Alastair Cook admitted England rode their luck to reach the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy after the tightest of no-ball decisions fell in their favour at a critical moment against New Zealand.
With New Zealand needing 35 from 17 balls to win the match, reduced to 24 overs per side because of rain, Stuart Broad had Kane Williamson caught at mid-off. Replays showed the tiniest part of Broad&'s boot might just have been behind the line when he delivered the ball, and third umpire Steve Davis chose to uphold on-field official Rod Tucker's decision.
Williamson was starting to attack and had made 67 from 54 balls. England captain Cook conceded that had the Kiwi batsman been reprieved, his side could not have felt mistreated.
England's 10-run win helped put the ball-tampering issue to bed and booked a semi-final against either India or South Africa, with the opponents to be confirmed after Sri Lanka meet Australia today.
"On those decisions you probably have to go with the on-field umpire's call but if he had given a no-ball, we could not have had any complaints," said Cook, whose 64 from 47 deliveries earned him the man-of-the-match award. "Broady said that it might have been close; I didn't realise just how close.
"Even on the big screen, it looked as though a part of his foot landed just behind the line and then slid forward. New Zealand might have seen it differently but there will always be fine margins in sport. A reduced game like that is always nerve-wracking for the captain."
Cook's current priority is the Champions Trophy but he and team director Andy Flower will have been cheered by a tweet from Kevin Pietersen, which revealed he expects to play in Surrey's Championship match against Yorkshire at Headingley, starting on Friday.
It would be Pietersen's first taste of competitive cricket since a knee injury ruled him out of the third Test in New Zealand in March. While Pietersen aims for the start of the Ashes on 10 July, Cook remains cautious about Graeme Swann after the off-spinner missed his second game in the tournament, this time with a tight calf.
"We will play it safe with him," he said. "It depends how he pulls up but he will not be risked, because we're in the fortunate position of having James Tred-well, who is doing a great job for us.
"We've played pretty well in all three of our first-round games," Cook added. “Any team will be dangerous and we will have to be on top of our game in the semis.”
Despite losing in south Wales, New Zealand could still join England in the last four if Australia beat Sri Lanka by a slim margin. With a knowing smile, captain Brendon McCullum said: “We would love Australia to play some excellent cricket and win – as long as they don’t play too well. If we end up in the semi-finals, you never know what could happen.”