A confident England will face an unbeaten New Zealand in the first semi-final of the 2016 ICC World T20 at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Wednesday. England men go into the tournament with mixed fortunes, but were definitely better than the other top teams in the group that got knocked out. They went down to West Indies in spite of a terrific batting display, but that was only because Chris Gayle singlehandedly got the better of them. They then chased down a record score against South Africa, before somehow scraping through against Afghanistan after a disastrous start. They dominated their last match against Sri Lanka, and eventually managed to survive Angelo Mathews' brilliance to progress to the final four.
In contrast to England's struggles, New Zealand have rather surprisingly breezed through the group games. In the first match against India, they outdid the much-fancied hosts beating the Indians in their own game courtesy smart use of their bowling resources. They then came up against old rivals Australia, and again proved to be the better side, skilfully and tactfully. If it was spin that did the trick against India, the Kiwis utilised their pace resources to outshine the Aussies. By the time they were to face Pakistan, their batsmen had pretty much gotten hold of the conditions. And, in the final match against Bangladesh, they basically steamrolled to victory.
If there is one area where England can perhaps exploit the Kiwis, it is in the fact that they haven't chased anything in the tournament. In all the matches, they have batted first, and the bowlers have successfully defended the target that has been given to them. Come to think of it, not all their batsmen have been in great nick. Aggressive opener Martin Guptill has been the best of the lot with good support coming from skipper Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor lower down the order. But, Colin Munro has struggled in unfamiliar conditions while Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott too haven't been among the runs.
New Zealand's bowling choices have been rather interesting and intriguing at the same time. The spin trio of Ish Sodhi, Nathan McCullum and Mitchell Santner were absolutely brilliant in the match against India while Mitchell McClenaghan stepped up his game when the big challenge against Australia presented itself. Even Elliot has been very good with the ball. The batsmen have found it rather difficult to get him away, and he has been rewarded with some important wickets. As has been mentioned before, the lead bowling pair of Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been mere spectators, but it remains to be seen whether they are brought in for the big games.
While England have made it thus far, they have a few loopholes to plug. Their batting has been in excellent form thanks to the likes of Joe Root and Jason Roy, but it all fell apart for them rather embarrassingly against Afghanistan, before Moeen Ali and David Willey did the rescue act. Against South Africa, their bowlers went for many, and it needed to special effort from Root to see them over the line. Even against Sri Lanka, it needed a brilliant last over from Ben Stokes to assure victory. If England want to look at the positive side of things, it is definitely that they, unlike the Kiwis, they have overcome tough circumstances to progress. Whether that gives them an edge over New Zealand, time will tell.
-- By A Cricket Analyst