‘Fearless’ Kiwis relaxed ahead of World Twenty20 semi-final against England
Skipper Kane Williamson says they will continue to play what he terms smart cricket while opposing captain Eoin Morgan looks to in-form batsman Joe Root to make the difference
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’s biggest prize.
“At the moment the team is very relaxed, going about their business,” Williamson said ahead of their semi-final on Wednesday against England in New Delhi.
“Up until now we have been playing fearless cricket and smart cricket and that’s what we will try to 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.”
In the final of the World Cup, 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 standout 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.”
England hope in-form batsman Joe Root and “home” advantage can make the difference against the Black Caps.
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. “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.”
Root has also shown his class on different pitches in the tournament, enhancing his reputation as one of the game’s classiest acts.
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.
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.