Nothing that England did last night could affect their qualification for the Champions Trophy semi-finals.
This was just as well because for too long nothing was their contribution to their last group match. That they eventually lost to New Zealand by only four wickets merely avoided the walloping they had looked likely to receive.
England were desperate to win to maintain the much-vaunted commodity of the modern sportsman known as momentum. After having to bat first on a lively pitch on which their batsmen failed to apply themselves and instead adopted a high-risk strategy, this was always improbable. It is to be hoped that the momentum has not disappeared to some nether world whence it may never be recovered.
The Kiwis knocked off the required runs, a mere 147 of them, in 27.1 overs and somewhat surprisingly find themselves through to the semi-finals as winners of group B. Their bowlers exploited a helpful pitch expertly, aided by some stroke selection which might have been bold but was injudicious on this occasion. New Zealand's electrifying start to their innings by Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill ensured that their later jitters, provoked by some high quality seam bowling that at least understood the value of perseverance, were not terminal.
New Zealand have had much the better of recent one-day clashes between the sides, losing only five of the last 20, and their continuing pre-eminence demonstrates that while England have performed beyond expectations in the competition they are far from the finished article.
The match was marked by another controversy, the third in England's three matches. Indeed, for a few anxious moments it looked as though the tournament might have on its hands one of those incidents which send ructions through the entire cricket world.
With England already in deep trouble the last ball of the 11th over from Kyle Mills jumped at Paul Collingwood and he let it pass to the wicketkeeper, McCullum. Perhaps assuming the ball was dead, or maybe re-gathering his thoughts, Collingwood left his crease.
McCullum threw the ball at the stumps, hit them and appealed. The replay showed that Collingwood was out of his ground. But it was clear he had not been attempting a run.
The third umpire gave Collingwood out. The umpires, Daryl Harper and Asad Rauf consulted Daniel Vettori, New Zealand's captain. Vettori consulted his team. It was evident that at least a sizeable minority wanted to send Collingwood on his way. After a few moments, however, Vettori decided to reprieve the batsman.
"It was an easy decision to make" said Vettori. "He wasn't going for a run and the spirit of cricket is at the forefront of peoples' minds at the moment." Collingwood knew he was lucky. England captain Andrew Strauss said: "He said that would only have had himself to blame for being so dozy."
There was, of course, previous between these sides. Collingwood was captain of England at The Oval last year when Grant Elliott was run out following a collision with Ryan Sidebottom. Collingwood could have spared Elliott but did not, much to New Zealand's anger.
Collingwood went on to become his side's top scorer but was then well caught at mid-wicket by Ross Taylor. The bowler was Elliott. The pair had not met since The Oval: poetic justice, Elliott might have thought, though they did not seem to be the words he enunciated in Collingwood's direction as the batsman began the walk back."Karma," said Elliott later.
Thereafter it was a case of damage limitation for England. Ravi Bopara was diligent but undone by low bounce. Only a last-wicket partnership of 29 gave them a remotely serviceable total. Or that was the case until McCullum and Guptill began blazing away. They reached 84 before McCullum skied one too many and, though Stuart Broad achieved some disconcerting bounce, it was too little, too late for England.
*Stuart Broad will have a scan today after suffering tightness in his left gluteal region.
England v New Zealand: Scoreboard
*New Zealand beat England by 4 wickets.
New Zealand won toss
*A Strauss c McCullum b Mills: 0
J Denly b Bond: 5
12 balls 1 four
O Shah c McCullum b Bond: 3
P Collingwood c Taylor b Elliott: 40
58 balls 2 fours 3 sixes
†E Morgan c Taylor b Butler: 9
40 balls 1 four
R Bopara lbw b Bond: 30
51 balls 2 fours
L Wright c McCullum b Elliott: 4
6 balls 1 four
S Broad c & b Elliott: 1
G Swann c McCullum b Elliott: 11
20 balls 1 four
R Sidebottom c Taylor b Vettori: 20
41 balls 3 fours
J Anderson not out: 4
Extras (b 4, lb 4, w 9, nb 2): 19
Total (43.1 overs): 146
Fall: 1-0 (Strauss), 2-10 (Denly), 3-13 (Shah), 4-50 (Morgan), 5-80 (Collingwood), 6-90 (Wright), 7-95 (Broad), 8-109 (Swann), 9-117 (Bopara), 10-146 (Sidebottom).
Bowling: K Mills 10-2-19-1 (8-1-18-1, 2-1-1-0), S Bond 10-2-21-3 (6-1-11-2, 4-1-10-1), J Franklin 6-0-31-0 (w1) (4-0-23-0, 2-0-8-0), I Butler 8-1-34-1 (w3nb2) (6-1-24-1, 2-0-10-0), G Elliott 8-0-31-4 (w4) (one spell), D Vettori 1.1-0-2-1 (one spell).
Progress: 50 18.1 overs; 100 29.1 overs.
†B McCullum c Bopara b Broad: 48
39 balls 4 fours 3 sixes
M Guptill c Swann b Anderson: 53
55 balls 7 fours 1 six
N Broom c Morgan b Sidebottom: 17
36 balls 1 four
R Taylor c Swann b Broad: 1
G Elliott c Morgan b Broad: 3
G Hopkins c Morgan b Broad: 2
*D Vettori not out: 10
8 balls 2 fours
J Franklin not out: 2
Extras (lb 7, w 4): 11
Total (6 wkts, 27.1 overs): 147
Fall: 1-84 (McCullum), 2-113 (Guptill), 3-114 (Taylor), 4-118 (Elliott), 5-129 (Hopkins), 6-140 (Broom).
Did Not Bat: K D Mills, S E Bond, I G Butler.
Bowling: J Anderson 10-0-53-1 (4-0-26-0, 1-0-9-0, 5-0-18-1), R Sidebottom 6-0-32-1 (w1) (4-0-23-0, 2-0-9-1), S Broad 8.1-1-39-4 (w1) (3-0-23-1, 5.1-0-16-3,), P Collingwood 3-0-16-0 (w1) (one spell).
Progress: 50 7.5 overs; 100 15.5 overs. Guptill 50: 51 balls, 7 fours, 1 six
Umpires: Asad Rauf & D J Harper.
TV replay umpire : Aleem Dar. Match referee: S J Davis.