Opener hits unbeaten 72 to help New Zealand enter the T20 World Cup final, defeating favourites England by five wickets in Abu Dhabi.
With New Zealand and England, you wouldn’t think there would be an easy game. It wasn’t a Super Over this time but a night of fluctuating fortunes all the same. New Zealand finished it off in the 19th over, coming on top with a five-wicket win, following a late flourish from James Neesham 26 (10) and a match-winning Daryl Mitchell innings of 73 (48) to send pre-tournament favourites England packing and book a place in the T20 World Cup final.
At the 16-over mark in New Zealand’s run chase, they needed 57, chasing 167. Batting had been hard work all day. That’s when Neesham took the onus on himself. He targeted the mid-wicket and long-on arc and pumped two sixes in a 23-run Chris Jordan over. It was 34 needed in three now. England had an Adil Rashid over to complete. With spinners finding it difficult, Neesham could do no wrong. He targeted the mid-wicket boundary on the other end and sent the ball comfortably over the ropes. Mitchell at the other hand also freed his arms with a six of his own. It was slipping away from England.
Then, Neesham mistimed one. Rashid had a wicket and England needed 20 runs of the last two.
Chris Woakes strode on to bowl. He had been spectacular in the powerplay but this was death overs bowling. He had to quickly change his lengths. He didn’t, he couldn’t. Mitchell had batted all innings. He took the leather off Woakes’ short balls. 2,6,6,1,1,4 and it was over. England were going home.
At Abu Dhabi, it wasn’t the atmosphere one saw at Lord’s two years ago when the teams put together a game for the ages. But that didn’t matter, the stakes were high here too with a place in the finals up for grabs.
It also wasn’t a day where it would rain fours and sixes. Not with the long boundaries here. And with both teams’ canny tactics at play. England captain Eoin Morgan had said pre-match that he would be disappointed if they batted any differently in the semi-final to the way they had over the past four years – in top gear. The best time to attack is when the field is in.
But England weren’t able to free their arms in the powerplay. New Zealand simply didn’t allow them to. Except for one Trent Boult over, the innings’ fourth, where he lost his length and went for 16, England were kept in check. That Boult over pushed England up to 40/1 at the end of first six but they were aiming for more with the threat of dew.
New Zealand’s powerplay was all seam. Then Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner came on. Together they strangled the run-scoring. Consistent pressure first resulted in Jonny Bairstow’s (13) wicket, whose drive failed to clear the inner ring against Adam Milne. Then Jos Buttler (29) fell, missing a reverse sweep off Sodhi. Bairstow was promoted in Jason Roy’s absence, who could only watch from the sidelines this rare hit and miss start from England’s openers.
With England at 60/2 in nine overs, New Zealand would have liked a longer spell from Sodhi and Santner. But that’s when the cat-and-mouse game began. Moeen Ali had walked in to join Dawid Malan, two left-handers to counter the ball turning in to them. New Zealand captain Kane Williamson decided this was going to be a seven bowling options’ and one-over spells’ day. He responded by taking an over off Neesham to Glenn Phillips’ part-time off-spin and bringing back Milne. England didn’t run away – 25 runs came off those 3 overs – but the left-handers were hanging back for an assault.
It wasn’t coming, until England began to shift gears in the death overs. Williamson finally had to bowl Sodhi to Ali and the big-hitting Liam Livingstone. England cut loose. Ali deposited Sodhi for a maximum over long-on in the 17th and repeated the dose to a Milne short ball in the 18th. 56 runs came off the final 5 to lift England to 166. It was either side’s game at the break.
Batting didn’t get any easier in the second innings. England seamers banged the ball in at good lengths, which resulted in plenty of play and misses. Once Martin Guptill was out early and with New Zealand’s weak and long lower order, one felt it was down to the bat-twirling Williamson to lead the run-chase. Chris Woakes decided to deliver a rarity in T20 cricket, a wicket maiden. The wicket was that of Williamson. England were cock-a-hoop, New Zealand 13/2. Mitchell and Devon Conway decided to protect their wicket and take the game deep, before their late fireworks took them home.
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