England hope in-form batsman Joe Root and “home” advantage can make the difference against undefeated New Zealand in the first World Twenty20 semi-final on Wednesday.

Eoin Morgan’s team will be playing their third match in a row in New Delhi, but for the nomadic Black Caps it will be their fifth different venue in five tournament matches. “We have become quite settled in Delhi,” Morgan said at a pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “We have got fantastic support, a fantastic following and actually we have grown used to the pitch a lot more than probably the first game that we were here.”

Despite having to adapt to so many different surfaces, New Zealand’s formidable spin attack has so far thrived in Indian conditions. The Kiwis have won the toss, batted first and used their spin bowlers to great effect to defend totals in all four of their group matches. But Root has also shown his class on different pitches in the tournament, enhancing his reputation as one of the game’s classiest acts. “Root is a class player and he is one of the best around in all three formats of the game at the moment,” allrounder Ben Stokes said of his 25-year-old team-mate.

Only India’s Virat Kohli of all the players to reach the semi-finals has scored more runs than Root’s 168, which included a match-winning 83 against South Africa. His knock against the Proteas fired England to a successful record chase of 230 and got their bid for a second World T20 title back on track after an opening-match defeat to the West Indies. The 2010 champions then squeaked past minnows Afghanistan and defending champions Sri Lanka to finish second in Group One on six points behind the West Indies.

England were reduced to 85 for 7 against Afghanistan before eventually winning by 15 runs and then Angelo Mathews’ valiant 73 almost saw England come unstuck in a nervous 10-run triumph over Sri Lanka. Morgan said he expected another “tough game of cricket” but that the earlier matches had shown his team would not buckle under pressure. “I think it shows the amount of character that we have within the group,” he said.

Morgan said that while he felt excited, he did not feel as if he was on the verge of a world cup final. “We are not getting too far ahead of ourselves as we have got a really tough game against a strong New Zealand side,” he said. “They’ve probably played the best cricket so far in the group stages and we’re going to have to come up with a very strong game of cricket tomorrow to beat New Zealand.”

New Zealand, who were unfancied coming into the tournament following the retirement of former captain Brendon McCullum, have yet to put a foot wrong on their travels since stunning favourites India in their first game. Captain Kane Williamson has deployed his spinners to supreme effect as the Kiwis became the only side to progress unbeaten from the Super 10 stage, despite a schedule that took them to Nagpur, Dharamsala, Mohali and Kolkata. “We have done a lot of travel but the boys have been great and have embraced the schedule and the pitches,” said Williamson, 25. Spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi have shared 17 wickets as their two most experienced pacemen — Tim Southee and Trent Boult — warmed the substitutes’ bench.


ENGLAND (FROM): Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey

NEW ZEALAND (FROM): Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.

Williamson lauds ‘fearless’ Kiwis


They are the nearly men of world cricket, with a reputation for faltering at the business end of tournaments.

But a year on from the pain of losing the 50 over World Cup final, skipper Kane Williamson says his unbeaten New Zealand team are a relaxed and fearless unit as they hone in on Twenty20 cricket’s biggest prize. “At the moment the team is very relaxed, going about their business,” Williamson told reporters on Tuesday on the eve of New Zealand’s World Twenty20 semi-final clash against England in New Delhi.

“Up until now we have been playing fearless cricket and smart cricket and that’s what we will try and do again and hope that holds us in good stead in terms of a result. “But at the same time we are up against a very strong England team that will be trying their best to win the game. So we are looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting.”

Williamson took over on the eve of the tournament in India as New Zealand’s captain after the retirement of their talisman Brendon McCullum, who went some way to rewriting that reputation for under-achievement. While New Zealand have never won either of cricket’s two major international trophies, they had made it to the semi-finals on seven occasions before McCullum took over.

But although they went one better last year by reaching the final of the World Cup, there was more heartache to come when they were steamrolled by Michael Clarke’s Australian team at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Williamson insisted that defeat was not playing on the team’s mind but he also resisted talk that the Black Caps’ wins over India, Australia and Pakistan in the group stages put them in the rare position of favourites.

“We have made one final and lost, but we don’t look at it that closely,” said Williamson, who has been one of the stand-out performers in New Zealand’s perfect run to the semis. “I think it’s almost impossible in T20 cricket to give someone the favourites tag. It’s so fickle in its nature that on any given day the team that plays the best wins and England can beat anyone.”

While England are playing their third match in a row at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, it will be the fifth different venue in five tournament matches for the Black Caps. To date, New Zealand’s spinners have taken to the different surfaces like ducks to water and have been so potent that both of the team’s main fast bowlers — Trent Boult and Tim Southee —- are yet to get a game.

Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi were the top wicket-takers in the group stages while even part-time medium-pacer Grant Elliott weighed in with figures of three for 12, bowling mainly cutters, in the last match against Bangladesh. “The spinners have been brilliant on surfaces that have suited spin bowling,” said Williamson, while holding back from confirming that all his spinners would again start the game.

“We are not quite sure at this stage what to expect. We have seen a few games played on it recently, but we still have to have a good look at the surface and decide. “There are number of world class bowlers that haven’t played a game, still been brilliant in the group and understand that we do the best we can in picking the side for the surface and opposition to try give ourselves the best chance. We have got all 15 players on board with that.”

Apart from the question mark over whether off-spinner Nathan McCullum will keep his place, New Zealand are expected to recall key batsman Martin Guptill who was rested for their last group match against Bangladesh.