New Zealand have once again upset the odds, proving themselves surely the best all-format side in cricket by powering past England by five wickets in their T20 World Cup semi-final and setting themselves up for a shot at a second global title of the year.
The World Test champions once again remained icy cool under pressure in the furnace of the short format chase in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday just as the chance to meet either Australia or Pakistan in Sunday’s final seemed to have slipped away with four overs left.
Yet with 57 needed off those 24 balls, the Black Caps found a new hero in unsung opener Daryl Mitchell, who delivered dazzlingly in the denouement, racing to an unbeaten 72 off 47 balls as the wheels came off for the favourites.
Watched by his emotional-looking father, former All Blacks rugby coach John Mitchell, the 30-year-old had earlier suffered some real struggles on a pitch that seemed a bit sluggish and two-paced as he tried to lead the pursuit of England’s challenging 4-166.
Yet the key came when he found an uninhibited partner in Jimmy Neesham, who launched a blistering attack in a nervy and ultimately calamitous 17th over from Chris Jordan. The England paceman got his length all wrong, dished up two wides and got plundered for 23.
Then by the time Neesham fell to Adil Rashid the next over, Mitchell had taken control, depositing a six off the legspinner before then taking 19 of the 20 runs off Chris Woakes’ next over to blitz New Zealand to their target, remarkably with an over still to spare.
It put Kane Williamson’s so often underrated side in line to add the T20 crown to the inaugural Test crown they seized in June while also laying the ghost of their agonising super-over defeat to England in the 50-over World Cup final in 2019.
“I knew it was going to be a great game of cricket and that proved to be the case,” Williamson said.
“It ebbed and flowed, as they often do when we go against each other, but I’m really chuffed with the heart shown through the performance.”
Now, Australia will take on Pakistan in Thursday’s second semi-final in Dubai, hoping for another World Cup final meeting with their trans-Tasman rivals following their 2015 triumph in Melbourne in the 50-over edition.
It was the first tournament clash between England and New Zealand since that Lord’s 2019 World Cup thriller, and it had all looked to be going the way of Eoin Morgan’s side until Neesham’s game-changing effort which featured him clubbing three sixes in his 27 off 11 balls.
Suitably inspired, Mitchell also found his timing to hammer four fours and four sixes in all in a knock which earned him the player of the match award.
“I guess with what’s going on in the world at the moment, to be able to travel half way round and for them to be here is pretty cool,” he said.
Earlier, after being put in to bat, Moeen Ali struck 51 not out and Dawid Malan 41 to earn former champions England a decent total at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Woakes wrecked New Zealand’s top order, removing key men Martin Guptill and Williamson in successive overs to put the Black Caps on the back foot.
But Mitchell and Devon Conway (46 off 38) rebuilt the innings with England still in charge until Neesham’s late attack and Mitchell’s fine finish.