Under pressure teams New Zealand and England will slug it out in Hamilton on Sunday in a determined bid to keep their Twenty 20 tri-series title hopes alive.
The highly fancied teams confidently entered the tournament but have been blown away by a resurgent Australia who have powered into the final with four straight victories. New Zealand appeared set to book a berth in the decider after scoring a massive 243 for 6 on Friday only to be stunned by a rampant Australian batting order who chased down the record target with relative ease.
A victory for the hosts over winless England will ensure they get another crack at Australia although they remain in the box seat due to a current net run rate advantage. The struggling England will need to conjure a significant victory to leapfrog over New Zealand and qualify for the final in Auckland on February 21.
Amid comfortable familiar terrain, New Zealand’s high-octane top-order have fired during two matches at home but their eclectic bowling attack has looked fragile on the ludicrously tiny grounds.
Even though they are facing elimination, the Black Caps are set to back their strong home record and stick with their frontline attack despite looking more vulnerable in recent losses to Australia and Pakistan.
In a confidence boost for the Kiwis, England has struggled badly in a baffling reversal of form after a dominant One-Day international (ODI) series victory over Australia. Perhaps it can be attributed to a weakened line-up with several mainstays missing but England should welcome back the services of captain Eoin Morgan, who is set to play after missing the last two matches due to injury.
Morgan’s calm leadership should help a slumping England who seem likely to resist the temptation of selecting star allrounder Ben Stokes. The controversial 26-year-old has arrived in New Zealand after pleading not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol magistrates’ court last week. He is set to make his long-awaited return to international cricket during the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand.
Perhaps of most concern, England’s bowling has struggled in the tri-series and will be without quick Liam Plunkett who has been ruled out of the remainder of the New Zealand tour due to a hamstring injury.
Undoubtedly, both teams will deem not making the final as a major underachievement. With so much to play for, there should be plenty of fireworks in an emotionally charged contest between two teams hoping to avoid an inglorious tournament exit.
– New Zealand and England have only played one T20I at Seddon Park with the hosts winning by 55 runs five years ago.
– New Zealand has a commanding record at Seddon Park having won six of the seven T20Is. Their only loss was against South Africa six years ago.
New Zealand XI:
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Colin de Grandhomme, Mark Chapman, Ross Taylor, Tim Seifert (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult cricbuzz
Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Billings, David Willey, Chris Jordan, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood.
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