England versus New Zealand. Eoin Morgan vs Kane Williamson. Winner takes all. In an ICC global event. We have been here before, right?
Few who were at Lord’s that famous day two and half years ago will forget the drama and the madness of that day. Neither team deserved to lose that World Cup final but one unfortunately had to. Either way, it was arguably the best one-day international game of all time. It is impossible to imagine the semi-final of this tournament, which takes place on Wednesday (November 10) in Abu Dhabi, rivalling the atmosphere and the thrill of the 2019 final. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that this game is half as good. If it is, we will still be in for a treat.
The omens are good. These England and New Zealand teams may be very different in personnel to the ones that took the field at Lord’s but they have played some excellent cricket throughout this tournament. Both won four and lost one of their group games and while England’s first choice team is clearly superior, the spate of injuries they have suffered, the latest to Jason Roy, means the sides are more evenly matched than they might otherwise have been. It is certainly likely to be a close contest.
So far, the sides have taken different approaches to the balance of their side. England have gone for a batting heavy XI with Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali making up the fifth bowler quota. New Zealand, in contrast, have selected the extra bowler for much of the campaign, batting James Neesham at number six and Mitchell Santner at seven. It has proved successful to date although if England can make early inroads, as they did during their first four group stage matches, New Zealand’s batting depth may come under pressure.
Roy’s injury gives England the chance to copy New Zealand’s balance if they replace him with an all-rounder like David Willey. That is unlikely but not impossible given how England’s last match panned out. Their bowlers were slightly off kilter against South Africa and Eoin Morgan could have benefitted from having another bowling option. That experience could persuade him to include Willey or Tom Curran although England’s batting heavy strategy worked well in four of the group matches and still nearly worked against South Africa despite the bowling issues. It is not a straightforward call.
New Zealand have no such dilemmas. The well-worn cliches about them making the most of their talent and playing to their strengths have held true in this tournament. They do not have as many game-breakers as England do with bat or ball. But they have had a clear gameplan. Their strong bowling attack has put teams under pressure while the batters have played aggressively but without overreaching and exposing a long tail. When batting first, they have accepted that par scores keep them in the game while chasing has been done calmly and methodically.
This game will, in many ways, be a clash of styles and of tactics. New Zealand made England play an attritional game in that 2019 World Cup final which suited Williamson’s side better than it did Morgan’s. If New Zealand can do the same again in Abu Dhabi, they will have a fighting chance of gaining retribution.
When: England v New Zealand, 1st Semi-final, November 10, 18:00 Local, 19:30 IST
Where: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
What to expect:Surfaces in Abu Dhabi have been the best for batting of all three venues and it could be similar again for this game. Indications are that the pitch will be in the middle of the square so the batters will not have a short boundary to target. At least that should give the bowlers a little something to work with.
T20I Head-to-Head: England have the edge here having won 13 of the 21 T20Is played between the two sides while New Zealand have won seven (with one No Result). In T20 World Cups, the record is closer with England winning three and New Zealand two of their five encounters.
Injury/Availability Concerns:England have to ponder how to replace Jason Roy, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a calf injury. They could bring in Sam Billings or James Vince – moving Dawid Malan or Jonny Bairstow up to open if necessary – or could replace Roy with an all-rounder such as David Willey to give them another bowling option.
Tactics & Matchups: Roy’s injury puts the spotlight on England’s middle order which has been short of time in the middle, the result of their four dominant victories and a few cheap dismissals. Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone did at least spend some time at the crease in their last game against South Africa while Morgan played an important knock against Sri Lanka but it might be an area New Zealand can target, particularly if they can get early wickets.
Possible XI:Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Liam Livingstone, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid
Injury/Availability Concerns:Skipper Kane Williamson says that his elbow problem requires managing but he will not be missing a match of this magnitude. It is likely, indeed, that New Zealand select the same team as they did for their last four group matches.
Tactics & Matchups:New Zealand’s Powerplay bowling has been miserly so far in this tournament but not particularly incisive. They are one of only two teams – the other is England – to concede less than a run a ball in the first six overs but have only been able to pick up seven Powerplay wickets in their five games to date. Only Scotland and Namibia took less in the Super 12s. Given England’s middle order rustiness, early wickets will be paramount for New Zealand.
Possible XI:Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway (wk), Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
What they said:
“It’s been a long time coming, this T20 World Cup. It’s been exciting to be involved in it. And obviously it’s all coming to a quick end and we’ve got the semi-final. All going well, hopefully another game after that.” Kane Williamson is looking forward to the business end of the World Cup
“I wouldn’t say strong favourites. New Zealand have a full-strength squad. We’ve obviously been hampered with a lot of injuries throughout this tournament. We’re playing really good cricket. The guys are extremely excited about the challenge against New Zealand and potentially the opportunity that might follow that. But we need to play really good cricket in order to beat them,” Eoin Morgan is keen to lower expectations