Fired-up Bairstow leaves bat to do the talking
There's nothing "negative and pathetic" about Jonny Bairstow's batting at the cricket World Cup.
They were the words used by former England captain Michael Vaughan to describe fellow Yorkshireman Bairstow for suggesting that pundits wanted England to lose at the tournament.
Bairstow has acknowledged that criticism fired him up before scoring 111 against India in a crucial win at the weekend, and he has followed that with a knock of 106 on Wednesday to set England up for a 119-run win over New Zealand and a spot in the semifinals.
"Back to back 100s .. That's the way to do it Jonny Bairstow," Vaughan tweeted during the match against New Zealand. "Me and you must fall out more often."
Bairstow and fellow opener Jason Roy - who have three straight century partnerships in this World Cup - appear to hold the key to English success over the coming 10 days as they look to win a global 50-over title for the first time.
They set the tone for the innings with their positive, aggressive strokeplay, and have become England's best ever opening combination. By bringing up 100 in the 15th over, they achieved their 10th century stand since being thrown together over the last two years after Alex Hales lost his place in the team.
Roy has missed three games in this tournament because of injury and England lost two of them - to Sri Lanka and Australia. It plunged the tournament host and top-ranked side into some turmoil, leaving them needing to beat India and New Zealand to guarantee qualification to the semis.
Back in situ against India, they put on 160 for the opening wicket to breathe new life into England's once-formidable batting lineup. On Wednesday, the opening stand was 123 until Roy fell for 60.
"I think batting together for a period of time helps," Bairstow said. "You understand each other's games, each other's moods, get a feel for certain bowlers on certain pitches. The communication is key."
Bairstow was relentless as he went through his repertoire of strokes against New Zealand, including a straight drive for four in which he held his pose and then a straight six down the ground.
He flicked a full toss for four to bring up his century, and leapt in the air in celebration. England captain Eoin Morgan said Bairstow produced the "match-winning" innings.
"I thought we were outstanding today," Morgan said, "and it started with the two boys again at the top of the order, laying a good solid platform, batting how they do.
"It's not really calmness, it's more excitement. Guys are buzzing and smiling at how ridiculous some of the shots the two guys are playing. Good balls are being hit for four or six."
Bairstow seems to thrive when he is answering back to critics. It's as if he welcomed those comments from Vaughan to ignite a spark inside him at a critical stage in England's World Cup campaign.
England might be happy for Vaughan to get back on Twitter if this is the result.
Roy and Bairstow get England off to a flyer against New Zealand
Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow got England off to a flying start in their crunch World Cup match against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street on Wednesday.
In a match where victory for either side would see them into the semi-finals, England were 67-0 off 10 overs after home captain Eoin Morgan won the toss.
Roy was 26 not out and Bairstow unbeaten on 32.
The pair were carrying on from where they left off in England's 31-run win over India at Edgbaston on Sunday, when they shared a stand of 160, with Bairstow scoring 111 and Roy, returning from a torn hamstring, 66.
Wednesday's stand was the 17th time in 31 one-day internationals that Roy and Bairstow had shared a fifty partnership as openers.
Roy, however, was nearly out to the first ball of the match when he had a wild swing at left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner. The ball just missed the stumps and went past wicketkeeper Tom Latham for four byes.
But the fourth ball of the over saw Roy cover-drive Santner for four.
Santner's spell lasted just the one over, with New Zealand captain Kane Williamson bringing on Tim Southee at the Lumley Castle End.
Southee was playing for the first time at this World Cup after New Zealand suffered the setback of losing fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, their leading wicket-taker at the tournament, with a hamstring injury.
Bairstow hit two fours in successive balls off Southee, a cover-drive followed by a square-drive.
And the fifth over saw him hit three fours in a row - a clip through midwicket, a lofted cover drive and a thumping pull off Southee.
An England defeat would see them knocked out if Pakistan beat Bangladesh at Lord's on Friday.
But if New Zealand - like England looking to win the World Cup for the first time - lose, they should still go through to the last four on net run-rate.
New Zealand lose top wicket taker Ferguson for England showdown
England's chances of securing a place in the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup were given a boost with the news New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson will miss Wednesday's crucial clash in Durham with a hamstring injury.
Ferguson has been one of the stars of the tournament for the Kiwis, taking more wickets than anyone other that Australia's Mitchell Starc with 17.
"Lockie Ferguson has a tight left hamstring and will miss today's match against England as a precaution," the New Zealand team said in a statement.
England need to win to guarantee their place in the last four with defeat opening the door to Pakistan when they face Bangladesh in their final group game on Friday.
New Zealand have not mathematically secured a semi-final spot, but they would need to lose, Pakistan to beat Bangladesh and have a huge swing in net run rate to deny them a place in the top four.
Australia and India have already booked their place in the semi-finals.
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