Guptill, Williamson fall early after Moeen lifts England to 166

New Zealand chase 167 against England in the first semi-final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 in Abu Dhabi. Chris Woakes struck twice in the Powerplay to remove Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson to give England hope of restricting New Zealand’s chase with a spot in the T20 World Cup final on the line.

Woakes had been whacked for four by Guptill off the first ball of the reply, but had his revenge two deliveries later as the Black Caps dangerman miscued the easiest of catches to Moeen Ali as England got the breakthrough they desperately wanted.

And Kiwi captain Williamson fell in Woakes’ next over, looking to get going after a slow start and mis-hitting a ramp shot straight to Adil Rashid to leave New Zealand two down early. A tight remainder of the Powerplay saw New Zealand reach 36/2 after six overs, with at one stage the Black Caps failing to score a run off the bat for 12 consecutive deliveries.

Earlier Ali and Dawid Malan helped England reach 166/4 in an occasionally scratchy first innings of the opening ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semi-final in Abu Dhabi. Scoring was slow and steady for much of England’s effort with the bat, with openers Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler steady but unspectacular through the powerplay, before Malan and Ali’s rebuilt the innings.

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Some big hits late on from Livingstone and Ali, who finished on 51*, helped England to 166/4, lifted the score. But England will need a big effort from their bowling attack to tie New Zealand down in the reply.

Buttler and Bairstow fall

England opted to replace the injured Jason Roy with Sam Billings, with Jonny Bairstow promoted to the top of the order alongside Jos Buttler. And the new opening pair were put straight into action after New Zealand won the toss.

England’s openers negotiated the threat of early overs from Tim Southee and Trent Boult to build a platform during the Powerplay. Scoring was slow and steady, with a boundary off the final ball of the first two overs keeping the score ticking over. But 16 runs came off the fourth over as Buttler got stuck into Boult in the first real sign of attacking intent.

Bairstow, who had looked lacking in fluency after his promotion to the top of the order, hinted at finding his touch in the fifth with a straight lofted drive off Southee.

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But a shanked drive off Adam Milne’s very first delivery was brilliantly caught by Kane Williamson to send Bairstow packing for 13 off 17 and bring Dawid Malan to the crease. And form-man Buttler fell shortly after the powerplay, caught in-front off Ish Sodhi in a huge blow to England’s chances.

Malan and Moeen rebuild

New Zealand missed a golden opportunity to get deeper into England’s batting line-up when Malan was dropped behind the stumps by Devon Conway in a chance that the wicketkeeper would have expected to take.

And Malan went on to lead England’s recovery through the middle overs, hitting 41 off 30 before bottom-edging a catch behind off Southee as he looked to race through the gears. The Malan-Moeen partnership was sent in by Eoin Morgan with the intention of targeting spin through the middle overs.

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But New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson responded with some clever tactical bowling changes, using just one over of Mitchell Santner through the middle and going pace-heavy to keep the England pairing relatively tied down.

Strong finish from England

Needing a big finish to reach a competitive total, Ali and Liam Livingstone unleashed late on, with captain Morgan dropped off the final ball as England finished four down. Livingstone’s 17 off 10 did the job for his side as a finisher, with Ali ending unbeaten on 51 off 37.

The reigning World ODI Champions versus the reigning World Test Champions, this is a meeting of two teams who have dominated cricket’s narratives over the past half a decade.

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It was a series against the Black Caps that started Eoin Morgan’s tenure as England’s white-ball captain back in 2015, and saw an immediate switch to the aggressive approach that has characterised the team’s rise in the years that have followed.

And if Morgan’s England win today to seal a place in Dubai on Sunday it will be the third consecutive World Cup final the team has reached under his stewardship. New Zealand’s success under Williamson has been similarly eye-catching, but the Black Caps skipper opted to direct his focus on opponents England in the build-up to this first semi-final.

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