New Zealand were undefeated in the group stage of ICC World T20 2016 © AFP
New Zealand were undefeated in the group stage of ICC World T20 2016 © AFP

We’re in the business end of the ICC World T20 2016 with New Zealand taking on England in the first semi-final at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi on Wednesday. Going against all the expectations, the New Zealanders have come out as the best side of the tournament so far, registered wins in all their Group matches and finished on the table toppers of Group 2 which also featured the likes of India, Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the “New England” under the leadership of Eoin Morgan have not impressed any less. They came back hard after having faced a thrashing from Chris Gayle and West Indies. England’s successful chase of 230 against South Africa was easily one of the most exciting fixtures of World T20 2016. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs England, ICC World T20 2016, 1st Semi-Final at Delhi

The contest between New Zealand an England is mainly the fight between New Zealand’s spin attack and England’s strong batting-order. The trio of Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum is the major reason behind the success so far the Black Caps have had in World T20 2016. On the other hand, although England have dominated with the bat, they do have issues which must be solved before they take the field on Wednesday. England’s dependence on Joe Root continues during big chases and for Root to always finish the job for his side is certainly not possible. Regardless of the result, the match ensures numerous electrifying moments. Here are the five key battles to watch out for when these two sides lock horns in Delhi:

Mitchell Santner vs Joe Root: Santner has easily been the best spinner, not only for New Zealand but also over all in this World T20, while Root has been the only saviour England have in the batting department. When the best bowler and best batsman of the day cross each other’s path, fireworks are surely expected. From the teams that are still alive in the World T20, Santner is the leading wicket-taker with nine scalps from four matches. New Zealand managed to defeat India despite the latter with the best batting line-up at present because of Santner. His four breakthroughs had done the job for his side and along with the help of other New Zealand bowlers; he ensured they win the opening game. That match was no fluke, he has consistently performed for New Zealand since then and his form will make a lot of difference in the result of the match.

Meanwhile, Root plays an equally crucial role in the result of the match. His unbeaten 83 which led England home inspite of South Africa posting a mammoth total of 229 demonstrated that any kind of target will be less if Root is in form. Although Root is a decent player of spin, Santner surely has the capability to trouble him. And once New Zealand remove Root early in the innings that could eventually happen to be the turning point of the match.

Kane Williamson vs Chris Jordan: Virat Kohli, Root and Williamson have been considered the best batsmen of this current generation. While Kohli and Root have managed to have their moments in this World T20, Williamson is yet to play any such innings. England have to be wary about that because the Black Caps skipper will be desperate to play that one knock and there would be no better occasion than a semi-final to bring out his best in the tournament.

On the other hand, Jordan has been decent for England with the ball. Although he was not always been successful to make a breakthrough, he did ensure he put a break when the opposition got going in scoring freely. Barring the match against South Africa where he was smashed left, right and centre, he has managed to maintain his economy below seven most of the times, which is useful when the other bowlers are picking wickets from the other end. When part-timers Suresh Raina and Glenn Maxwell dismissed Williamson in the group stage, a bowler like Jordan surely has the potential to give New Zealand by removing their best batsman early in the innings.

Ish Sodhi vs Alex Hales: There is no doubt nobody had expected Sodhi to perform this consistently in the World T20. He was on top form from the very first game against India, with wickets of Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin. Although he made just one breakthrough against Pakistan and Australia, the wickets he bagged eventually happened to be the turning points of the respective games. He removed Glenn Maxwell and Shahid Afridi, both dangerous batsmen with potential of snatching away a match single-handedly.

The English explosive opener Hales can be considered on the same level as Maxwell and Afridi where big hitting is concerned. However, Hales has not been at his best this World T20. With missing the third game, he was dismissed for a duck in the last group match against Sri Lanka. In the first two games against West Indies and South Africa, he did go off to a flier but eventually always failed to make that knock a big one and once again the burden fell on the middle-order. Sodhi just have to take advantage of this shaky form of Hales and he’ll have a wicket in his account. Hales is one of those who goes after every ball, Sodhi can target that weakness of his.

Martin Guptill vs David Willey: This is the battle between New Zealand’s best batsman against England’s best bowler so far in the tournament. Guptill is the leading run scorer for his side with 125 runs in three innings with 80 being his highest. Willey on the other hand has six wickets in four matches at an economy of 8.33. Guptill will surely be under pressure to score as New Zealand’s scoring highly depends on him. The likes of Williamson, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro haven’t justified their potential so far in the World T20. They have always been in trouble just when Guptill is dismissed.

Guptill’s form will more or less decide the fate of the Black Caps which will give Willey an upper hand to put immense pressure right from delivery No. 1 and eventually force him to play a wrong shot and bag his wicket. Once Guptill gets going, it will get very difficult for England to stop him from scoring big.

Ben Stokes vs Corey Anderson: This is the clash between two quality all-rounders who play a crucial role in their respective sides. Stokes has been struggling with the bat in this tournament. He has scores of 15, 15, 6 and 7 from four matches and even with the ball, he has failed to make an impact. England’s chances will only strengthen if Stokes is able to find form just in time against New Zealand in the first semi-final. However, the Black Caps have an upper hand in this case because their all-rounder Anderson has been in great touch in World T20 2016.

Anderson has either been delivering with the ball or bat and sometimes both. Against India, although he did not pick any wickets, he was very economical. While the other bowlers made breakthroughs from the other end, he kept the runs under control. Against Australia he bagged the crucial wicket of James Faulkner, Australia’s all-rounder. Had Faulkner stayed till the end, it is not wrong to assume, Australians would have won that contest. Whoever of these two strike on Wednesday, that chances of that side to progress for the final will automatically increase.

(Sakshi Gupta, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy.” Her Twitter handle is @sakshi2929)