England captain Eoin Morgan believes his side’s injury issues have leveled the playing field ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final meeting with New Zealand.
England and New Zealand will resume their white-ball rivalry in Abu Dhabi in the first of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 semi-finals.
But Morgan will be without opening batter Jason Roy, who became the latest England player to be ruled out of the tournament through injury after pulling up against South Africa in the final Group 1 game.
England had already lost regular T20I starters Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Sam Curran prior to the tournament, and have since lost Tymal Mills and now Roy during the World Cup.
And Morgan believes that those absences mean his team are not clear favourites to beat New Zealand, despite being the top-ranked T20I side in the world and reaching the final four by topping Group 1.
“I wouldn’t say we are strong favourites, because New Zealand have a full-strength squad,” Morgan told a media conference on Tuesday. “We’ve obviously been hampered with a lot of injuries throughout this tournament.”
Losing Roy removes a key part of England’s top-order, with the opener a regular presence alongside Jos Buttler and a key part of the attacking intent policy that characterises England’s approach.
“I think like losing any of your experienced players, you can’t really replace that experience that Jason has,” Morgan said. “He’s played integral parts in our two previous World Cup campaigns.”
And yet replacing Roy at the top of the order is more a question of which option to pick than finding one, with Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Sam Billings and James Vince all available and open to batting higher.
“We are blessed with guys who can bat at the top of the order and actually who want to bat at the top of the order.
“If you look around, the big-name players all want to bat or are batting in the top three in every team.
“And we’re lucky that we have guys who queue up and want to bat in that top three, which is great because they want to go head-to-head with the big named players in the tournament and big named bowlers of the opposition.
“I think we’re in a very good position that we have a number of guys to choose from.
“Within the group we’ve made a decision. I’m not willing to share that, unfortunately. But the balance of the side will still be determined on how the wicket looks and how we match up against the Black Caps.”
That decision rests on not just who will bat at the top of England’s order in place of Roy, but, if that role is taken by an existing starter, whether Roy’s place will be filled by an additional batter or bowler.
“I suppose replacing him with another bowler would mean that you have 28 genuine overs on the field and a lot of options,” Morgan acknowledged.
“If you were to go with a batter, it would mean a like-for-like replacement. When we turn up and look at the wicket, depending if it’s a really good batting wicket, predicting if it’s going to be a really good batting wicket, might need the extra bit of bowling. If it’s not, you might need the extra bit of batting.”
Regardless of what balance England go for, New Zealand will be no pushovers.
Kane Williamson’s side have looked in fine form throughout the Super 12 stage, delivering one of the standout wins of the World Cup so far by beating India and effectively knocking them out of the tournament.
“I think New Zealand as a whole are a very strong team,” Morgan said of Wednesday’s opponents.
“It’s probably one of their strongest points. They work well together. They never rely solely on one or two players. It’s always a very collective effort.
“We know how consistent they’ve been over the last number of World Cups, not only the recent ones but you look further and beyond Kane’s role as captain. New Zealand have always been extremely competitive in and around semi-finals and finals, consistently, for some time now. So we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
(Source and courtesy: https://www.t20worldcup.com/)