England T20 World Cup talking points: All eyes on Buttler but who comes in for Roy?
England are one win away from a second successive appearance in the final of the T20 World Cup but standing in their way are familiar foes New Zealand.
While the teams have played each other since their epic 2019 50-over World Cup final, this will be their first meeting in a global tournament after England memorably prevailed at Lord’s on boundary countback alone.
Here we look at some of the topics up for discussion.
“Absolute ecstasy for England. Agony, agony for New Zealand”
The now unforgettable words from commentator and former Black Caps wicketkeeper Ian Smith that greeted England prevailing “by the barest of all margins” in the greatest World Cup final – perhaps in any sport – of all.
The sides will be keen to play down the encounter two years ago, having come up against each other on a number of occasions since then.
New Zealand have certainly moved on, as they shed their bridesmaids tags by winning the inaugural World Test Championship after beating India in the Ageas Bowl final in June.
Who comes in for Roy?
Jason Roy joined a growing list of absentees when he tore his left calf against South Africa last time out.
England’s bid to hold both limited-overs World Cup trophies simultaneously began without Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran in the Gulf while Tymal Mills and now Roy are sidelined.
Jonny Bairstow is thought to be the frontrunner to open alongside Jos Buttler, with Sam Billings slotting into the middle order, but Eoin Morgan was keeping his cards so close to his chest that he threw out the possibility of a bowling all-rounder to replace Roy.
Keep an eye on Buttler
Liam Livingstone may officially hold the record for the longest six at the tournament, measuring 112 metres against South Africa, but Morgan reckons the tracker was “on the blink in Dubai” when Jos Buttler took Australia’s bowlers down.
Buttler thrashed 71 not out off 32 balls and then registered his maiden century against Sri Lanka. With 240 runs in the Super 12s stage, Buttler has a monstrous 120 average at a strike-rate of 155.84.
If he can continue such outrageous form into the knockout stages then Buttler would be in line for player of the tournament.
Do not count out New Zealand
England have beaten their opponents in a number of high-profile meetings in the last few years, including the 2016 World Twenty20 semi-final, the group stage of the 2017 Champions Trophy as well as twice at the 2019 World Cup.
England have also had the upper hand recently in white-ball bilateral series deciders – both one-day internationals and Twenty20s – but Morgan insisted there is no edge to be gained.
His reasoning is that only a handful of players featured in those contests, and said: “It’s no good if only half of you take confidence from that.”
Beware the bowlers
England came unstuck against South Africa, taking just two wickets and conceding 189 runs, but they had been collectively excellent up until that point, restricting the West Indies, Australia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to less than 140.
New Zealand’s bowlers have been similarly proficient, with Trent Boult the third highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 11 scalps at an average of 10.45 and economy rate of just 5.84.
Tim Southee is also going at less than a run-a-ball, so how England’s batters approach these two seamers could determine a lot.
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