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Coach Gary Stead lauds New Zealand's 'never-say-die attitude' during semi-final win against England

He also says that it's likely Tim Seifert will come in place of Devon Conway for the final

Deivarayan Muthu
12-Nov-2021
The New Zealand dugout erupts after the winning hit, England vs New Zealand, T20 World Cup, 1st semi-final, Abu Dhabi, November 10, 2021

The New Zealand dugout erupts after the winning hit  •  ICC via Getty

New Zealand had many heroes in their semi-final victory over one of the pre-tournament favourites England in Abu Dhabi. Tim Southee handcuffed England with his Test-match lines and lengths in the powerplay. Adam Milne had Jonny Bairstow jabbing a catch to mid-off. Chris Woakes then dismissed both Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson with Test-match lines and lengths of his own during New Zealand's pursuit of 167. However, New Zealand eventually scrapped to their first-ever T20 World Cup final, thanks to a late blitz from James Neesham and Daryl Mitchell.
Head coach Gary Stead was particularly impressed with how New Zealand dealt with pressure in Abu Dhabi and KO'd Eoin Morgan's men.
"I think the never-say-die attitude is that we pride ourselves on and take things, bigger teams right down to the wire and then it's who can hold their nerve the best as well in the most pressurised situation," Stead said. "The innings that Jimmy Neesham played put us in a position where we could genuinely win the game and then Daryl Mitchell had obviously fought throughout the innings and then him to finish it off...that was particularly pleasing as well.
"I thought on the whole we actually bowled pretty well. I think there was an odd over that went for a bit of a tap, but that happens in T20 cricket and if you watch the second semi-final, the same thing happened between two quality sides. It's really just about holding your nerve and that's the thing that was particularly pleasing for me that we managed to do that against the pre-tournament favourites."
Devon Conway also played his part in the semi-final by repairing the chase after early damage but has now been ruled out of the T20 World Cup final and the subsequent India tour after suffering a bizarre hand injury. In the absence of Conway, New Zealand have only one other genuine wicketkeeping option in their squad in Tim Seifert, who has played only one game this competition.
"Everyone keeps talking about the dew factor but that hasn't really been so much of a factor of perhaps what it was a couple of weeks ago"
Glenn Phillips can also keep wickets, but a back condition has prevented him from doing the job for longer periods. Moreover, New Zealand prefer having him in the hotspots in the outfield. Stead said that the potential inclusion of Seifert could result in rejigging the batting line-up.
"Look, I mean we need to have a keeper," Stead said. "So, it's likely that Tim [Seifert] will come into the side and then we will just balance out the attack and I guess the order of what we think is right. Dev [Devon Conway] has obviously been batting at [No.] 4. Whether we bring Glenn Phillips up one and put Seif in behind him - something that Kane and I have to work through the next day or so when we train and work those things out."
Stead was also wary of Australia who qualified for the finals by chasing down 177 against Pakistan, who arguably have had the best bowling attack in the competition.
"I think it's really exciting for this team to be in this situation again," he said. "We've played some wonderful cricket in the last four-five years and I guess people measure that success at World Cups. So, for us, to be in another final is really, really satisfying and rewarding for the team. Australia have got a bunch of guys who are real match-winners as well and we've got to make sure our planning and scouting is right on point for all their players because they can rip a game open pretty quickly as well."
Left-arm fingerspinner Mitchell Santner bowled just one over in the semi-final against England as New Zealand kept him away from the left-handed pair of Moeen Ali and Dawid Malan. In New Zealand's last game in the Super 12s, the left-handed Najibullah Zadran had taken him for 23 off nine balls from Santner. Stead, though, expected Santner to play a bigger role against Australia, who have only two left-handers in their top seven.
"I think that's the decision that Kane makes out on the field right there, so certainly wasn't pre-planned or anything like that," Stead explained. "With the two left-handers in, we just felt that [bowling Phillips] was a match-up. I think it was the 11th over that was worth shooing in and Malan hit him for a couple of fours and sad he bowled just the one over.
"But him [Santner] and Ish have been instrumental in us being in a final situation, being real stalwarts of our bowling attack. People who can rely on all conditions in the last four-five years. So, we'll certainly be leaning on them in the final when the time comes around."
The toss has been a significant factor in Dubai, with 11 out of the 12 matches at this venue being won by the side chasing. The only successful defence was by New Zealand against Scotland in a day game.
"Yeah it [the toss factor] is interesting because the last three games at Abu Dhabi and tonight [Thursday night] in Dubai, there was no dew at all," Stead said. "Everyone keeps talking about the dew factor but that hasn't really been so much of a factor of perhaps what it was a couple of weeks ago. That may be a temperature thing - not so sure about that.
"If you bat first and get a good score on the board, there's still a lot of pressure in the final situation as well. Again, we will work out what our strategy is and also understand that with the toss, there's a 50% chance of it going our way. Sometimes you win them and sometimes you don't. You've got to be prepared to do both."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo