WT20 : New Zealand vs England World T20 Preview – 1st Semi-Final
The teams have showcased different approaches to the game, and New Zealand’s keep-it-simple philosophy will be tested against Morgan’s men
When New Zealand takes the field against England at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Wednesday (March 30) for the ICC World T20 2016 semifinal between the sides, it will be playing at its fifth different venue. England, in contrast, has had good experience of playing at the national capital. Kane Williamson, though, doesn’t think for a minute that his side is at a disadvantage.
“We’ve been able to see more of India than most opposition sides,” said the New Zealand captain, smiling. “The guys embraced it.”
This has typified New Zealand’s approach to the game in the last couple of years. What for some teams might be considered hurdles are simply learning experiences for the New Zealanders, with a captain who, like his predecessor, refuses to be drawn into a negative frame of mind.
More often than not, the simplest approach is best. For starters, Williamson has not tried for a second to copy-cat Brendon McCullum, whose large shoes were always going to be impossible to fill. “From my perspective I’m just trying to do the best job I can with many other leaders in the group. As a group it’s been nice to see the team continue to grow after the transition from Brendon. It’s important,” said Williamson. “It’s important to come up with certain game plans but ultimately it’s the players that are executing them on the day, which we have done till this moment. Going into tomorrow, it’s a big, exciting match, but our feet are firmly on the ground and we want to perform as best as we can.”
His side have arguably looked the most likely all tournament, not to mention the smartest and most savvy – and this extends beyond the playing arena into the selections they made. Trent Boult and Tim Southee would not, six months ago, have thought it likely they would be benched in a global tournament. And neither did the rest of the world imagine, for a second, that 24-year-old Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, four months younger, would perplex and outthink the world’s best batsmen. The pair have taken 17 wickets in four games with an average economy of 5.35.
Now England beckons, a side beginning to peak at the right time. England has not, however, cruised through easily, each match becoming a tussle – and often of its own making. After losing its opening match against West Indies, the chase against South Africa showed just how talented, flexible and powerful the batting lineup is, so much so that Kevin Pietersen – who helped lead England to its first T20 triumph in 2010 – believes that alone could win the team the trophy.
It narrowly escaped defeat against Afghanistan before a thrilling encounter versus Sri Lanka where the death bowling (by Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes) clawed back a victory which Sri Lanka itself had stolen in the middle overs. It was a notable win, too, for the fielding; Stokes nailed a run-out, took an important catch, and Joe Root – so dominant with bat in his hand – took a crucial diving catch at mid-off to crush Sri Lankan hearts.
As its former captain Michael Vaughan noted in a recent column, this is a side of belief and guts – a far cry from the timid teams England trotted out in previous tournaments. England has claimed victory in eight of its previous 12 completed T20 Internationals played against New Zealand, none more important than tomorrow’s match at Delhi.
A lot has been made, too, of England potentially holding an advantage playing at Delhi. “This is our third game there so you could say it’s like a home game, even though it’s in India,” said Stokes. “I think it does (offer an advantage), yeah. We learned a lot from the Afghanistan game leading into Sri Lanka, knowing we’re a little bit more used to the conditions, knowing it’s quite hard to get yourself in on a wicket like Delhi.
“And also having the experience of bowling here. We know that hitting that back-of-a-length is quite difficult, because it’s quite variable in bounce – some will skid through, others hold up. That’s one thing we’ll take into the game as well.”
Regardless, New Zealand has proven itself to be the most street-smart and adaptable side in this tournament. A lack of experience at Delhi shouldn’t harm its chances too greatly, though England will certainly pounce at the first sign of timidity.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (capt), Colin Munro, Corey Anderson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott , Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitch Santner, Adam Milne/Nathan McCullum, Mitch McClenaghan, Ish Sodhi.