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Bring on the pressure, dot-ball devil Mitchell Santner is up for it

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'Dream to be in a World Cup final' - Santner (2:48)

The left-arm spinner explains how he has turned himself into one of the most economical bowlers on the planet (2:48)

Mitchell Santner will be up against it at the World Cup final, where New Zealand will face the might of England; all England, really, as the stands at Lord's are going to be rooting for Eoin Morgan's men. And when it comes to Santner, England have hurt him in the past, and got away with it too.

The left-arm spinner's overall average against England's top-six batsmen is 61, and his economy rate is 6. All of England's batsmen have strong numbers against left-arm spin in the last four years, since the 2015 World Cup, and Lord's can be unkind to spinners, especially finger spinners.

But there are few players that can absorb pressure better than Santner. Two examples from the recent past. The first: on a sweltering April evening in Jaipur, on a day when even the coolest mind in cricket, MS Dhoni, lost his temper, Santner sealed victory for Chennai Super Kings with a last-ball six.

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The second, last Wednesday, when Santner choked the Indian middle-order in a spectacular first spell. Making use of a two-paced pitch that was taking spin, Santner built pressure with his dot balls. Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya had slowly started rebuilding the innings after a series of early setbacks. His first over to Pandya was a maiden. In his second, he kept Pant rooted to his crease on the first four balls. Next delivery, Pant walked out, and slogged into the hands of deep midwicket. Pandya, too, would pay the price for impatience soon. Santner's first spell read 6-2-7-2. It was match-wining spell that not just suffocated India, but also broke their confidence and momentum. Matt Henry won the match award, but Santner got a "world-class" badge from his captain Kane Williamson and head coach Gary Stead.

Now, Santner has to do it all over again. Against the most feared batting line-up, one that, seemingly, never ends. Santner's quota is key, and New Zealand would want to bowl all of it, as that will take some of the pressure off Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, whose medium-slow deliveries England might have identified as the weakest link.

Of the 141 overs bowled at Lord's this tournament, spinners have managed just 13 wickets, while bowling just two maidens. But Santner will gather confidence from the fact that the economy rate for spinners at Lord's has been a good 4.97. It is closer to his own World Cup 2019 economy of 4.87 - his corresponding career number is 4.89 - which is only behind the Afghanistan pair of Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi for spinners in the tournament (minimum 40 overs).

Santner is not a big tweaker of the ball. His strength is in his smart lengths. He judges the pitch, and the best pace for each surface, as he did against India, and varies his lengths accordingly. He has a good arm ball, and if he can float it at different speeds, he might make the English batsman think twice.

"Over here, there is a not a lot of spin, especially for a finger spinner, so my role through the middle is to build pressure and try and get wickets that way," Santner told ESPNcricinfo on Friday.

But, as mentioned before, the English batsmen like Santner. His most expensive figures at the World Cup came against them during the group phase, when he finished with 1 for 65, having bowled the first over of the match in which he conceded five runs.

He knows England might target him, but spots an opportunity there. "It can go one or two ways. That means you are always in the game rather them trying to block it out," he said. "It is a going to be a tough test. The role of spinner is bring your length back, bowl in to the wicket, rather than overpitch. Spinners get hurt when they overpitched, especially to Jason Roy, who can hit it 30 rows back. On smallish grounds, you have got to be real, real tough with your length."

It is not just Roy. Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Morgan, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler all play spin well, and run well. When not trying to smash it, they would look to manoeuvre the ball into the gaps and rotate strike and build pressure.

It's a bit like T20 cricket, and Santner admitted that he would make use of the experience of bowling in the IPL recently, where the pressure is constant across the 24 deliveries. "If you can build pressure, build dots in those shorter formats… the way England play it is a bit like that," he agreed. "So if you get a couple of dots and you are thinking, 'Hey, what's he gonna do? Is he going to charge? What's my best to ball to get hit for one even, rather than going for a six or a four.'"

It is this understanding of not just his own game but the game itself, how to be smart in different match situations, that Stead feels makes Santner stand out. "He is a special bowler for us," Stead said on Friday. "He has got really good control of line and length. His ability in T20 cricket helps him in 50-overs cricket as well: being able to defend himself when people come after him."

On Sunday, at Lord's, Santner and his team-mates will get live their schoolboy dream of playing the World Cup final. Santner is not nervous. He knows his role well - honest defence; keep it tight, build pressure.