The first semi-final of the 2021 T20 World Cup pits England and New Zealand, who will renew their rivalry two years after they played out *that* epic in the final of the 50-over World Cup.

We are reaching the business end of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup and four teams still remain in the hunt for the trophy. Wednesday’s first semi-final sees heavy favourites England go up against New Zealand. And we could be in for a cracking contest between two of the world’s most well rounded T20I teams.

England breezed through the Super 12s stage of the T20 World Cup, earning dominant wins over the likes of Australia and the West Indies in the process. But they were handed a warning sign by South Africa in their final group stage game. The defending 50-over World Cup champions also saw Jason Roy suffer an injury in that game that will see him miss the rest of the tournament. James Vince is a more than capable replacement, but Roy’s absence could be a huge blow for what looked like a very settled England outfit.

There is no denying that England have been the world’s best team in white ball cricket over the last five years, and their results speak for themselves. Eoin Morgan has done an incredible job as captain, and his charges will fancy their chances of going all the way and winning their second ever T20 World Cup this week.

But standing in their way will be the calm and collected New Zealand, who have a completely different playing style to the swashbuckling and attack-minded England team. The Kane Williamson-led Kiwis lost to Pakistan in their Super 12s opener. But they stunned India before getting the job done against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia to qualify for the semi-finals. They displayed great composure with the bat in each of those wins, which could give them the edge over England especially if in the event of a low scoring game. They also have a very experienced and settled line-up, which features one of the most balanced bowling attacks in the sport.

Players to Watch

With Jason Roy sidelined due to injury, it will be interesting to see who opens the innings with Jos Buttler. Jonny Bairstow has had a very lean tournament with the bat so far, but he appears the likeliest of bets. He can be one of the world’s most devastating batters when on his game, and a new position in the order could be just what he needs to get his tournament going. Bairstow is also a confident player of spin, and will be better suited to handle the test match lengths that Tim Southee and Trent Boult may look to hit England with.

 
Making the most out of the powerplay overs has become more important than ever in T20 cricket. And having Bairstow open the innings with Butler could help England get off to a lively start. Bairstow’s strike rate in T20I cricket is close to 140, and he is at his best when playing at the top of the order.
 
New Zealand are much better players of spin than England encountered during the Super 12s. But the wily Adil Rashid could still have an important role to play during the semi-final. He has already picked up eight wickets at the tournament and has an economy rate of under 6. His leg break bowling could be the key for England during the middle overs, as it has been for a few years now.

Although Jonny Bairstow has had a relatively bad tournament with the bat he has performed well in big matches in the past and England will be looking for him to step up in the Semi-Finals

The key for New Zealand will be their star-studded bowling unit. Trent Boult picked up eleven wickets during the Super 12s stage and is quietly having a really good tournament. Boult is the leader of the New Zealand bowling attack and if he manages to pick up an early wicket or two, it could put England in some big trouble as their middle-order will be weakened slightly with Bairstow expected to open the innings.
 
Also key for New Zealand will be Devon Conway. England are a team that likes to attack during the middle-overs. Conway, who bats at number four for New Zealand, is one player they will be keen on getting out early. Conway hasn’t been able to make a huge splash at the World Cup so far. But he did play a classy knock of 36* against Afghanistan to take New Zealand to the semi-finals. He is someone who can adapt to the conditions to play the required role for his team. And England will want to get him out cheaply.

Previous Meetings

England and New Zealand have faced each other 21 times in T20I cricket. England has won 13 of those games, while New Zealand has come out on top on 7 occasions. The two sides last met in a warm-up match ahead of the tournament, which the defining 50-over World Cup champions won. England also won the last bilateral series between these two teams, coming out on top 3-2 after winning the fifth and final T20I after a Super Over. And no matter what happens, New Zealand will probably not want Wednesday’s semi-final to go to a Super Over.

England Expected Playing XIs

Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan, Sam Billings, Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan (c), Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood

New Zealand Expected Playing XIs

Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway (wk), Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Ish Sodhi