England breathed fresh life into their T20 World Cup campaign as Jos Buttler’s 73 off 47 balls helped them overcome New Zealand in another tense showdown between the teams.
Anything other than a win would have all-but led to England being eliminated at the Super 12s stage but half-centuries from Buttler and Alex Hales, who made 52 off 40 balls, lifted them to 179 for six.
New Zealand never got their noses in front and although Glenn Phillips looked to have turned the tide with 62 off 36 balls, England’s bowlers were disciplined at the death to close out a 20-run victory.
The Kiwis required 54 off the final 24 balls, eerily reminiscent of when they successfully chased down 57 off the last four overs in last year’s semi-final, but this time it was England who prevailed.
A semi-final place is far from assured as England still need to beat Sri Lanka on Saturday and hope Australia do not overhaul their net run-rate, which would be pivotal if the teams are level on points.
But this was a much-improved display from England after faltering against Ireland, with Buttler clicking into gear, overcoming a pedestrian start and being dropped on eight and 40 to top-score.
An unchanged England rejigged their batting order, with Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran all leapfrogging Dawid Malan as they added 102 runs in the last 10 overs.
Buttler was slow out of the gate after winning the toss, with a used pitch forcing his hand to bat first, and he started to trudge off after miscuing Mitchell Santner to a diving Kane Williamson, only for replays to show the New Zealand captain had spilled the chance when landing.
The drop was compounded when Buttler shuffled across his stumps and scooped a 92mph delivery from Lockie Ferguson for six although spinners Santner and Ish Sodhi were able to stifle the scoring opportunities.
Hales got to fifty with a thick edge for four off Santner but the slow left-armer had immediate revenge by throwing out a wider delivery when he saw the advancing batter, who was stumped.
Buttler had scored just 29 off his first 25 balls but had started to cast off the shackles, having been joined by Moeen, when he was given a second let-off after Daryl Mitchell shelled a boundary chance.
Buttler once again poured salt into the wound with three fours in a Ferguson over before taking the attack to Boult with an unorthodox flat-batted whack and a thunderous hit over the sightscreen.
He's something else 🙌
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) November 1, 2022
Buttler was ran out after a mix-up with Stokes, but Livingstone, Brook and Curran each cleared the rope once before Malan belatedly came out, scampering three from the last ball after a Santner mis-field.
Moeen opened the bowling at the outset of New Zealand’s reply and found sharp turn but Chris Woakes was the beneficiary as the unconvincing Devon Conway under-edged to Buttler while the dangerous Finn Allen departed after misjudging a pull off Curran to Stokes.
Stokes grimaced and shook the left hand that has been operated on after completing the catch, leaving the field briefly and returning just before Moeen reprieved Phillips. It was a simple looping chance to cover point after Phillips had sliced Rashid but the ball burst through Moeen’s hands.
While Williamson was unobtrusively ticking along, it felt a key moment with Phillips, a centurion last time out against Sri Lanka, on 15 off 10 balls, and New Zealand needing 114 off the last 10 overs.
Phillips had some more fortune after edging Livingstone wide of Buttler but he sparked into gear with a sweetly-timed six off Mark Wood. England’s fielding grew ragged, allowing Williamson and Phillips to turn ones into twos, but it was the latter’s power hitting which seemed to tilt the balance.
Rashid dragged down a googly and then overcompensated, with Phillips dispatching both for six en route to a 25-ball fifty although he lost Williamson for a run-a-ball 40.
Wood took out Jimmy Neesham with a top-edge but more importantly checked New Zealand’s progress by conceding just three in the 16th over, with Woakes backing up by yielding five runs in the 17th.
Substitute fielder Chris Jordan, whose eight-ball over at Abu Dhabi last year put New Zealand into the ascendancy, took boundary catches to see off Mitchell and Phillips in the 17th and 18th overs.
New Zealand were left needing 26 off the final six balls but Curran’s yorkers and the odd well-directed bouncer ensured there was no late drama as England restricted their rivals to 159 for six.