Jos Buttler praised the quality and character of his team after they emerged from a must-win game against New Zealand, the form side of the T20 World Cup so far, with a victory that leaves them in control of their own destiny and a place in the semi-finals within reach.
England knew that defeat would all but end their hopes of reaching the final four, but two precious points drew them level with both New Zealand and Australia with a game to play.
There are still many possible permutations, but the Kiwis’ massive net run rate advantage means a win over Ireland would take them out of reach, while if England overcome Sri Lanka and Australia match that result against Afghanistan the hosts would need a significantly more handsome margin of victory to snatch second place.
Crucially, while New Zealand and Australia play on Friday, England play on Saturday, therefore knowing precisely what is required of them when they take the field, and will be buoyed up by their reaction to the pressure of this occasion.
“In a must-win game, to come out and play with freedom and express ourselves and show off our talent, I was really proud of the character we showed,” Buttler said. “We’re a really dangerous team and have got match-winners throughout, and having not quite played at our best we were desperate to show that here.”
Buttler’s 73 off 47 balls was crucial in allowing England to set New Zealand a target of 180, which proved just out of reach. “Always as a captain you want to lead by example and do your job for the team as well as doing the captaincy role,” Buttler said. “It’s a big relief to be heading to that last game knowing we have a chance of progressing. We go there really excited – the team is in a really good place after tonight, and we’ll head to Sydney full of confidence.”
For much of New Zealand’s innings their target looked within reach, until a run of four wickets in as many overs, between the 15th and the 18th, robbed them of several key batters and all of their momentum.
“We knew the chase was going to be challenging, and a couple of quality overs kind of took it away from us,” Mitchell Santner said. “I guess we’re still in a pretty good position. We’ll reflect on tonight, what went well, what didn’t go so well, and move on.”