All on the line as injury-battered England gear up for New Zealand challenge
Both England and New Zealand will have tremendous respect for each other when the teams step on the field later on Wednesday for their ICC T20 World Cup semifinal, though Eoin Morgan's side would be slightly troubled by the absence of Jason Roy, who is out of the tournament with a calf injury.
While the Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson said that the "Evolution of the England white-ball side has been significant over a number of years", his opposite number Morgan said, "We know how consistent they've been over the last number of World Cups", highlighting their mutual respect for each other.
Having met at the business end of tournaments several times in the last few years, both captains know the enormity of the task at hand and would be pushing their teams to give off their best in oreder to make it to the final here. As far as the intensity of the match is concerned, it could rival the 2019 Cricket World Cup final or the 2016 T20 World Cup semifinal.
England defeated the Black Caps in the 2016 T20 World Cup semifinal before losing the title match to the West Indies, with Carlos Brathwaite doing the damage. At the 2019 50-over World Cup, the match ended with both teams scoring 241 runs, followed by the first Super Over in an ODI. England won the title, their first, on the boundary count-back rule after the Super Over also finished level.
Since then, New Zealand have insisted that that heartbreak is behind them. They have gone on to lift the ICC World Test Championship trophy, and come into this encounter with personnel who weren't in the middle for that 2019 Lord's match and don't carry those scars. For the team, this tournament is another chance to be rewarded with some silverware for the quality and consistency they have maintained across formats in the past few years.
New Zealand's bowling attack has proved to be one of the best balanced in the competition. In Trent Boult they have a solid left-arm pacer who can swing the ball, a right-arm quick in Tim Southee, someone who can bang the ball in at pace like Adam Milne, a left-arm spinner who dries up the runs in Mitchell Santner, a wicket-taking leg-spinner in Ish Sodhi, and an all-rounder in Jimmy Neesham who can take pace off the ball. They are an in-form attack anf going into the match they have no injury concers.
Their biggest challenge will be to adjust to the evening conditions at Abu Dhabi. Having played their last three games in the afternoon, their plans will have to account for the possibility of dew.
England, meanwhile, have unfinished business in the tournament. Last time's runners-up are ranked No.1 in the world, with their big-hitting batters and reliance on match-ups defining their successful approach.
However, their hopes were hit by an injury to Jason Roy, who pulled up with a calf injury during their final Super 12 game. Roy has since been ruled out of the tournament with James Vince drafted into the squad as a replacement. Having lost Tymal Mills to injury as well, and with stars like Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer ruled out before the tournament itself, Roy's injury could prove to be one too far for England.
"He's a guy who epitomises everything that we are about in the changing room and in the way that we play," captain Eoin Morgan had said of Roy after his injury. Morgan's big challenge now will be to rebalance the side for this crucial knockout game.
The teams have met 21 times in the format so far, with England having the edge with 12 wins to New Zealand's seven. The last time the teams met in a bilateral T20I series, they were locked 2-2 and tied in the final game before England again won the Super Over.
Given the history between these teams, it is relevant to note that the playing conditions for the tournament now allow for unlimited Super Overs until there is a clear winner.
Probable England XI: Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Dawid Malan, Liam Livingstone, Sam Billings, Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood.
Probable New Zealand XI: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (capt), Devon Conway (wk), Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult.
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