England knocked out of T20 World Cup as New Zealand exact revenge to reach final


Modified Nov 11, 2021 1:26 AM IST

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Call it revenge, if you like for. Perhaps even the more evocative “redemption” if that plays better. New Zealand has beaten England in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup in one of the most remarkable matches since the 2019 ODI World Cup Final at Lord’s. And they did it more comprehensively than the boundary count of 19 to 18 in Abu Dhabi suggests.

Then again, even the margin of victory, chasing down a target of 167 with five wickets and an over to spare, does not do justice to just how dramatic this encounter was. England had all but won it after 16 overs of the second innings. Moeen Ali’s 51 in 166 for four, Chris Woakes’s opening three-over burst of two for 16, and Liam Livingstone’s exceptional two for 22 from his four had them sitting comfortably with 57 needed from the last 24 balls.

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The turning point was, really, one man. Jimmy Neesham, crestfallen at the end of 2019’s Super Over and still carrying that pain to this day, smashed 27 off 11, three sixes in his found boundaries, to turn this tie on its head. It proved the perfect chase to Daryl Mitchell’s knock. The opener was 46 from 40, seemingly unable to get it off the square. But he dug deep, sweated buckets, and, taking cues from Neesham, ended unbeaten on 72 off 47. Unfortunately, for every Neesham, there is a Jordan. The one who falls so the hero of the hour can rise, just as it was Ben Stokes in 2016 for Carlos Brathwaite’s heroics.

Jordan’s third over was taken for 23: a torturously long eight-ball set exacerbating England’s worries and building tension in the field that fuelled New Zealand’s late burst. To put this defeat solely at Jordan’s door would be naive, if only because it takes credit away from a remarkable Blackcaps victory, who now must overcome the winner of Australia-Pakistan in Thursday’s semi-final to win their first T20 World Cup. It also detracts from the fact Moeen, having excelled with the ball in this tournament, did not bowl at all. The favorites, these self-appointed standard-setters of the shortest format have fallen at the first meaningful hurdle by perhaps trying to be too smart.

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England are out of this league after a superb start

The all-important toss went New Zealand’s way, and Kane Williamson did not hesitate to put England in to bat first. Early swing from right-arm and left-arm quicks Tim Southee and Trent Boult brought about a cagey start, especially with Jonny Bairstow opening for the first time in this World Cup, with Sam Billings into the XI and positioned in the middle order. Only 13 came from the first three overs, but Jos Buttler’s back-to-back fours down the ground then through cover contributed to 16 taken off the fourth. And when Bairstow lifted Southee down the ground for his first four with the second ball of the fifth, there was a sense that he – and England – were about to get going.

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Bairstow (13), having faced just 30 balls coming into this knock, fell to the first ball of the sixth over, driving his 17th delivery on the up low to Williamson at wide mid-on. With that, New Zealand was able to emerge out of the Power Play with a respectable 40 for one against them. As England’s A-list talent, Buttler was always going to assume the role of lead man. A reverse sweep midway through the eighth overtook four off Mitchell Santner, moving England to 50 for one and move past Pakistan’s Babar Azam as the tournament’s highest runscorer. He could only extend his lead to five, dismissed for 29 when attempting a similar shot-off leg spinner Ish Sodhi and falling LBW.

For England, this is another devastating defeat from the jaws of victory in consecutive T20 World Cups. And though this was not the final, it will hurt just as much. Once again, they were undone by the ruthlessness of the format. But New Zealand were worthy winners and have set their stall out ahead of Sunday’s final. After winning the World Test Championship this summer, they have the chance to end 2021 with a very plausible claim of being the best multi-format team in the world.