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ENG v NZ (W) (1)
1st Semi-Final (N), Abu Dhabi, November 10, 2021, ICC Men's T20 World Cup
(19/20 ov, T:167) 167/5

New Zealand won by 5 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match
72* (47)
Cricinfo's MVP
112.28 ptsImpact List

England face test of depth against New Zealand's quiet efficiency

Their tied ODI World Cup final is history now, but it's history that could intrude on both teams' thoughts

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller

Big picture

Super Over, anyone?
By the time England and New Zealand take the field for another World Cup encounter, 850 days will have elapsed since the craziest contest of the lot. Plenty has happened since that extraordinary day at Lord's in July 2019 - a global pandemic, for starters, not to mention New Zealand's own trophy capture in the World Test Championship final - but time does little to diminish the wave upon wave of drama that we were privileged to witness that afternoon.
Both teams are bound to claim that those events at Lord's will have little impact on this rematch, on a different continent, in a different format, at a different stage of the competition, and with largely different sides too - there may be as few as five survivors each in the XIs that take the field this time out. And yet, here we are once again. An elite generation of players from both nations have been drawn together in the knock-out stages of another global tournament. It would be quite a feat of single-mindedness if their thoughts managed not to wander at some stage in the narrative.
Will England, in particular, have cause to rue a wealth of significant absentees? Their injury list for this tournament was already bulging, but somehow - even without the services of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, the two most iconic stars of that 2019 clash - they had pulled together a balanced and hotly competitive outfit, fit to mix it with the very best on show for the past fortnight.
By degrees, however, that enviable depth has been challenged as the sharp end approaches. First it was Tymal Mills, going lame with a thigh strain midway through a gripping tussle with Sri Lanka in Sharjah. No-one can claim to be a like-for-like for Archer, but through the addition of his own finely tuned skill-sets, particularly at the death, Mills had gone a long way towards mitigating that loss. With all due respect to the fit-again Mark Wood, his subtleties - or lack thereof - don't offer England quite the same versatility.
But then, perhaps more devastatingly still, came the popped calf that caused Jason Roy to limp out of the campaign, midway through a sprinted single against South Africa. Roy is perhaps the great unquantifiable on England's card - arguably Eoin Morgan's favourite team-mate, given his wholehearted commitment to gung-ho, selfless aggression. Take his gallop-and-thwack against Josh Hazlewood in the group stage for instance - a fierce slap through wide long-on to hit Australia's most probing seamer off his length from the very first ball he faced. Roy made just 22 from 20 balls on that occasion, but the agenda had been set, and Jos Buttler at the other end was in the perfect mood to capitalise.
In spite of all this, New Zealand will be perfectly happy once more to slot into the role of underdog in Abu Dhabi. In spite of all the evidence that India presented in their abject defeats to Pakistan and New Zealand in Dubai, there may be a sense once again that England will be grateful not to have to face Virat Kohli's men in a knock-out, just as was the case in the 2019 final when New Zealand again had been the side to oust them in the previous round.
Such a narrative does eternal, and wearying, disservice to New Zealand's proud record in ICC events. Finalists in each of the last 50-over events, semi-finalists so often before that that you thought they might have shaken off the "dark horses" tag some time around 1992. But it has always suited their agenda to be under-estimated. That's unlikely to change now.
Besides, New Zealand have an array of weapons, particularly in their bowling stocks, to put the squeeze on any opponents. In Trent Boult, they have a bona fide T20 star, a masterful operator at the top and tail of an innings; in Tim Southee they have a resurgent seam specialist - much like his opposite number Chris Woakes, sometimes experience really does trump all else. Conversely, Ish Sodhi and Mitch Santner have proven that excellence in this format doesn't always need to be refracted through a franchise-league prism for the full spectrum of skills to become apparent.
New Zealand's main challenge in recent days has been less their opponents, and more the context of a gruelling three matches in five days in the heat of the desert afternoon. In a distant echo of England's own progression to the knockouts in 2019, they faced three must-win matches in a row to guard against elimination, and while there was physical exhaustion to contend with, their minds stayed unwavering in a series of faultless wins against Scotland, Namibia and Afghanistan. The challenge is about to be cranked up a notch. But Kane Williamson's men know better than many global outfits about keeping their eyes on the prize.

