On Wednesday, the Black Caps bared their third consecutive defeat of the tournament in a thrashing 119-run loss to England at the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street.
Had they won, it would have been New Zealand and not England who were guaranteed of a place in the semi-finals.
But they were hardly ever in the hunt and New Zealand, who won five of their first six games in a sequence that included a washout with India, had to accept another defeat following losses to Pakistan and Australia — the team that beat them in the 2015 final.
The relief for Williamson’s men is they are all but certain of a place in the semi-finals given their huge net run-rate advantage over Pakistan.
And Williamson, whose team won’t play again until next week if they make the last four, believes group form will count for little now that the tournament is heading into the knockout stage.
He said “If we are fortunate to be in a semi-final, then we do have a little bit of a break. If you are in a knockout stage where it’s a semi-final opportunity, anything can happen. We know that we haven’t put out our best performance yet and we know when we do it gives us the best chance of beating anybody, without a doubt. It is important for us to perhaps have a couple of days away. We sort of have a bit of a break now.”
New Zealand’s chase against England saw them lose their top four inside 17 overs with just 69 runs on the scoreboard. They were bowled out for 186 with five overs to spare.
But Williamson was obstinate his side had not been trying to control the run-rate.
“We were trying to win the game, but we didn’t do a very good job of it,” he said. “We just needed a couple of big partnerships, certainly from the top order and it wasn’t there.”
New Zealand were in a weak position before the start when leading fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, who has taken 17 wickets in seven games this tournament, was ruled out because of tightness in his hamstring. But the 28-year-old should be fit in time for Tuesday’s semi-final at Old Trafford.
“He’s been outstanding throughout this whole tournament and a real point of difference for us,” said Williamson. “Did we miss him? Yes. But we’d miss him more if we didn’t have him, hopefully, in another game’s time.”
Meanwhile, Williamson, lamented the lack of important partnerships on a tricky Riverside track as New Zealand lost both their openers cheaply and the wheels came off their innings when Williamson and Ross Taylor both were run out in successive overs.
Tom Latham made a fighting 57 but New Zealand were still dismissed for 186 in 45 overs.
“Going into that second half, we just needed a couple of big partnerships, certainly from the top order and it wasn’t there,” said Williamson, who felt the path got tough to bat on midway through the England innings.