England's Semi-Final Vs New Zealand To Be Decided ''By The Barest Of Margins''

The World Cup semi-final meeting evokes memories of 2019...
06:55, 10 Nov 2021

“England have won the World Cup, by the barest of margins! By the barest of margins!”

Two years on, Ian Smith’s commentary is still just as iconic. The New Zealander’s words only added to what is possibly the greatest sporting moment of all time, and he managed to produce them when his country had just suffered the most heartbreaking loss. 

That match was undoubtedly the greatest match the sport has ever seen, decided in the most dramatic fashion in a Super Over, after Ben Stokes’ heroics (with a healthy dollop of luck as well) had dragged England to that point. 

Today the two teams meet again at a World Cup. It’s only over 20 overs rather than the one-day match-up at Lord’s in 2019, this time it is at the semi-final stage rather than the final, and fortunately for New Zealand, there is no Ben Stokes this time around. But this has the promise to be another close run-in for the two sides striving to make the final.

England come into this one having lost opener Jason Roy to a calf injury, which brought an end to his tournament in the final group game against South Africa and he will be missed, having scored 123 runs over five appearances at this tournament. It will force Eoin Morgan to re-jig his side slightly with Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow or Moeen Ali all in contention to open alongside Jos Buttler. 

That will open the gap for Sam Billings to come in at three, but he is yet to play a game at this World Cup. The 30-year-old only has an average of 16.68 across his 32 T20 appearances, so this will be a big test given he is coming in from the cold, but the loyal Manchester United fan may be in the mood to take his anger out with the bat given the performances his club have put in at Old Trafford in recent weeks. 

Despite the injury issues, which also saw pace bowler Tymal Mills’ tournament ended early, from what we have seen so far, England are slight favourites. This is an opinion that is supported by Betfred, who have priced Morgan's side at 4/7 to win this match and 13/8 favourites to win the entire tournament.

However, write off New Zealand at your peril. This team only lost narrowly to a terrific Pakistan side in the group stage and blew away all other opposition, including a huge win over India. This is a side that have consistently performed in all formats in recent years, having reached the semi-finals of the last four 50-over World Cups – and the last two finals. The Black Caps were 2016 Twenty20 semi-finalists and 2021 World Test champions, and have continued that success in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. 

Although the memories of 2019 are still fresh, this New Zealand side are keen to write their own history this time around. 

“I don’t think 2019 will come up much,” all-rounder Mitchell Sattner told The Guardian when asked about that loss. “Obviously it was pretty heartbreaking at the time. Everyone played it pretty well, but inside they were probably feeling different, wanting to show some emotion. In terms of the game itself it was pretty special. We were unfortunate to be on the losing side but we hadn’t made a lot of finals before so it was all new.”

Martin Guptill, who hit the final ball of that famous final and was subsequently run out will open the batting and he has hit 176 runs in his five matches so far, with a high score of 93. It could well be a face-off between him and England’s top man Buttler, with the winner of that individual battle likely to end on the winning side. 

If Buttler and Morgan can lead England to the final, Australia or Pakistan lie in wait and although we will never see what we saw in 2019 ever again, this semi-final has the makings of another tight classic. It might just be decided by the barest of margins...

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