England succumb to sporting black caps
Paul Collingwood was the recipient of the latest act of sportsmanship at the Champions Trophy but it did not spare England from defeat at the Wanderers.
Collingwood was reprieved by Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori after carelessly wandering out of his crease, in the 11th over of England's 146 all out, during a four-wicket defeat under lights.
Although Collingwood went on to top score with 40, the act of generosity when the laws of the game promoted his departure, was not costly for the beleaguered Black Caps.
Despite being decimated by injury in this tournament, Vettori's men eliminated Sri Lanka, guaranteed top spot in Group B, and therefore sealed a place in Saturday's second semi-final.
Although Stuart Broad made them sweat with four wickets, there were still 22.5 overs to spare when Vettori hauled a Broad delivery through the leg-side for four.
They sealed the win thanks to rampaging contributions from Brendon McCullum (48) and his opening partner Martin Guptill, who hit 53, which preceded a slide from 84 without loss to 140 for six.
The result means that England have now beaten them just four times in their past 18 50-over meetings.
For England, unable to overcome the new-ball challenge on a spicy pitch in mid-afternoon, this was a performance which typified their 6-1 NatWest Series thrashing by Australia which preceded this event rather than the back-to-back wins over Sri Lanka and South Africa that sealed the last-four spot at the earliest ask.
The England batsmen have spoken throughout their week here about refusing to die wondering but such an attitude proved costly in overcast conditions.
They undoubtedly had the worst of things, having lost the toss, and the New Zealanders were able to play with freedom due to a lack of scoreboard pressure.
England's maiden success came when McCullum, who hauled the ball over the rope three times in his quickfire 48, skied to cover off Broad in the 13th over.
The successes which followed, all to edges behind, arguably came after the course of the match had been sealed.
Andrew Strauss' team were already slipping towards defeat - and a place in the first semi at Centurion this Friday - when the Collingwood incident took place.
Having been beaten by a brute of a delivery from Kyle Mills, he stepped two yards up the wicket to examine the spot it had landed and wicketkeeper McCullum under-armed the ball into the stumps.
Technically, Collingwood should have re-entered his ground before his spot of pitch gardening, and square-leg umpire Asad Rauf called for third umpire adjudication.
Rauf and on-field colleague Daryl Harper liaised while the New Zealand players gathered in a huddle.
However, although TV official Aleem Dar confirmed Collingwood out on the replay screen, and he should have been deemed run out under the laws of the game, Vettori withdrew the appeal following prolonged discussions with his team-mates.
As New Zealand prepared to start the next over, Collingwood ran to mid-off to shake hands with Vettori.
To add to the spice of the drama, Collingwood has previous with the Kiwis: as captain 15 months ago he refused to pardon batsman Grant Elliott after a collision contributed to a run out at the Oval.
This latest captaincy issue - following incidents involving Angelo Mathews and Graeme Smith - came with England 27 for three after the top order was blitzed by an injury-hit New Zealand on a bowler-friendly surface.
Strauss, Joe Denly and Owais Shah all perished inside the opening half-a-dozen overs after the New Zealanders won the toss.
In similar conditions to those in which England reduced Sri Lanka to 17 for four in their opening Group B match, and with the floodlights on from the start, ball completely dominated.
Mills got the second delivery of the match to rear off a length and take the edge of Strauss' bat - England's bowlers had been examining the very spot before the toss took place.
Denly's off-stump was sent cartwheeling by a delivery from Shane Bond that nipped back.
Then, Shah, who smashed 98 against South Africa on Sunday to claim the man-of-the-match award, paid for an expansive stroke as his attempted pull off Bond provided a catch behind.
That meant Eoin Morgan, who continued as England's emergency wicketkeeper with first-choice Matt Prior still suffering from a virus, and Collingwood were required to take stock.
Despite knuckling down to the situation, however, left-hander Morgan succumbed to Ian Butler's extra bounce, having scored nine off 40 balls.
Collingwood, who cracked three sixes, was also undone by extra lift as he miscued a pull off Elliott to midwicket.
Elliott's innocuous-looking medium pace also reaped reward in three of his next four overs as he finished with four for 31, his best haul in one-day international cricket.
The inconsistency in the surface then did for Ravi Bopara, whose stubborn 30, came to its conclusion when he was pinned on the pads by a grubber from Bond.
Only a last-wicket stand of 29 between Ryan Sidebottom, preferred to Graham Onions in an unforced change, and James Anderson delayed the second innings until after the scheduled interval.
Aaron Redmond would have been opening for New Zealand but for a 12-hour delay on a long-haul flight from Brisbane via Hong Kong which meant he did not arrive until 7am this morning.
The Black Caps also went into their must-win Group B contest without Daryl Tuffey (broken hand).
That meant Butler, only declared fit yesterday following an intestinal infection, was recalled to the pace attack.
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