New Zealand pulled off a heist to upstage England by five wickets in the first semifinal of the T20 World Cup after opener Daryl Mitchell’s heroics and James Neesham’s blitzkrieg in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
By entering the final of the T20 showpiece, New Zealand avenged their heartbreaking loss in the summit showdown of the 2019 ODI World Cup against the same opponents, when they finished second best on the basis of boundary count.
Opener Mitchell blazed his away to an unbeaten 47-ball 72, while Neesham smashed 27 in just 11 deliveries. In between, Devon Conway made an invaluable 46 off 38 balls as New Zealand chased down a target of 167 with six balls to spare.
Needing 57 off 24 balls, Neesham carted Chris Jordan for two sixes and a four for a total of 23 runs. The big over brought the equation down to 34 from 18 balls for New Zealand.
Neesham and Daryl Mitchell then smashed a six each but the former ended up hitting Adil Rashid straight to Eoin Morgan in the covers in the 18th over.
However, Mitchell pulverised Chris Woakes for two more sixes and a four to finish the job with an over to spare, something that seemed impossible a few moments ago.
In pursuit of 167, Martin Guptill (4) began New Zealand’s chase with a first-ball boundary but, two balls later, the opener, so vital to his team’s prospects, got a leading edge off Woakes to hand England a massive advantage right in the beginning of their innings.
As England tightened the noose, Kane Williamson tried to break the shackles but in doing so the Kiwi skipper ended up top-edging Woakes to Rashid, as New Zealand slipped to 13 for two in third over.
The two early wickets put England in the driver’s seat as New Zealand struggled to keep pace with the required run rate.
That the dew didn’t become much of a factor at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, did not help New Zealand’s cause as the English bowlers did not face problems in gripping the ball.
Conway and Mitchell found the boundaries on and off, but New Zealand needed more than that to mount a serious challenge to their opponents.
That was not to be, as Conway was stumped by Jos Buttler to end a valiant effort.
Earlier, all-rounder Moeen Ali top-scored with an unbeaten 37-ball 51 to propel England to 166 for four.
Sent into bat, Moeen and Dawid Malan (42 off 30 balls) were England’s main contributors with the willow.
Moeen smashed three fours and two sixes, while Malan struck four boundaries and a maximum.
After three relatively quiet overs, opener Jos Buttler (29) smashed Trent Boult for two successive boundaries — one straight down the ground and then the batter reached out to a wide delivery to play it through the covers.
Boult then pitched one too short and the ball flew past Buttler as well as wicketkeeper Devon Conway for another boundary and an extra run in the form of a wide.
Promoted to the top of the order in the absence of injured Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow (13) played his first attacking shot straight over the bowler’s head for a boundary, as England reached 37 for no loss in five overs.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson effected a bowling change and the move immediately paid dividends as the skipper himself pulled off a fine diving catch at mid-off off Adam Milne’s first delivery to signal the end of Bairstow’s stay in the middle.
That Milne over not just gave the Kiwis their first breakthrough, but it also stemmed the flow of runs, as England finished the power play at 40 for one.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi started his spell by giving away five runs before Buttler, not one to let the Kiwis take control of the proceedings, employed the reverse sweep to get a boundary against left-arm Mitchell Santner.
New Zealand soon had a lot to cheer about as Sodhi got the huge wicket of Buttler, who went for the reverse sweep again, but did not succeed on that occasion as the ball hit him on the pads. Dawid Malan ended the over on a good note, going inside-out to get himself a four.
James Neesham induced an edge off Malan’s blade, but Conway could not get to the ball, and three balls later, the batter drove the medium pacer for a boundary.
England had a productive 11th over as they scored 11 runs, thanks to two fours by Malan off Glenn Phillips.
Southee got the big wicket of an ominous-looking Malan just as he was about to cut loose. By then, Malan had added 63 runs for the third wicket with Moeen.
After Malan’s dismissal, the onus was on Moeen to propel England and the all-rounder did his job that was asked of him, with his lusty hits. Liam Livingstone chipped in with 17 off 10 balls, in a brisk 40-run partnership with Moeen.