Venue: Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Date: Wednesday, November 10
The first semi-final of the 2021 T20 World Cup sees Group 1 winners England take on New Zealand, the second-placed team in Group 2. Both teams will fancy their chances in this one, especially given some of the team news coming out of the England camp.
England has been outstanding in this tournament and they boast the best net run rate of all the teams that have been in the UAE at 2.464. They have won four and lost just one of their five matches, claiming the top spot in the group over Australia on that net run rate metric after both finished with eight points in group play.
England set their stall out early, bowling out a disappointing West Indies side for just 55 in their opening game – the lowest score by a Full Member team in a men’s T20 World Cup match – claiming the win by six wickets in 8.2 overs. Comfortable wins over Bangladesh and Australia by eight wickets each followed before a 26 runs win over Sri Lanka that was a little closer to call. England lost their first match of the tournament – though they had already won the group by this stage – as they went down to South Africa by 10 runs in one of the highest-scoring matches of the competition so far.
New Zealand finished second in Group 2 and they also finished with four wins and a defeat (eight points) from their five matches. After losing their first match to eventual group winners Pakistan by five wickets the Black Caps faced an uphill battle to get to the semi-final stage. Their next match against India – one of the favorites heading into the World Cup – was massive, and New Zealand beat their rivals for a semi-final spot by eight wickets after holding India to 110/7 from their 20 overs. With this win in the bad, the Black Caps just had to hold serve against Scotland (16 run win), Namibia (52 run win), and Afghanistan (eight-wicket win) to qualify for the knockout stages.
The news that opener Jason Roy – one of the players of the tournament so far – has had to withdraw from the rest of the showpiece event with a torn calf muscle is a huge blow to England’s chances of winning here. Rot’s departure followed that of Tymal Mills who dropped out with a quad injury midway through the event. These two injuries are even more telling when you consider that Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, and Sam Curran didn’t even travel to UAE due to injury issues of their own. Seeing who partners Jos Buttler will be key and that is a decision that will have to be made by captain Eion Morgan that could dictate the outcome of this one.
New Zealand knows their route to winning this is to take out the top of the England order early and press a middle-order that has been largely irrelevant in the tournament to date. To that end you can expect to see Kane Williamson’s men try to expose Buttler et al with the new ball, using the speed and power bowling of Trent Boult and Tim Southee to get a wicket or two in the first six overs. Bowling is their strength – Adam Milne is another fast bowler more than capable of taking wickets – but there are questions on their ability to score enough runs to keep up with the power of Egnalnd.
It seems like New Zealand and England always find themselves matching up around this stage of every major cricket competition. I think that this will be England’s day – despite the injuries – as New Zealand doesn’t have the batting power or consistency to back in an upset here. The toss – as always in T20 – will be key, however, and if England is put in to bat first New Zealand becomes more worth a gamble.