New Delhi: New Zealand put to rest any demons from their agonising 2019 ODI World Cup final defeat to England by beating Eoin Morgan’s team by 5 wickets at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium, to reach their first-ever Men’s T20 World Cup final.
Chasing a target of 167, the Black Caps were immediately put on the back foot as veteran opener Martin Guptill and captain Kane Williamson were dismissed during the powerplay. However, it was fellow opener Daryl Mitchell and wicketkeeper Devon Conway’s 82-run partnership and allrounder James Neesham hitting 27 runs off 11 balls that swung the game in New Zealand’s favour.
Mitchell was named the Player of the Match for his unbeaten 72 off 47 balls, as he hit the winning runs in the final ball of the 19th over.
Kane Williamson’s Black Caps will now face the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Australia and Pakistan in the final of the tournament Sunday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Two-paced pitch where dew factor was seemingly overstated
Despite being the highest-scoring ground during the tournament, the Abu Dhabi pitch Wednesday was described as two-paced by players and commentators alike, as six-hitting from the get-go was a challenge.
However, top order batsmen Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Devon Conway and player of the match Daryl Mitchell were able to strike boundaries at will. They showed patience instead of going too aggressive too early and made the best use of the sizeable ground dimensions to regularly take singles and doubles.
Upon winning the toss, Black Caps captain Williamson sent England in to bat citing the dew factor. Morgan said he would have done the same thing had the toss gone in England’s favour.
But as the game went on, the dew factor appeared minimal as both teams’ top orders found it tough going in the powerplay, thanks to the pitch as well as disciplined off-stump lines from Tim Southee and Chris Woakes, with the latter reducing New Zealand to 14-2 off the first 3 overs, leaving them a mountain to climb.
Mitchell, Neesham shine
While Conway and Mitchell set the platform for New Zealand’s recovery, the dismissals of Conway and Glenn Phillips in quick succession to the surprisingly deceptive spin of Liam Livingstone left the Black Caps in a hole.
But in walked Neesham, who had bowled a crucial final over in the first innings.
From his second ball itself, Neesham targeted England’s specialist death bowler Chris Jordan in the 17th over, who repeatedly missed his lengths in his attempts to bowl fast yorkers, and either strayed too leg side or bowled wide half volleys.
By the end of the destruction, which included 2 sixes, 1 four and two missed catching opportunities, Jordan ended up conceding 23 runs in the over, ruining his economy rate from 4 to 10.33.
Mitchell, meanwhile, underwent a complete transformation within the innings from an anchor role to a power-hitting finisher as he punished Woakes and leg spinner Adil Rashid for bowling far too short at an insufficient pace in the death overs.
Spinners find grip on Abu Dhabi pitch
Given the unexpected lack of dew for the vast majority of the game, both New Zealand and England spinners found a great deal of grip on the Abu Dhabi surface.
Liam Livingstone, who can bowl both off spin and leg spin, was the only player on the English side who finished the game with his figures unscathed.
It would have been a Player of the Match performance in the event of an England victory as he not only broke the crucial Conway-Mitchell partnership but also ensured that Mitchell was unable to pick him throughout his spell.
In light of the assistance offered to spin, it was particularly baffling that Morgan did not provide a single over to off spinning allrounder Moeen Ali, who had already struck a fluent 51 not out in the first innings.
Having taken 7 wickets at an economy rate of 5.50 in his previous five matches in the tournament, Moeen could have possibly relieved the pressure on the likes of pacer Mark Wood in the middle overs, and provided an extra headache for left-handers like Neesham and Conway, despite the potential risk of him being targeted as the team’s sixth bowling option.
While it is a must for New Zealand to once again stick with what has been a winning lineup in five consecutive games at the tournament, Morgan will rue the many injuries that affected his squad as they will now prepare for the 2022 edition of the Men’s T20 World Cup to be held in Australia.
Brief scores: England 166-4 (Moeen Ali 51*, Dawid Malan 41, James Neesham 1-18); New Zealand 167-5 (Daryl Mitchell 72*, Devon Conway 46, Liam Livingstone 2-22)