England secured qualification for the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals with a superb 87-run win over New Zealand, aided by a clever and impressive bowling performance.
The Kiwis won the toss and decided to bowl on a windy day in Cardiff when the rain just about stayed away, and Jason Roy suffered another low score when he was bowled by Adam Milne for 13.
However, after that Joe Root and Alex Hales gave England a solid platform, adding 81 for the second wicket. Hales made 56 and Root 64, setting things up for the big hitters down the order.
However, with Ben Stokes falling for 48, England were in danger of missing out as set batsmen were not going on to make a really big score.
In the end, Jos Buttler provided some superb acceleration, including an extraordinary scoop shot for six that landed on the camera gantry. His unbeaten 61 took England past 300, but with Mark Wood and Jake Ball falling for ducks in the final over England were dismissed for 310 with three balls remaining.
New Zealand may have fancied their chances, but suffered a huge early blow when big-hitting opener Luke Ronchi was bowled for a duck by Jake Ball. Ball, who had suffered in the opening game against Bangladesh, was to produce an excellent bowling stint, taking 2-31 and securing the man-of-the-match award.
Adil Rashid also produced an outstanding performance as he returned to the side in place of the injured Chris Woakes, but Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor took control and at 158-2 the New Zealanders looked on course for victory.
However, England's seamers switched to bowling cross-seam on a tufty pitch that offered uneven bounce in such circumstances. One ball from Liam Plunkett leapt alarmingly from a length to strike Taylor on the grille, and another from Wood lifted sharply to catch Williamson's gloves and provide a catch for Buttler behind the stumps. The New Zealand skipper was out for 87 and his alarmed reaction as he gestured at the pitch may have unnerved his team-mates.
After that, England took complete control. Taylor tried to whip Plunkett through the on-side and could only pick out Root, the first of four wickets for the Yorkshire paceman. Rashid picked up two more and the Kiwis subsided to 223 all out.
The result ensured England's place in the last four, but they have a great incentive to win the final match against Australia at Edgbaston as a win would knock the Aussies out after two rain-affected no-results for Steve Smith's team, provided there is a positive result between New Zealand and Bangladesh.
This will not be the only exciting prospect at Edgbaston this year, with the Test match against the West Indies to come in August. Both games could lay down important markers ahead of the Ashes. While the Champions Trophy game could see a big blow inflicted on the Aussie pride, the Test will be the first five-day game played on a day-night basis with a pink ball in England, offering a chance for England to experience such a situation before facing Australia under the lights in Adelaide.
Australia were just 11 balls shy of victory on the Duckworth-Lewis method against Bangladesh on Monday (June 5th) when rain forced a no-result.