Having masterfully negotiated their way through to a first ever World Twenty20 semifinal, New Zealand will be aiming to continue their 100 percent record in the competition with a place in the final on the line against England in Delhi on Wednesday.
Having just lost their inspirational captain Brendon McCullum to retirement, expectations were not exactly sky high for New Zealand to break new ground in the showpiece event in cricket’s shortest format. They were also traveling to a part of the world to encounter conditions they hadn’t faced since late 2014. Yet they were the only unbeaten side through the group stage and unquestionably the most impressive performers.
Remarkably, given their lack of recent experience in India and the subcontinent in general, their success has been in large part based on their ability to expertly judge the conditions. The Black Caps have altered their lineup for each match based on what the pitch was offering up that day, a situation that has led to their star pace duo, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, not yet bowling a ball a ball in the tournament.
Without them, New Zealand beat India, Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh to emerge from a difficult group with flying colors. Still, captain Kane Williamson is not taking anything for granted against England.
“In terms of the favorite tag, I think that’s almost impossible to do in T20 cricket,” he said in New Zealand’s pre-match press conference. “It’s so fickle in nature that on any given day the team that plays the best wins and anyone can beat anyone.
“We’ve been playing some good cricket up until now, fearless cricket and smart cricket, and that’s what we’ll be trying to do again and hope that that holds us in good stead in terms of a result. But at the same time we know we’re up against a very strong England team that will be trying their best to win the game. So we’re looking forward to it, it’s going to be exciting.”
While New Zealand have enjoyed smooth progress to the final four, England’s has been filled with tension. An opening defeat to a Chris-Gayle inspired West Indies immediately put Eoin Morgan’s side under pressure. And they looked to be on their way out when, in their second match, South Africa posted a mammoth total of 229. But England, led by Joe Root, provided an emphatic display of their firepower by mounting the second-highest successful chase in the history of Twenty20 internationals.
From there, there was still more anxiety to come, thanks to narrow wins over both Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, at the same venue where Wednesday’s semifinal will take place in Delhi. But England, who have so often looked behind the times in cricket’s limited-overs formats are now eyeing a repeat of their triumph in the 2010 World T20.
“I can’t quite believe where we are overall with our one-day cricket and our T20 cricket,” Morgan said ahead of the semifinal. “The guys we’ve selected have done outstandingly well, they’ve shown a great attitude in learning because “It’s not always easy to come up against very strong sides who knock you back on a day-to-day basis, but every question that’s been asked of us we’ve come back with either a counter-answer, or a more aggressive option.”
Match time: 9:30 a.m. EDT
TV channel: Willow TV (USA), Sky Sports 2 (UK), Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)