Moeen Ali top-scores as England post 166 against New Zealand in semi-final

T20 World Cup
Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali top-scored with 51 not out from 37 balls as England set New Zealand a target of 167 to reach the T20 World Cup final in what looks set to be another nail-biting contest between the teams.

In the first tournament meeting between these nations since England won an epic 2019 50-over World Cup final on boundary countback alone, Moeen and Dawid Malan (41 off 30 balls) underpinned a total of 166 for four.

Moeen was catapulted up to number four after the in-form Jos Buttler was dismissed for 29 and shared stands of 63 with Malan and 40 with Liam Livingstone, who contributed 17 off 10 deliveries at a blustery Abu Dhabi.

Jonny Bairstow made a cagey 13 off 17 balls after being promoted to open alongside Buttler in the absence of the injured Jason Roy, whose replacement Sam Billings went unused in England’s innings.

Bairstow and Buttler were thrust into action immediately after New Zealand won the all-important toss in what was also a rematch of a 2016 World Twenty20 semi-final showdown, also won by England.

Eoin Morgan’s side had topped their Super 12s group – New Zealand finished behind Pakistan in the other group – but a loss in their last outing against South Africa was compounded by an injury to Roy, who joined Tymal Mills on the sidelines, with Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran all ruled out pre-tournament.

Bairstow steps in for Roy, Moeen Ali stars

The identity of Roy’s replacement was a closely guarded secret by Eoin Morgan but Bairstow’s proficiency in the position in one-day internationals made him a favourite – and that turned out to be the case here.

He was unconvincing, getting off the mark by with a risky single, while both he and Buttler were beaten on the outside edge as Tim Southee and Trent Boult found some early swing, with England taking just 13 in three overs.

Buttler, though, is a batter in peak form and drove then cut with aplomb in a Boult over that yielded 16 runs.

Bairstow then departed after driving Adam Milne’s first ball to extra cover, where Kane Williamson brilliantly held on after diving forward to take a low chance.

Buttler reverse swept Mitchell Santner to move back above Pakistan captain Babar Azam as the tournament’s leading run-scorer but attempted the same tactic off Ish Sodhi and was pinned in front.

Moeen was promoted to partner fellow left-hander Malan as England attempted to negate the leg-spin of Sodhi. But New Zealand brought on James Neesham, who in his first over found the edge of Malan only for wicketkeeper Devon Conway to spill the catch low to his left.

Malan capitalised later in the over and then twice off part-time off-spinner Glenn Phillips, driving sweetly through extra cover on all three occasions, while Moeen settled into his work by putting away a wider delivery from Sodhi.

Milne dropped a sharp return catch to give Malan another reprieve on 31, as England closed in on three figures, but there would be no third stay of execution, feathering behind off Southee the ball after handsomely clearing deep square leg for the first six of the innings.

Livingstone was brought in to inject some impetus into proceedings but it was Moeen who initially put his foot down, taking Sodhi and Milne down over midwicket. Livingstone also sparkled briefly with a clubbing straight hit off Milne.

Livingstone holed out in the final over before Moeen went to a 36-ball fifty with the last of three fours, to go with two big sixes. Morgan was dropped by Phillips in the deep from the final ball, allowing the England captain and Moeen to scamper through for a couple, with every run vital.