First Semi-Final – New Zealand v England
Thursday March 31, 12:30am
The first semi-final of the 2016 World T20 Cup will take place in Delhi on Wednesday night when New Zealand take on England.
New Zealand are the only side to go through the group stages undefeated with wins over Australia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, batting first on every occasion. Their success has been built around their customised bowling attack which has omitted star swing bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee in favour of spinners Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum, backed up by medium-pacers Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott.
All three tweakers have been outstanding, averaging less than ten whilst conceding no more than a run a ball over the course of the tournament. The batting has not been quite as strong with Martin Guptill’s 80 against Pakistan the only Kiwi half-century of the competition so far, although they have played on some difficult surfaces.
Overall the Black Caps have been impressively adaptable, moulding their tactics and team selection to align with the conditions and it’s likely the Delhi pitch will dictate whether McCullum retains his place as the third spinner or is replaced by a quick such as Adam Milne or Mitchell McClenaghan.
England have had a bit of a strange tournament but ended up finishing second behind the West Indies in Group 1, separated only by net run rate after they posted three wins on the bounce. First up they ran into a Chris Gayle blitzkrieg before using some pyrotechnics of their own to chase down 230 against South Africa.
A stuttering win over lowly Afghanistan followed before another nervy effort over Sri Lanka to secure their place in the final four. Aside from a near-calamity against the Afghans, their batting has been powerful and highly effective, racking up three scores above 170 with middle-order pair Joe Root and Jos Buttler particularly damaging.
On the other hand their bowling has been profligate at times but in each match at least one bowler has stood up and with all-rounders such as Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali in the side they are not short on options. The return of genuine quick Liam Plunkett has also boosted the attack with the Yorkshireman conceding less than a five an over across the two games he’s been involved in.
Feroz Shah Kotla
England are well acquainted with the Kotla, having played their last two games here. The first match against Afghanistan produced a tricky surface that favoured the spinners, however the pitch was noticeably quicker for their clash with Sri Lanka where the slow-bowling duo of Adil Rashid and Moeen were taken for a combined 63 off their four overs.
- New Zealand have won nine of their last ten T20Is, including their last six straight.
- New Zealand have won their last seven T20Is when batting first.
- New Zealand have had a higher opening partnership than their opponents in seven of their last nine T20Is.
- England have lost only one of their last seven T20Is in Asia.
- England have won only two of their last ten T20Is when batting second.
With the superior form and arguably more impressive scalps, New Zealand are favourites to advance to their first ever World T20 final with England outsiders to make it to their second.
This is a classic battle of contrasting styles with New Zealand’s miserly bowling and serviceable batting up against England’s deep and dangerous batting plus their volatile bowling attack.
On recent form it’s almost impossible to oppose the Black Caps who have adjusted to a range of conditions expertly and knocked off the highly-fancied Indian and Australian sides in relatively low-scoring encounters.
However England are a dangerous outfit and have built up an impressive recent record in the sub-continent so I wouldn’t be rushing to get against them either. Conditions and the toss will be crucially important and if the Black Caps manage to bat first on a slow pitch this strongly favours them, however unfortunately we can’t make a guess at these things pre-match.
Therefore I’ll be looking for a slightly different angle to get with New Zealand. The Kiwis opening pair of Guptill and captain Kane Williamson have built up an impressive record of late with six half-century stands in their last nine T20Is.
In those nine matches the Black Caps’ opening partnership has averaged 65 whilst conceding an opening partnership of only 23 which has resulted in a higher opening partnership for New Zealand on seven out of nine occasions.
On the other hand the English pair of Jason Roy and Alex Hales haven’t quite gelled, and with such a long batting line-up they are not averse to taking risks early on which can often see one of them perish.
England’s last nine opening partnerships have averaged only 22 with no half-century stands, while their bowlers have conceded an average opening partnership of 36. With such compelling data I’ll have no hesitation in backing New Zealand to again rack up the higher opening partnership here.