These two teams might not have been most people’s pick for semi-finalists before the tournament began. What with a lineup involving South Africa and Australia in respective groups to make things difficult for the weaker oppositions. But as things transpired, New Zealand have the top billing after going unbeaten in the group stages. England, on the other hand, provided the thrills and spills of sport and sealed passage for the semi-finals in the last game against Sri Lanka.
Now that they’re in New Delhi for the semi-finals, it is expected to be a battle of England’s strong batting lineup against New Zealand’s formidable spin threat provided by Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner.
One would expect New Zealand to have a slight upper hand before the first ball is bowled but as England has displayed in the tournament, it is hard to predict how they will fare. They absolutely pummeled South Africa to chase 230 runs in the second group stage game but Eoin Morgan’s side also survived a scare in the form of Afghanistan.
New Zealand who have never won a global tournament despite getting to the latter stages on numerous instances, will see this as a perfect opportunity in the aftermath of Martin Crowe’s demise. The largely young side led by Kane Williamson has a leader who is ready to make hard choices based on the conditions and situation. This can be very well explained by the fact that experienced members in Trent Boult and Tim Southee have yet to feature while the inexperienced Sodhi gets the nod. Not to forget, Santner has been a huge add to the squad with his left-arm spin. Between them, they’ve picked up 17 wickets in the tournament (nine for Santner and eight for Sodhi). Such has been the Kiwis’ strength with the ball, they’ve dismissed the opposition thrice in four matches so far.
To make things interesting and put their ability into perspective, all four wins have come at different venues (Nagpur, Dharamsala, Chandigarh and Kolkata). It also highlights the squad’s fitness level to travel so much in the space of two weeks and yet remain 100%. And once again, they’re at another venue – Delhi.
If New Zealand have one area of concern, it is their batting. In all four matches, the Kiwis have batted first and put together 126, 142, 180 and 145 – thus clearing the 150 run barrier only once.
On the other side of the fence, England rely heavily on their batting. It did the job against West Indies and South Africa but all but fell apart against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Joe Root’s 83 against the Proteas helped them chase the massive target while Jos Buttler delivered versus Sri Lanka.
In the bowling department, the pace attack of David Willey, Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes will be their key ingredients but on a slow pitch such as Kotla, it is the spinners who would be required to get the job done. For this purpose, Adil Rasheed and Moeen Ali would be needed to step up the pitch.
HEAD-TO-HEAD (in World T20): 2-2
England: Top scorer: Joe Root (168 runs); Top wicket-taker: David Willey (six wickets)
New Zealand: Top scorer: Martin Guptill (125 runs); Top wicket-taker: Mitchell Santner (nine wickets)