Eoin Morgan
Eoin Morgan's England may start as favourites, but they will cast a wary eye on New Zealand in the first knockout game of the tournament. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: England start as favourites in the semi-final against New Zealand, but skipper Eoin Morgan will be ready for the ambush at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

It is a clash of teams with similar strengths. Both Morgan and Kane Williamson are proactive captains who can think quickly on their feet and know how to extract the best from their troops. But the depth in batting and the variation in bowling options give England the edge over their opponents.

New Zealand, though, don’t read too much into the capabilities of the rivals, they trust their own. By following their simple gameplan, Black Caps have stunned the cricketing world again by beating the likes of India against all odds, that too on conditions that favoured the Men in Blue. The New Zealand batting revolves around Martin Guptill and Williamson, though Daryl Mitchell and Devon Conway have lent their support with some useful knocks. But veterans Guptill and Williamson need to play the pivotal role in guiding them past England.


On the other hand, England batting looks solid with Jos Buttler, the second top-scorer in the competition, finding the sweet spot of his willow with amazing regularity. The wicketkeeper/batter along with skipper Morgan, Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan and the injured Jason Roy were steamrollering their opponents until the last game of the Super-12 when they fell short against South Africa. However, the absence of Roy, who got injured in the match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and more importantly Tymal Mills, could prove to be a big handicap for England in the semi-final.

That England have achieved this feat without Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer speaks volumes of the team’s bench-strength. England will be up against a team that is known for meticulous planning and perfect execution in a repeat of the 2019 50-over World Cup final. The Black Caps will be extra-motivated to avenge that loss on the countback of boundaries after both teams were level at the end of the Superover.

New Zealand’s lack of batting depth is more than compensated by two master tacticians in the bowling department — Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

Boult, who is joint second-highest wicket-taker along with Adam Zampa with 11 wickets, and Southee, have made it their habit to get early wicket to push the opponents on the backfoot.

However, they were not able to make much dent on the rival openers who are good against short-pitched deliveries. Hence will probably face the biggest test of the World Cup against the in-form Buttler, who is adept on both the backfoot and the frontfoot. Getting his wicket will be crucial, but then they will have to contend with Moeen, Livingston and skipper Morgan, who like Williamson, likes to take the spotlight on the big stage.

New Zealand produced a clinical display at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium while beating Afghanistan on Sunday, however, this will be the first time England will be playing on the ‘true’ pitch that has been offering plenty of assistance to the bowlers while giving the freedom to play through the line.

For Williamson and his men, the favourites tag don’t matter and time and again the Black Caps have proved that with proper planning one can outwit the opponents. They come out in force as a team, and it won’t be any different on Wednesday.

Catch the match

England vs New Zealand, Shaikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Start: 6pm.