Vital role for Root as England take on NZ

Joe Root waiting to bat at the nets in New Delhi yesterday. His total of 168 runs in the World T20 so far is the second-highest tally of the tournament.
Joe Root waiting to bat at the nets in New Delhi yesterday. His total of 168 runs in the World T20 so far is the second-highest tally of the tournament.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • England hope in-form batsman Joe Root and a "home" advantage can make the difference against undefeated New Zealand in the first World Twenty20 semi-final today.

Eoin Morgan's cricket team will be playing their third match in a row in New Delhi, the capital of hosts India, 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 yesterday. "We have got fantastic support and we have grown used to the pitch."

Despite having to adapt to so many different surfaces, New Zealand's spin attack has 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.

  • Which way will the semi-finals go?

  • NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND Singtel TV Ch123 & StarHub, 9.20pm

    This is only England's second semi-final at a World Cup or World T20 since 1992 and they meet the team who led them towards a limited-overs epiphany last summer - New Zealand, who have easily been the team of the tournament so far.

    Both sides have high-class batsmen, notably Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson for the Kiwis and England's Joe Root and Jos Buttler.

    The battle of the spinners could be decisive. New Zealand's have 20 wickets between them and a combined economy rate of 5.13; England's have eight wickets and go for 9.92 per over.


    England 10-9, New Zealand 11-13

    WEST INDIES V INDIA Ch123 & Ch236, tomorrow, 9.20pm

    The awesome nature of Virat Kohli's innings against Australia on Sunday has given the previously stuttering hosts some dangerous momentum, though they must now beat the most consistent side around.

    West Indies love the instant glory of T20 cricket and are the only side to make the semi-finals of the last three tournaments.

    For a variety of reasons Chris Gayle has faced only two deliveries since starting the tournament by pumping a century against England, though he can always win a match off his own bat.

    The same is true of Kohli, who has redefined the art of finishing in limited-overs cricket.

    Watch out for his duel with the mischievous, inventive all-rounder Dwayne Bravo. If they win the toss, West Indies might choose to chase just so that Kohli cannot.


    India 1-2, West Indies 2-1


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," all-rounder 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 by 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, who play India in the other semi-final tomorrow.

Morgan said he expected another "tough game of cricket" today, but 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. "New Zealand have probably played the best cricket in the group stages and we're going to have to come up with a very strong game of cricket to beat them."

New Zealand, who were unfancied coming into the tournament, 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 - Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, who have shared 17 wickets - to supreme effect as the Kiwis became the only side to progress unbeaten from the Super 10 stage.

"We have done a lot of travel but the boys have been great and have embraced the schedule and the pitches," said Williamson. "England's been fortunate to play on these conditions (in New Delhi) a couple of times but I think in Twenty20 cricket, anything can happen."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Vital role for Root as England take on NZ'. Print Edition | Subscribe