New Zealand booked their place in the T20 World Cup 2021 final, registering a stunning five-wicket triumph over England in the first semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Chasing 167, the Kiwis were behind for the most part. However, a wonderful knock of 72* off 47 from opener Daryl Mitchell lifted New Zealand to a hard-fought win with six balls to spare. James Neesham (27 off 11) played a spectacular cameo to switch the momentum of the semi-final before Mitchell took the Kiwis over the winning line with some incredible hits at the end.
The 17th over bowled by Chris Jordan, which went for 23, was the game-changer. There was plenty of drama as England’s death-overs specialist crumbled under pressure.
It all began with a six thumped over midwicket by Neesham. A slower ball was then slammed over towards wide long-on for another maximum by the New Zealand left-hander. Jonny Bairstow made good ground to take a catch near the ropes. However, before Bairstow could relay the ball to the other fielder, Liam Livingstone, his knee touched the rope.
Neesham and Mitchell clobbered a six each off Adil Rashid to give New Zealand genuine hope. The latter’s stroke also brought up his hard-fought fifty. However, Neesham slapped the last ball of the 18th over to Eoin Morgan at cover, bringing an end to his brilliant cameo.
Following Neesham’s exit, New Zealand needed 20 from the last two. A nerveless Mitchell punished Chris Woakes for two sixes to swing the match completely. After slamming a slower ball over long on, he smacked a short ball over midwicket. The winning runs also came off Mitchell’s bat as he spanked a full toss through backward square for four.
New Zealand got off to a nervous start in their chase of 167 as two of their key players were dismissed in the powerplay. Martin Guptill got the Kiwis’ innings underway by whacking the first ball from Woakes for four. But that was all the New Zealand opener could manage in the semi-final as his attempted flick ended up as a leading edge to mid-on.
Woakes dealt New Zealand’s hopes an even bigger blow by sending back Kane Williamson for 5. The Kiwi captain tried an uncharacteristic ramp over fine leg but only managed to pick out the fielder at short fine leg. Devon Conway and Mitchell played a few decent strokes but New Zealand were in trouble at 36 for 2 at the end of the powerplay.
Conway and Mitchell struggled to get their timing right in the next few overs as England bowlers gained control of proceedings. New Zealand crawled to 58 for 2 at the halfway stage, with the required run rate touching 11.
Immediately after the break, a desperate Mitchell whacked the first ball from Mark Wood down the ground for four. Conway then charged down the track and carved a pacy back-of-a-length ball for six over third man. In the 13th over, Mitchell lofted Rashid for a maximum to long-off as Jordan’s acrobatic effort near the ropes went in vain.
New Zealand were still well behind the asking rate, though. With the pressure rising, Conway again danced down the track but this time missed his swipe at Livingstone and was stumped. The Kiwis went into the last five overs needing 60 to win.
With the first ball of the 16th over, Livingstone put New Zealand in further trouble. Glenn Phillips (2) holed out to long-off, trying to whack a tossed-up delivery. Livingstone bowled a brilliant over, conceding only three. Nothing went right for England after that as Mitchell and Neesham stole the game away.
Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan lift England to competitive 166 for 4
Moeen Ali (51* off 37) and Dawid Malan (41 off 30) played crucial knocks to lift England to a challenging 166 for 4 after they were sent into bat.
Trent Boult, one of New Zealand’s best bowlers, had an off day. He went for 40 in his four overs and failed to pick up a wicket as well, which hurt the Kiwis’ potency. They were not their usual sharp self on the field either, with a few chances going down.
On expected lines, England went with Bairstow in place of the injured Jason Roy at the top of the order. However, Bairstow, short of runs in the T20 World Cup, struggled for fluency. He tried hard to find the boundaries but failed more often than he succeeded. His unimpressive knock ended on 13 from 17 as he guided Adam Milne straight to mid-off.
Jos Buttler continued to look in good touch and hit a few well-timed boundaries. However, he perished to Ish Sodhi for 29, going for an ambitious reverse-sweep. Buttler completely missed a good length delivery and was trapped in front of the stumps.
Neesham could have had Malan in his first over but part-time keeper Conway put down a not-so-difficult chance. The England left-hander looked to drive a good length ball that was angling away but only managed to find the edge. The let-off proved costly as Malan went on to play a crucial knock.
Immediately after the drinks break, Malan played two handsome cover drives off Phillips for boundaries. There was a second life for the England batter as he drilled one back to Adam Milne but the bowler could not hang on to the tough chance.
The 16th over began with a bang for England as Malan smacked Tim Southee for a maximum over square leg. The Kiwi pacer, though, had his revenge the very next ball as Malan edged a short delivery to the keeper. Following Malan’s dismissal, Moeen ensured England got to a competitive total.
In the 17th over, he danced down the track and lofted Sodhi for a six over cow corner. In the next over, he hoicked a short ball from Milne over midwicket for another maximum. Livingstone joined in by slamming the bowler over his head for a six.
Livingstone perished in the last over, having contributed a handy cameo of 17 in 10. Moeen brought up his fifty by smacking Neesham for a four over extra over as England finished on a high.
England vs New Zealand 1st semi-final: Who won Player of the Match in yesterday's T20 World Cup 2021 match?
Mitchell was brilliant for New Zealand with his unbeaten 72. He didn’t give it away even when he wasn’t getting the big hits. Eventually, he played a blinder. The victory couldn’t have been possible without Neesham’s 11-ball 27. Southee was New Zealand’s best bowler with figures of 1 for 24.
For England, Moeen played a mature knock under pressure. They needed someone to lift their run rate in the last five overs and the all-rounder timed his innings to perfection with an icy-cool half-century. Malan had his slice of luck but utilized the same and played a crucial innings that gave England momentum after Bairstow and Buttler’s dismissals.
Woakes was brilliant with the ball for England at the start. His twin strikes of Guptill and Williamson put New Zealand on the back foot in the chase. However, he went for plenty at the death. Livingstone impressed with 2 for 22.
Mitchell was the deserved Player of the Match for his fantastic innings.
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