept the pressure on the Black Caps by returning 1-20 in the middle overs, during which time Danny Briggs - one of two changes to England's line-up along with Tim Bresnan - had Kane Williamson caught behind.
The innovative Franklin counter-attacked with an attractive half-century featuring three maximums, but the feeling that New Zealand had come up short of a par score was soon justified.
Live Text Commentary
2:12pm - END OF MATCH; ENGLAND 149/4 AND WIN BY SIX WICKETS!!! Jonny Bairstow pulls the first ball he faces for four before Jos Buttler puts the finishing touches to a convincing win with a scampered single. A job well done by England, who face Sri Lanka on Monday.
2:08pm - WICKET! Wright c Taylor b Bracewell 76; Eng 142/4 - That is a shame. Wright is unable to complete the job as he picks out cover off Bracewell.
2:02pm – Wright is making New Zealand’s bowlers look silly now. Fours on either side of the wicket off Mills take him to 76 and England are nearly home and dry.
1:58pm - WICKET! Morgan c Bracewell b Mills 30; Eng 127/3 - Hopefully, this is little more than a bump in the road. Morgan looks to join the fun, but is caught by a diving Doug Bracewell at long-on.
1:55pm – This game is surely almost over now, due to some sensational striking from Wright. He picks up back-to-back maximums, over midwicket and long-on, off Nicol and just 23 are needed from the final four overs.
1:51pm – FIFTY! Wright (33b 3x4 3x6) - Southee is back and proves expensive once again. Wright plays the shot of the day, a terrific straight six taking England into three figures. An even more impressive thump over wide long-on follows to take the Sussex man past 50.
1:45pm - The fifty stand arrives as Vettori, miserly as ever, returns. England have to be favourites here, although the required rate stands at nine.
1:38pm - That will help England’s cause - Wright slog-sweeps McCullum high over square-leg for a maximum to move into the thirties. A full-toss from James Franklin then gets the treatment it deserves as Morgan clears the ropes at long-on. Sixty-six are needed from eight overs after Franklin is cut for four more.
1:31pm - Wright is beaten in the flight by Nicol, but adjusts well to beat the fielder at short cover and collect four. Morgan remains becalmed at the other end, but England will not mind. It is vital that the left-hander hangs around.
1:25pm - Perhaps unsurprisingly, more spin is introduced in the form of Rob Nicol. Eoin Morgan has joined Wright and England are 46 for two after eight overs.
1:20pm - WICKET! Hales b N McCullum 22; Eng 38/2 - It is not often that Vettori gives you a freebie and Wright is quick to capitalise with a flick past mid-on when the veteran spinner errs in line and length. England end the powerplay on 37 for one, but lose a second wicket soon after as Hales gives Nathan McCullum the charge, only to miss the ball and be bowled.
1:15pm - Mills strays down leg and is flicked to the fence by new batsman Luke Wright. A wider delivery is then sliced over backward-point by Hales, who has reached 20 off just 10 balls, for three.
1:08pm - WICKET! Kieswetter b Vettori 4; Eng 21/1 - Kieswetter, it is fair to say, is not quite seeing the ball as well as his opening partner and struggles to get Mills away once again. He is duly bowled when Daniel Vettori - sporting the mother of all moustaches - enters the attack and beats the wicketkeeper-batsman’s attempted sweep.
1pm - Alex Hales, fresh from striking 68 against West Indies, is not hanging about. He takes 16 from Tim Southee’s first over with the help of two sweetly-timed fours through point and a pull to the square-leg rope. An excellent start from the Nottinghamshire batsman.
12:55pm - Back under way in Pallekele. Kyle Mills opens the bowling for New Zealand and concedes just two to Craig Kieswetter.
New Zealand Innings
12:42pm - END OF INNINGS - NEW ZEALAND 148/6; Franklin 50 - Franklin expresses his disgust after umpire Simon Taufel opts not to punish Bresnan for a delivery that looked sure to be called as a leg-side wide. New Zealand’s star performer is then run out attempting a second - having reached 50 with the first - off the penultimate delivery, but he has certainly done his bit. England will require 149.
12:35pm - Six more for New Zealand - this time it is Nathan McCullum who lofts Broad over extra-cover. England’s skipper then over-steps, but Franklin is unable to make use of the resulting free-hit as he connects with nothing more than fresh air. McCullum does not make the same mistake when pulling Broad for another maximum.
12:27pm – Bresnan drops short and is pulled aerially through fine-leg by Franklin, who then plays an innovative scoop over the wicketkeeper for four. Without him, New Zealand would be in all sorts of trouble.
12:22pm - Franklin is denied a fifth boundary, despite thumping Finn past mid-off, as umpire Asad Rauf signals dead ball once again due to the bowler having clipped the stumps. Figures of 3-16 represent reward for a fine spell by Finn.
12:15pm – WICKET! Taylor c Hales b Finn 22; NZ 107/5 - Finn has bowled superbly today and returns to have Taylor caught at deep midwicket. New Zealand’s captain failed to connect cleanly with a pull stroke and picked out Alex Hales. A handy wicket for England.
