T20 World Cup: Can Black Caps lay the ghost of the past?

New Zealand's Martin Guptill (centre) is consoled by teammates and England's Chris Woakes (right) after the team's heartbreaking defeat in the 2019 ODI World Cup final. (AFP file)
New Zealand's Martin Guptill (centre) is consoled by teammates and England's Chris Woakes (right) after the team's heartbreaking defeat in the 2019 ODI World Cup final. (AFP file)

New Zealand have an edge in the left-arm swing and seam that Boult brings, compared to the variations of Chris Jordan



By Sumit Chakraberty

Published: Wed 10 Nov 2021, 11:10 AM

Last updated: Wed 10 Nov 2021, 11:27 AM

Who can forget the farcical end to the 2019 ODI World Cup final between England and New Zealand? A deflection off Ben Stokes’ bat going for four overthrows, an umpiring error giving England six runs instead of five for that, a tied super over, and finally the World Cup being awarded to England because they scored more boundaries! The Kiwis deserved to win that final, and now they have an opportunity to get their pound of flesh. The first semifinal of the 2021 T20 World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday is a face-off between the same adversaries. Who has the upper hand this time?

Similar paths

Both teams entered the semifinals after one loss in the Super 12. England lost to South Africa in Sharjah, and New Zealand lost to Pakistan at the same venue. Each played one game in Abu Dhabi which they easily won chasing: England beat Bangladesh, and New Zealand beat Afghanistan. England’s big win was over Australia in Dubai, and New Zealand beat India at the same venue. Most evening games have favoured chasing teams, though three big totals by teams batting first in Abu Dhabi on featherbed pitches suggest that winning the toss may not suffice to win the game.

Seam advantage

Josh Hazlewood of Australia picked up six wickets in two games in Abu Dhabi by maintaining a Test match length. Kiwi seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee can similarly exploit the seam movement and bounce here. England will miss the left-arm seam of the injured Tymal Mills, though the express pace of his replacement Mark Wood matches up well with that of Adam Milne. Chris Woakes is just as suited for these conditions as Southee, though New Zealand have an edge in the left-arm swing and seam that Boult brings, compared to the variations of Chris Jordan.

Spin tilt

Leg-spinners Adil Rashid of England and Ish Sodhi of New Zealand have both been taking wickets. The off-spin of Moeen Ali has also proved very effective in this tournament for England, as he has bowled with courage and guile in the powerplay. The left-arm spin of Mitchell Santner has been patchy in comparison, and may not get much bite on a green wicket. Instead, the Kiwis can consider playing the tall all-rounder, Kyle Jamieson, whose seven wickets helped them win the World Test Championship final.

Batting approach

New Zealand go big with Martin Guptill at the top, then play situational cricket with Kane Williamson and Devon Conway, the migrant from South Africa who is turning out to be a left-handed version of the dependable Kiwi skipper. England have an even more attacking mindset at the top, although Jos Buttler showed in a Sharjah game that he could adopt a cautious approach when required in tricky conditions before teeing off later. Buttler’s partner in arms, Jason Roy, getting injured in the last game is a big blow. Instead of replacing him with the milder James Vince, England would be better off promoting Jonny Bairstow, who opened with aplomb for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. Sam Billings could come into the middle order.

Captains cool

Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson are the coolest and most astute captains in the tournament. Morgan took England to the top of limited overs cricket with buy-in for an attacking brand of cricket, where players know they won’t be penalised for taking high risks. Williamson has likewise made New Zealand a regular fixture in the knockout phase of ICC tournaments, besides winning the World Test Championship. He would want to correct the anomaly of the Kiwis never having won an ODI or T20 World Cup. What better way to take another step towards that goal than by getting the better of an equally astute and successful captain?

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru. Write to him at chakraberty@gmail.com


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