Title favourites but injury-hit England will bank on their X-Factor players to upstage a remarkably consistent New Zealand in the first semifinal of the T20 World Cup 2021 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. (More Cricket News)
England were the pre-tournament favourites and played like one for the majority of the Super 12 stage. However, their loss in the final group game to South Africa showed that they were not an invincible outfit.
The absence of Jason Roy, who suffered a calf injury against the Proteas, is a big blow to the team heading into the semifinals. Roy and Jos Buttler made arguably the most destructive opening pairing of the tournament.
With Roy ruled out of World Cup, there is a strong possibility that Jonny Bairstow will be promoted to bat alongside Buttler, who will be expected to play another match-winning knock on Wednesday.
Sam Billings is likely to come into the team and bat in the middle order. A big positive is that most of the batters have spent valuable time in the middle going into the knockout game.
However, concerns have emerged in the bowling department after Tymal Mills was ruled out of the tournament with a thigh injury. Mills was doing a brilliant job in the death overs but now, it will be one area that the opponents would look to exploit.
Mark Wood, who has the pace but not the variations of Mills, was the most expensive bowler against South Africa. England would be hoping it was just one bad day in the office for their pacers as all of them leaked runs.
The role of spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid will be massive as they will aim to provide the wickets in the powerplay and middle overs. Players will also have the 2019 ODI World Cup final at the back of their minds where both teams could only be separated by a boundary countback rule.
Since then, New Zealand have displayed that they are not just a very consistent team in ICC events, they can also go all the way with their triumph in the World Test Championship final. The ‘nice guys’ of world cricket look good to finish first in this competition too.
New Zealand have been arguably the best bowling unit in the tournament, restricting the likes of India to 110. Even a dangerous side like Afghanistan could only muster 125 against them.
The seasoned new-ball duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee has been very hard to put away as they both have been immaculate with their line and lengths.
Lockie Ferguson's unavailability could have easily disturbed their plans but Adam Milne has proved to an able replacement. Both the spinners, Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, too have been impressive. Sodhi has provided wickets in the middle overs which has not allowed the opposition to break free.
New Zealand's batters have also made an impact during the course of the tournament. Opener Martin Guptill has been their leading run-getter with his partner Daryl Mitchell also in decent form. Skipper Kane Williamson got runs in the last game and will be itching to make another memorable contribution in the all-important semifinal.
Abu Dhabi has had the best batting surface across the three venues of the showpiece so one can expect a high-scoring affair.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Tom Curran, Reece Topley.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Adam Milne.