12:11pm – This is turning into a handy little cameo from Franklin, who dabs Broad down to third man for another four to take his side into three figures. A lousy full-toss is then pulled behind square.
12:06pm – Another tight set of six from Bresnan increases the pressure on the batting side. James Franklin responds superbly, taking 16 from Briggs’ final over with the aid of a sweetly-struck maximum over midwicket and a powerful straight-driven four. With five overs remaining, New Zealand have moved on to 96.
11:58am - Swann finishes his four-over stint with 1-20, having been swept for four by Taylor, who is surely key to New Zealand’s hopes of posting a competitive total.
11:52am - WICKET! Williamson c Kieswetter b Briggs 17; NZ 67/4 - On his return to the attack, Briggs sends down a flatter delivery and Williamson, backing away to give himself room, feathers an edge through to Craig Kieswetter, who accepts a sharp chance.
11:49am - Taylor pulls opposite number Stuart Broad, whose first over yielded just four, to the midwicket rope. Two wides from England’s captain follow, before Swann is taken for six singles.
11:41am – This is all going rather well at present. New Zealand are dealing largely in singles and Swann, England’s leading wicket-taker in this format, is finding plenty of turn. After nine overs, the Black Caps have just 50 on the board, with skipper Ross Taylor having joined Williamson at the crease.
11:32am – WICKET! Nicol c Bairstow b Swann 11; NZ 42/3 - Another breakthrough for England arrives as Nicol, in seeking to up the ante, picks out Jonny Bairstow in the deep off Graeme Swann.
11:29am - Tim Bresnan replaces Briggs and keeps things tight. Finn then delivers three dot balls in succession, before Williamson breaks the shackles with a classy cut stroke. A pull past mid-on sees Nicol register his first four and New Zealand end the powerplay on 39 for two.
11:19am - Kane Williamson has drawn number four out of the hat and walks out to replace McCullum. Four leg byes off the new man’s pads boost the Kiwis, but they are in need of a partnership now. Finn has 2-5.
11:16am - WICKET! B McCullum c Wright b Finn 10; 20/2 - To the surprise of no-one, Finn clips the stumps at the non-striker’s end - prompting umpire Simon Taufel to call dead ball. The decision benefits England, as McCullum picks out Luke Wright at third man from the next delivery!
11:10am - Finn completes a fine opening over, in which he immediately posed problems for New Zealand’s number three. Briggs is driven for another straight four, this time by McCullum, who then goes aerial and almost clears the rope at long-on. Those two fours spoil a previously tight over and take New Zealand to 19.
11:06am - WICKET! Guptill lbw Finn 5; NZ 7/1 - Finn strikes, trapping Guptill plumb in front with a full delivery as the batsman played across the line. Just what the doctor ordered, but here comes Brendon McCullum!
11:04am - It is Danny Briggs, in only his second T20 international, who is given the responsibility of setting the tone for England. He beats Rob Nicol’s outside edge before being struck down the ground by Martin Guptill for the game’s first four. Nicol is then fortunate not to be run out off the final ball of the over following a mix-up with his opening partner.
10:58am - Here we go then! The national anthems have been played and it will be Guptill and Nicol up first for the Black Caps, with the in-form McCullum, described by Morgan as “one of the world’s best Twenty20 cricketers”, likely to come in at three.
10:48am - I should warn you that the New Zealand batting order listed below is unlikely to be correct. To describe them as flexible would be an understatement. With the surface appearing drier than previous days, England may well choose to give Briggs an early bowl - the spinner has frequently been effective for Hampshire at the start of an innings.
10:38am - Here is confirmation of the two teams:
England: Craig Kieswetter, Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad (captain), Graeme Swann, Danny Briggs, Steven Finn.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, James Franklin, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor (captain), Rob Nicol, Daniel Vettori, Doug Bracewell, Kane Williamson, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills.
10:35am - NEW ZEALAND WIN TOSS AND BAT - Ross Taylor calls correctly and opts to set England a target. Samit Patel and Jade Dernbach are replaced by Tim Bresnan and Danny Briggs, while experienced all-rounder Jacob Oram has been ruled out for New Zealand with a stomach bug, so Doug Bracewell steps in.
10:25am - The loser of this encounter could be eliminated from the competition today, although that will depend on the result of the later match between Sri Lanka and West Indies.
10:20am - New Zealand are also looking to bounce back from a defeat, having been beaten in dramatic circumstances by hosts Sri Lanka in a thrilling Super Over two days ago. The Black Caps boast a formidable batting line-up, with Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and skipper Ross Taylor the obvious dangermen.
10:10am - England suffered a 15-run defeat to West Indies on Friday, despite the best efforts of Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales. Skipper Broad went on to describe the Pallekele track, which yielded 343 runs in 40 overs, as a “batsman’s paradise” and will be desperate for his team to avoid the loss of early wickets this time out.
10am - Good morning and welcome to ecb.co.uk's live coverage of England's second game in the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20. Victory over New Zealand today is almost essential if Stuart Broad's team are to progress to the semi-finals.