When England and New Zealand battle it out for a final berth in the World T20 today, it will be a fixture that any bookmaker would have ridiculed before the tournament began.
For two sides whose respective backyards are only familiar with green covers, England and New Zealand have performed extraordinarily well in the turning tracks of the subcontinent. While England came second only to West Indies in Group 1, New Zealand topped the ‘Group of Death’-Group 2- by sweeping all their matches. Despite their respectable performances in the Super 10 stage, both teams have a few loose ends to tie up before they go all in for today’s semi-final at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi.
England works on ‘Hales conundrum’; Root offers respite
Despite his unquestionable batting credentials, third-ranked T20I batsman in the world- Alex Hales is enduring a dry spell of runs up front. The lanky right-hander has yet to score a 30+ in the tournament. The fact that he failed against the under-fire bowling attack of West Indies, South Africa and Sri Lanka while the rest of the batsmen enjoyed fruitful stints in the middle, at least once, makes matters worse for the English think-tank. With the newly developed reputation of New Zealand’s bowlers, Hales won’t have the luxury of a breather when he takes them on.
On the contrary, Hales’ partner at the other end, James Roy, has risen to the occasion, gathering 105 runs to his name already in the competition. With backup opener James Vince hanging around the corner, Hales will be under pressure as his limited-over prowess comes face-to-face with some hostile Kiwi bowling.
Yet, England’s middle-order will intimidate the Black Caps, thanks to the overabundance of talent amongst the likes of captain Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes. Apart from being equally quick in scoring runs, all these batsmen have unique repertoires of shots, from inside and outside the cricketing manuals, which intensifies the depth and unpredictability down the order. Such team dynamics will cause a headache to any opposition, and even the Kiwis won’t be spared.
New Zealand wary of poor batting form
Apart from a well-constructed innings against Pakistan on Mohali’s belter, New Zealand’s batting order has crumbled to all the teams they faced. Even skipper and star batsman Kane Williamson, who is normally a good player of spin, has not come to grips with the turning tracks in India.
The firepower in New Zealand’s batting line-up has been almost redundant so far in the World Cup. The viewers could only see glimpses of it in the form of Martin Guptill’s aggressive knock of 80 and Ross Taylor’s overlooked cameos whereas the others have not woken up yet. As the English batsmen have clicked in most of their games, matching up to their standards at this hour will be a challenging task for the Kiwi camp.
Despite, the batsmen’s repeated failures, the bowlers, especially the spinners, have compensated in good measures. Two of the biggest finds of the World T20, leg spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner have together captured 17 wickets in the series. The surprise success of their vicious left-right partnership sums up New Zealand’s exceptional run in this World Cup.
Delhi hosts again; Delight for England
Although New Zealand will enter the pitch as the favourites owing to form and balance, England hold the distinct advantage of playing and winning two games already in the ground. Therefore, their strategies will be more precise than the Black Caps’. The stadium is also quite dear to England’s frontline pacer Chris Jordan, as he grabbed 5 wickets in his two appearances there.
Unless the Kotla track decides to behave uncharacteristically, England will be starting the proceedings as the more confident of the two.