BRISBANE: England rescued their Twenty20 World Cup hopes as they held their nerve to see off New Zealand by 20 runs at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday. England, who had been facing almost certain elimination had they lost, moved up into the top two in Group 1 along with their opponents with one round of matches to go. Only the top two reach the semi-finals.

It puts enormous pressure on hosts and defending champions Australia, who must now win their last match against Afghanistan and hope England and New Zealand stumble. Skipper Jos Buttler smashed 73 off 47 balls as England reached 179-6 and finally started to show why they were one of the pre-tournament favorites. They then got away to a perfect start in the field when New Zealand opener Devon Conway leg-glanced a ball from Chris Woakes and Buttler took a spectacular diving catch.

It got worse for the Kiwis when Finn Allen pulled a slower ball from Sam Curran to Ben Stokes at deep mid-wicket, leaving New Zealand 28-2 after five overs. The Black Caps were struggling against a tight bowling attack, but the momentum swung firmly towards them when Moeen Ali dropped the in-form Glenn Phillips when he was on 15 and New Zealand 64-2. Phillips skied an attempted pull shot straight to Ali, who somehow didn't get a hand on it.

Phillips, who blasted a century against Sri Lanka in New Zealand's last match, made the English pay as he raced to his half century off only 25 balls. Buttler was ringing the changes with his attack as he tried seven bowlers to try and make the breakthrough. His seventh choice finally paid off when Kane Williamson (40) squeezed a Stokes delivery to Adil Rashid at short third. James Neesham came and went for six but Phillips kept on smashing the England attack all over the Gabba.

He lost Daryl Mitchell, caught on the boundary by substitute fielder Chris Jordan off Mark Wood, before falling the same way off Sam Curran almost immediately. Once Phillips fell, New Zealand's challenge was as good as over as the lower order struggled to find the boundary. Earlier, Buttler was dropped twice during his entertaining knock, passing former captain Eoin Morgan as the highest run-scorer for England in T20 internationals. New Zealand, England and Australia are all on five points after four games with New Zealand top of Group 1 on net run rate, with England second.

Afghanistan down

Meanwhile, Dhananjaya de Silva scored an unbeaten 66 as Sri Lanka kept their slim Twenty20 World Cup hopes alive with a six-wicket win over Afghanistan at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday. The Asia Cup champions moved to four points in Group 1 and can still make the semi-finals, but they need other results to go their way. Group 1 leaders New Zealand were playing England, who have three points, in a later game at the Gabba Tuesday after Australia beat Ireland on Monday to move level on five points at the top but behind the Black Caps on net run rate.

The loss means Afghanistan are eliminated as they cannot make the semi-finals with one group match against Australia remaining after having two washouts and a opening defeat to England. Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi won the toss and chose to bat but Sri Lanka restricted them to 144-8, thanks largely to a fine spell from leg-spinner and player of the match Wanindu Hasaranga. The Sri Lankan run chase got off to a poor start when Mujeeb Ur Rahman spun one back to bowl Pathum Nissanka for 10.

'We fell short'

Kusal Mendis and de Silva recovered and took the score to 46 before Afghanistan trump card, leg-spinner Rashid Khan, drew a top edge from Mendis, giving keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz a simple catch. Khan took the next wicket when Charith Asalanka was caught by Azmat Omarzai on the boundary for 19 but by then Sri Lanka had reached 100 and had taken control of the run chase. De Silva played a perfectly measured innings, scoring his stylish 66 from 42 deliveries to guide the Sri Lankans home.

Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka was pleased with his side's efforts with both bat and ball. "I think we found some consistency today and it is important to continue it in the next game," Shanaka said. "The other games are beyond our control, but the aim is to win the next game with a healthy run rate." Hasaranga took 3-13 during Afghanistan's innings, not conceding a boundary in his four-over spell. Afghanistan batted well in patches and looked on course for a big score, but every time they began to open up, Sri Lanka's bowlers were able to take key wickers to keep them in check.

Despite six of Afghanistan's batsmen getting a good start to their innings, none was able to convert to a big score with Usman Ghani's 27 being the best. The target of 145 was at least 20 runs short of a competitive total and Sri Lanka cruised home with nine balls to spare when De Silva hit he winning four to take them to 148-4. "We had a good start in the powerplay but did not keep the momentum till the end," Nabi said of the Afghanistan effort in the field. - AFP