Form guide

England LWWWW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
New Zealand WWWWL

In the spotlight

Who could be more driven for redemption thanMartin Guptill, Mr "Barest of Margins" himself? His crestfallen visage at Lord's is now etched into the sport's lore, but quite apart from the neatness of that particular narrative, here is a player whose form so far in the tournament - 176 runs at 35.20 and a strike-rate of 131.34, with no score below 17 - implies that he's braced for a break-out. His long-levered approach allows him to gather momentum the longer he stays in situ.
Moeen Ali arguably has a similar point to prove, given the tailing-off in form that led to his omission from the 2019 final. But in Sharjah, he was a significant beneficiary of Roy's misfortune, as he was promoted to No.3 with a license to pick up his free-flowing tempo, and he delivered with an agenda-setting 37 from 27. As a trophy-winner with Chennai Super Kings on these same pitches a month ago, he has the confidence and know-how to be the match-winner that England need. His powerplay offspin has been a revelation too... to England if not to his IPL peers, who you sense may have known his true value in this format long before his fellow countrymen.

Team news

So how do England replace the irreplaceable? Jonny Bairstow is the obvious contender to return to the top in Roy's stead, but the ever-scrutinised Dawid Malan - an entirely different type of batter - might yet get the promotion, and a chance to make his mark on a tournament in which he's yet really to stand out, for better or worse. Malan's durable attitude to T20 batting might yet prove a useful insurance policy if England lose the toss and have to set a target, for it's been notable how he was shunted down the order for two very contrasting chases against West Indies (56) and South Africa (190) - once again Moeen, carded at No. 6 or 7, is liable to float up the order in such circumstances, especially if there's spin to be attacked. Sam Billings is the worthy understudy in the middle order, although an alternative might be to use Roy's absence as an excuse to add an extra bowling option in David Willey's left-arm. He rarely dies wondering in the six-hitting stakes either and Morgan suggested that a late call would be made depending on conditions.
England (probable): 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Sam Billings/David Willey, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood
Kane Williamson's long-term elbow complaint remains a "bit of a challenge" for New Zealand's captain, but it's not going to derail him from the task at hand. New Zealand boast a settled XI that has grown into the campaign since that early loss to Pakistan. Adam Milne came in for Tim Seifert for their subsequent win over India, and they have since made it four in a row with no alterations.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daryl Mitchell, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway (wk), 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Adam Milne, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult.

Pitch and conditions

The build-up to this contest has been tragically overshadowed by news of the death of Mohan Singh, the chief curator of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. His surfaces have been among the tournament's best for batting so far, particularly in recent contests, with three first-innings totals of 189 or more in the last five games - including India's 210 for 2 against Afghanistan, the highest at any of the three grounds in the main event. More of the same might be in prospect on a pitch that Santner has already predicted will be "tough" for bowlers. Pitch No. 7 will be in use for this marquee fixture, previous used for South Africa vs Bangladesh and Namibia vs Pakistan in the Super 12s. The strip is central, meaning no markedly short boundary on either side to target in the match-ups.

Stats and trivia

  • New Zealand have won seven and lost 12 of their previous 21 T20Is against England, although that tally doesn't include their most recent clash in Auckland, precisely two years ago to the day. It was the deciding game with the five-match series locked at 2-2… and with memories of the World Cup still painfully fresh, of course it went to another Super Over. And sure enough England emerged triumphant again, in rather less controversial circumstances.
  • Jos Buttler has racked up the remarkable figures of 240 runs at 120.00 in five matches to date, at a rampant strike-rate of 155.84. He is not, however, the leading run-scorer in the tournament just yet. Pakistan's Babar Azam has 264 at 66.00, and he also has the capacity to add to that tally in the second semi-final against Australia.
  • With 11 wickets at 10.45 and an economy rate of 5.84, Trent Boult is the leading wicket-taker among seamers in the competition, behind Wanindu Hasaranga's 16 scalps - albeit that tally includes Sri Lanka's three matches in the qualifying rounds.
  • Quotes

    "It was an amazing game to be a part of. When it comes up in conversation, all the guys look back on it fondly and appreciate that experience. Although, at the time, the aftermath was very difficult to understand and perhaps didn't make a lot of sense."
    Kane Williamson admits that time is a healer for New Zealand after their boundary-countback loss in the World Cup final.
    "I've got very important roles and I'm really happy with my game and the way we're playing as a team. To be given that responsibility with the new ball or just outside of the powerplay, and then going up the order when Morgs [Eoin Morgan] gives me the nudge, it's always great."
    Moeen Ali admits he's riding high after starring with bat and ball in England's campaign .

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

    Win Probability
    NZ 100%
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    Over 19 • NZ 167/5

    New Zealand won by 5 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)
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