Mitchell and Neesham stun England and send New Zealand into T20 World Cup final

Black Caps chase down 167 with an over to spare in Abu Dhabi

They did it with an over to spare. They had five wickets in hand. They even scored more boundaries. This time, there could be no quibbling over fine margins. New Zealand were emphatic winners.

In the lead up to the game, New Zealand were at pains to say they do not discuss 2019, Lord’s, and all that. If it does ever crop up in conversation, Kane Williamson, their captain, reckons they talk about it fondly.

Still, though. Their stunning win over England at Zayed Cricket Stadium in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup must have tasted all the sweeter given what happened two years previously.

Maybe it was not exactly an exorcism. But at least they can move on to Sunday’s final with a warm glow of satisfaction over beating England in a big match.

Take Jimmy Neesham. In the aftermath of the 2019 World Cup final, he implored people to take up baking instead of ever putting themselves through the unbearable anguish of sport, and losing a World Cup final in a Super Over.

Like everyone else, he might have had a crack at a banana bread or two in the ensuing time. But he, as much as any of New Zealand’s heroes in Abu Dhabi, proved the adage about cricket being the great leveler.

In chasing England’s target of 167, the Black Caps had required 109 from 10 overs. When Neesham made it to the wicket, at No 6, they needed 60 off 29 balls.

He hit three of the 11 balls he faced over the vast boundaries for six, and made 27 in his stay. It was seminal.

Daryl Mitchell, who had anchored the innings till that point, took up the responsibility for six hitting once Neesham had departed.

He ended unbeaten on 72, hitting a flurry of sixes, then the winning four off Chris Woakes. In the end, it felt like a cruise.

Given the difficulties of travel to and from New Zealand at present, few supporters have travelled to the UAE for this tournament.

There was a fair number of expatriate Kiwis in the stands backing their side, and they were complemented by a sizeable contingent of neutrals, too.

A Sri Lankan papare band played from before the first ball was bowled till after the last.

There were Indian fans in their seats before the start. They had clearly overestimated their side’s prospects.

There were some Pakistanis in situ, too. They had underestimated theirs: Pakistan will play Australia in Thursday night’s semi-final in Dubai after they topped their group, ahead of New Zealand.

England’s fine form in the Super 12 stage has lost its sheen via the injuries they had racked up ahead of the knockout phase.

Both unavailable players – Tymal Mills and Jason Roy – were present at the game. Rather than moping around feeling sorry they could not be part of it, they did a decent job as a cheer squad.

When Woakes induced a leading edge from Martin Guptill to Moeen Ali in the first innings of New Zealand’s reply, Roy was just about the most animated member of the England party. He bellowed, “Yes, Wiz,” in praise of “Wizard” Woakes.

The intense look on his face spoke of the fact the game was delicately poised. England had had to work hard for their runs - Moeen Ali top-scoring with 51, Dawid Malan making 41, and Liam Livingstone spritely 17 - and they knew defending would not be easy.

Their task, though, received a sizeable boost in the next over Woakes sent down. After three dots, Williamson, New Zealand’s talisman, gave way to the pressure and attempted a scoop over short fine leg.

It was neither becoming nor successful. It went as far as Adil Rashid, and, as Woakes completed a wicket-maiden, New Zealand were 13-2 after three overs.

At that point, it felt as though England had the game in their grasp. Devon Conway, though, started the fightback, with 46.

He laid the platform, but New Zealand had still appeared out of it until Neesham sent the innings into overdrive. And, after his cameo, Mitchell booked their tickets to Dubai.

Updated: November 10th 2021, 6:44 PM