T20 World Cup: Kiwis have slight edge over England

In bowling, the Kiwi attack has looked a touch better than England's when it comes to taking wickets

New Zealand players celebrate the wicket of Afghanistan's Hazratullah Zazai. (AFP)
New Zealand players celebrate the wicket of Afghanistan's Hazratullah Zazai. (AFP)

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Wed 10 Nov 2021, 11:09 AM

Last updated: Wed 10 Nov 2021, 11:26 AM

The loss of two key players — Tymal Mills and Jason Roy — to injuries last week has made tonight’s semifinal a clash between equals. Perhaps it has tilted the advantage a bit in favour of New Zealand. England were in rampaging form until Mills, a death-overs specialist, and Roy, a blazing opener, suffered leg injuries that ruled both of them out of the rest of the tournament.

Mills pulling up in the game against Sri Lanka with a thigh strain in his second over didn’t cost England the game, thanks to Jos Buttler’s scintillating century which had given his side enough runs on the board. But the left-arm bowler’s absence against South Africa exposed the fragility of the England attack in the slog overs.

Sensing a chance to still qualify for the semis, South Africa, till then tentative performers in the tournament, went into overdrive batting first, slamming 189 for 2. Without Mills, England leaked runs heavily in the last few overs.

This was also the match in which Roy had a recurrence of a calf injury which had kept him out of the England side for a long period. England were 38 for no loss when Roy walked off the field in tears. Despite the best efforts of Buttler, Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone, England lost the match by 10 runs.

Roy’s absence will mean England will have to reshuffle their batting order. While they have Jonny Bairstow and Malan — even Moeen — who can fill this role, the stable partnership between Roy and Buttler, which had contributed so much to England’s heady campaign until then, has been disrupted.

How teams perform in the powerplay — batting and bowling — has been a key feature in determining the outcome of a match, and at least in the batting aspect. New Zealand may have the advantage through Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell who, like Roy and Buttler, were among the best opening pairs in the tournament.

England's Jos Buttler plays a shot against Australia in Dubai. (AFP)
England's Jos Buttler plays a shot against Australia in Dubai. (AFP)

Buttler, of course, can be a one-man army and has been the best batsman in the World Cup. His century against Sri Lanka was sensational. But Guptill, on his day, can be as destructive so England’s bowlers will not have it as easy in the powerplay as they did against other teams.

There’s not much to choose between the middle order of both teams, but again the Kiwis seem a nudge ahead because they have strong finishers in Glenn Phillips and Jimmy Neesham. But if Eoin Morgan, who looked like he had pulled himself out of a protracted lean trot, comes good, the advantage would move towards England.

In bowling too, the Kiwi attack has looked a touch better than England’s when it comes to taking wickets and economy rate — more so after Mills’s absence as mentioned earlier.

Boult, Tim Southee and Adam Milne have consistently provided wickets in powerplay and slog over, and spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner have been quite superb in the middle overs, choking up runs and picking up wickets.

Both teams are led by captains with resolve, resourcefulness and imagination. Morgan and Williamson have a thorough understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of their players, read match situations brilliantly.

In a very limited sense, this contest is part two of the rivalry between the two teams that had lit up the 2019 ODI World Cup. The format’s different, and this is a semifinal. But if the match produces anything similar to the thrilling final at Lord’s a little over two years ago, it will make this tournament everlastingly memorable too.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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