Bairstow sparkles as England make sure of place in World Cup semi-finals
Victory over New Zealand at Chester-le-Street makes sure of hosts’ place in last four.
England locked down their place in the World Cup semi-finals, as Jonny Bairstow’s second successive century fired them to a dominant 119-run win over New Zealand.
Little more than a week after defeat to Australia left them fighting for their tournament lives, Eoin Morgan’s men were making plans for their first appearance in the last four since 1992.
They are now guaranteed to finish third in the table and will face either Australia or India at Edgbaston on Thursday.
That they do so with their identity crisis over and morale peaking owes much to Bairstow’s 106, a second bloody-minded hundred in four days that underpinned England’s 305 for eight.
If his previous effort against India was an emotionally-charged response to his minor spat with Michael Vaughan, the follow-up deserves to be remembered for nothing other than its sporting brilliance – 106 runs, 14 boundaries, one six and a thoroughly decisive contribution.
It has become increasingly apparent that his opening partnership with the fit-again Jason Roy (60) represents England’s ace in the hole, with the duo scoring their third consecutive three-figure stand and forging an advantage the Black Caps never wrestled back.
Things stalled once they exited, England reaching 194 for one from 30 overs and losing seven for 111 thereafter – but New Zealand’s reply never threatened and they were brushed aside for 186 at Chester-le-Street.
Dangerman Kane Williamson was run out backing up via the tiniest of touches off Mark Wood’s outstretched hand, with the seamer also helping himself to three for 34.
Morgan won the toss and chose to bat, allowing Bairstow and Roy to grab the initiative from the off.
Their only real awkward moment came from the very first delivery of the match, slow left-armer Mitchell Santner squeezing one between Roy’s inside edge and the off-stump. Thereafter it was 18 overs of unbridled serenity.
Bairstow got things going by laying into Tim Southee on his first outing of the tournament, swatting five of the seamer’s first 10 balls to the ropes.
It was Southee’s seven for 33 that hastened England’s catastrophic defeat in Wellington in the 2015 World Cup but he has struggled in the fixture since, his nine overs here costing 70.
Roy, so badly missed during his three-game injury absence, batted with his customary force and intent at the other end.
The hundred – number 10 in their 31 outings as a twosome – ticked by inside 15 overs and by the 17th both men had 50. Each looked set fair to convert and Roy clearly agreed, hacking at the turf in anger after he lifted Jimmy Neesham to cover.
Bairstow refused to risk a similar lapse, easing into a series of well-directed pulls and England’s only six, launched right back over Southee’s head. He reached his landmark off the final ball of the 30th over before stretching his arms to bask in the moment.
Things deflated quickly from there, Bairstow playing Matt Henry into his stumps and Boult taking Joe Root and Jos Buttler cheaply. Between the 30th and 45th overs, they lost as many batsmen – five – as they scored boundaries.
Morgan ground out 42 while Ben Stokes laboured for 11, but the damage had been done.
New Zealand, eyeing a successful 300-plus chase for just the sixth time in their history, lost Henry Nicholls for a golden duck. Replays showed Chris Woakes’ ball clearing the stumps but by then the opener had already turned down a review.
Buttler took a leaping one-hander to claim Martin Guptill down leg and by the time a couple of unlikely run-outs emerged, things were foundering at 69 for four.
Williamson’s exit for 27 was bad luck, Ross Taylor’s firm straight hit smashing into the non-striker’s stumps courtesy of a fractional flick off Wood’s finger.
Rather than shouldering the responsibility Taylor quickly burned his own bridges, taking on an optimistic two and falling foul of Adil Rashid’s fizzing throw from the deep.
From there, New Zealand appeared to accept the defeat and focused on massaging the margin. The chase slowed to a crawl but the home attack persevered gamely.
Wood fared best of all, smashing the stumps of Neesham and Henry in more conventional fashion and trapping Santner leg before. Stokes got in on the act when Colin de Grandhomme mistimed a pull and Rashid ended things five overs early when Boult was stumped.
Bairstow’s team-mates would have winced to see his full-blooded dive on the ropes when the result was already long settled, hurting his shoulder in the process. However, his competitive spirit had already served them too well to complain.