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Tactics board: Moeen's role, NZ's batting strategy and Sodhi's England match-up

A look at where the semi-final between England and New Zealand could be won or lost

The 2016 World T20 semi-final. The 2019 ODI World Cup final. And now, the 2021 T20 World Cup semi-final. That's three knockout matches in the last three World Cups. New Zealand have failed to win on the two previous occasions against England: can they get across the line this time around against the favourites? This is where the game could be won or lost.
Where should Moeen bat?
England's middle order has been largely untested in this competition. Only three batters have faced more than 60 balls and one of them, Jason Roy, is now injured. New Zealand have a well-rounded attack with all bowlers capable of bowling across all phases. Moeen Ali is the man in form and has been playing in these conditions for a while now.
With Roy not around, would it make sense for England to use Moeen at the fall of the first wicket to capitalise upon the powerplay or would England want to use Moeen the spin smasher to target Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner in the middle? Moeen at three - where he batted against South Africa - could upset New Zealand's rhythm by ensuring they bowl pace to him and that could delay the overs bowled by spin.
Dawid Malan is a slow starter and does not match up well against spin. In a knockout game, will England bank on Malan or the experience of Moeen who delivered just a month ago in an all-important IPL final wearing a Chennai Super Kings shirt?
Can New Zealand capitalise on England's death bowling
South Africa scored 49 runs in the last four overs the only time England were properly tested at the death. With Tymal Mills injured, England have lost their specialist in that phase. It remains to be seen whether Roy will be replaced by an extra bowler or not, but the options that England have at their disposal are not very exciting.
All their pace options have gone for plenty in the death across the last four years in T20 cricket. Barring Chris Jordan, who goes at 9.65 an over, their other options have conceded more than ten runs per over. New Zealand will look to follow the template South Africa set: keeping wickets in hand and maximising the death rather than going hard first up, particularly with a relatively shallow batting lineup that sees Santner carded at No. 7.
Can New Zealand's swing bowlers win the powerplay?
England's batters have some outstanding numbers in the powerplay this tournament. Their scoring rate of 8.33 is the best in the tournament and they have the tournament's second-highest run-getter in Jos Buttler.
However, this will be England's first night match in Abu Dhabi. Of the three venues in the UAE for this tournament, Abu Dhabi has been most favourable for seamers in the powerplay. Seamers average just 17.38 (at 5.92 runs per over) here compared to averages of 25.17 and 31.33 in Dubai and Sharjah respectively.
If the combination of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Adam Milne can extract seam, swing and bounce, then the England batters could face their toughest test in this tournament. Could 20 minutes of madness cost England the tournament? Only time will tell.
Can New Zealand find a way to attack England's fifth bowler?
If England replace Roy with a batter then how are they going to use their 'fifth' bowler? England's fifth bowler has been fantastic so far in the tournament: together Moeen and Liam Livingstone have picked up 11 wickets and have conceded less than six runs per over. With three right-handed batters in the top three for New Zealand, it would mean England may opt for the spin of Adil Rashid or the quicks early on.
Can New Zealand take the attack against Moeen and Livingstone, whenever they bowl? This will be vital if New Zealand are looking to put up a challenging score to defend or ease the pressure while chasing. Devon Conway, James Neesham and Santner are the left-handers in the middle order who may end up facing the fifth bowler the most, while Kane Williamson will need to show greater attacking intent than he has so far in order to take those spin overs down.

Other things to watch

Sodhi vs England
Sodhi has a very poor record against England, conceding 298 runs (with 20 sixes) at an economy of 11.03 runs per over. But these numbers mean very little: the majority of those games were played on grounds in New Zealand with much smaller dimensions than Abu Dhabi. On Wednesday, he gets a chance to bowl to England on the biggest ground of the tournament. That could work in his favour.
Morgan's form
Eoin Morgan enjoyed his career-best form in 2019 and 2020 but this year, he averages 17.59 and strikes at 118. Whichever metric you look at, he is struggling. England's middle order is hardly tested in the tournament and Morgan will want to ensure he can play an impactful innings in a pressure game. His performances in knockout matches across his career are underwhelming - though the sample size is small.
Additional inputs: Matt Roller

Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo