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PALLEKELE: Luke Wright's savagery averted a potential spinning disaster for England as the defending champions registered a six-wicket win over New Zealand here, on Saturday. Chasing 148, England looked set to implode against New Zealand's army of slower bowlers, before Wright yanked them out of danger with a display of six hitting. He cleared the ropes five times in his 43-ball 76 and added 89 runs in ten overs with Eoin Morgan.
The partnership ensured that England won with seven balls to spare despite both set batsmen giving up their wickets in the concluding moments. This was the defending champions' first win in the Super Eights, after they had lost to the West Indies in the previous game. Fast bowler Steve Finn had earlier rattled the Kiwis with three for 16 after Ross Taylor elected to bat. James Franklin's half-century gained for New Zealand a fighting total, and when Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum removed the English openers early in the chase, the chase was headed south.
Wright and Morgan got together at the fall of Hales (22) and struggled initially as Taylor inundated them with spin. They reached 50 in nine overs and needed exactly 99 from 11 at that point. England had fallen shamelessly to India's tweakers in the league stage and another capitulation here to spin looked likely.
But the Kiwi spinners had neither the guile nor the skill to make the best of a favourable situation. Wright started scoring freely. He carted a six off Nathan McCullum, and reached a crescendo of brutality in the 15th over, when Southee came on with 60 needed from six overs. One six was a monstrosity struck above and behind hte bowler. The next was heaved over mid-wicket and gave Wright his fifty in 33 balls.
Nicol was shown his place next. Two more sixes, both on the leg-side, one on bended knee, the other on the move. Kyle Mills took out Morgan (31) in the ext over, but was not spared either as Wright thrashed two boundaries, bringing the asking rate crashing down. Wright was finally out for 76 in the 19th over, the job almost done and defending champions England well and truly alive in the Super Eights.
Finn claims three
New Zealand elected to bat under overcast skies and the threat of rain. They rallied around Franklin's fighting half-century to post 148-6, enduring four penetrating overs by Steve Finn. Finn, who irritated immensely by repeatedly knocking over the stumps in his follow through (hence causing a dead ball), took three for 16.
The tall England quick trapped Martin Guptill in front with a fast and full delivery in the second over of the day and McCullum who had in the previous over by left-arm spinner Daniel Briggs struck two boundaries, became Finn's second wicket when he sliced to Luke wright at third man.Graeme Swann's off-spin made an appearance in the seventh over and claimed Rob Nicol. Deceived by the slowness of the surface, Nicol struck to Jonny Bairstow at square leg, as the Kiwis descended to 42-3. Swann rushed through his overs as Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson got in the middle, but disaster struck when Briggs retured for his second over and ended Williamson's stay as the batsman went for the cut but edged to Kieswetter behind the wicket.
Franklin pushes ahead
Swann bowled through his quota for 20 runs, after which James Franklin began to nudge New Zealand ahead. The left-handed batsman clubbed Briggs for a six and four in the 15th over and two more boudnaries - a short ball deflected to third man and a full toss swung to long leg - off Stuart Broad's 16th pushed the innings forward.
Finn came back for his last over and claimed his third wicket, Ross Taylor (22), ending a 40-run stand when the New Zealand captain pulled into the hands of the fielder at the deep mid-wicket boundary. Franklin dominated the stand heavily, outscoring Taylor 33 runs to 7, and continued to dent England as he stepped away and scorched Finn through the off-side for four.
But Finn had, just like several times earlier in the innings, had dislodged the bails at the non-striker's end in his follow through, hence a dead ball was called and the batmsan deprived of his sweetly struck boundary. In the next over, Franklin hooked Bresnan into ths stands.
Not to be outdone, Nathan McCullum swung Broad for two sixes as 17 came from the 19th over. Franklin reached his half-century with a single in 33 balls but was run-out going for the second run. He and Nathan McCullum (16, 10b, 2x6) addded 39 in just 21 balls and the Kiwis piled 52 in their last five over. It looked enough ten overs into England's chase. But Wright's timely six-hitting spree took England home and rested, at least temporarily, vulnerability to slow bowling.