First semifinal: Battle between equals

It will be a good contest between the New Zealand batsmen and the English bowlers, should the Kiwis bat first once again.

England captain Eoin Morgan warms up during a nets session at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Tuesday.   -  Getty Images

When this edition of World T20 began, not many would have backed teams like New Zealand and England to clash for a place in the final.

Much better-balanced teams like Australia and South Africa, consisting of some of the accomplished performers in the shortest format of the game, have returned home. This only goes to prove that sometimes, a resilient bunch is better than a reputed one.

To their credit, New Zealand and England have covered the distance in impressive ways. New Zealand, the only unbeaten team in the competition, is ready to take on an upbeat England which has won its last three matches.

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On form, New Zealand starts as an obvious favourite having won four matches — batting first — at four different venues. England, softened up by West Indies in the opener, made its presence felt by chasing down 229 against South Africa and never looked back.

New Zealand, riding mainly on the pyrotechnics of opener Martin Guptill, has not scored big in most of its matches, playing on pitches that assisted spin. England’s batting has come good in three matches, while its bowlers marked their presence in the last two matches at the Kotla here.

Therefore, in a limited sense, England is playing a ‘home’ game knowing the conditions much better than New Zealand. Ben Stokes, the Christchurch-born all-rounder who bowled an excellent final over in England’s 10-run victory over Sri Lanka, summed up England’s approach by saying, “We’re not going into this game thinking we’ve won it already, because we know New Zealand are the form team and they’re hard to beat, especially in this format at the moment. It’s going to be tough to get out into the middle and try and perform to our skills against the form team. But if we can perform anything like we have done over these last two games, we should do well.”

New Zealand’s tactics of testing out 13 players and resting pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee have worked well, with spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi turning out to be the surprise heroes. But can the Kiwis restrict a line-up including stroke-makers like Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root and Jos Buttler, not to forget skipper Eoin Morgan, remains to be seen.

On the other hand, England bowlers are looking better with every match. But New Zealand bats deep with several of its explosive batsmen yet to come good in this competition. Against Pakistan, after Guptill set the pace, the lower order batsmen did their job reasonably well to post the team’s highest total, crossing the 150-run mark for the first time.

Therefore, it will be a good contest between the New Zealand batsmen and the English bowlers, should the Kiwis bat first once again.

Also interesting will be England setting a target and thereby taking New Zealand out of its comfort zone of putting the runs on the board. Though chasing is not such a bad option on the Kotla pitch, it is likely that given a choice, New Zealand will bat first.

Overall, it will be a battle between equals with form pointing to New Zealand and familiarity to England.

POINTS TO PONDER

* New Zealand depended much on opener Martin Guptill after batting first in all four matches. This explosive opener has done well in the Power Play. On the flip side, the team has gone past the 150-run mark just once in four outings. With the ‘law of averages’ not in favour of Guptill, England will hope to get the opener cheaply and bring the rest of the line-up under pressure.

* England, playing its third straight match at the Ferozeshah Kotla, has the advantage of being familiar with the conditions. Knowing that the pitch assists spinners, England will hope that the duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid performs better than it did against Sri Lanka. In addition, England will have to target New Zealand’s spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner to gain a psychological edge.

* Watching England’s pace trio of Chris Johnson, David Willey and Ben Stokes bowl so well at the Kotla, it will be interesting to see if New Zealand gets tempted to include its two rested speedsters — Trent Boult and Tim Southee — in the playing XI.

The teams (from):

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi (wicketkeeper), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell McLenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Henry Nicholls and Adam Milne.

England: Eoin Morgan (captain), Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, James Vince, Reece Topley, Liam Dawson and Sam Billings.

HEAD TO HEAD:

Overall: England 8, New Zealand 4, No Result 1.

In World T20s: England 2, New Zealand 2.

Weather: Sunny day leading to a warm evening. Toss will not have a bearing on the result. Chasing is a good option.

Pitch: The dry surface has shown a tendency to help the slower bowlers. A total of around 170 should be considered par.

(Match begins at 7.30 p.m. IST)