New Zealand reached their first-ever T20 World Cup final after beating hot favourites England in the first semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Their bowling has been top-notch in the tournament so far and against England too they did well to restrict them to 166/4, conceding just four sixes and 14 fours. The England side, which has been aggressive with the bat throughout the tournament, weren’t allowed to play freely.

In reply, New Zealand played calculated cricket by not giving too many wickets upfront and targeting the Englishmen in the slog overs, with Daryl Mitchell playing the innings of his life (72 off 47 balls) to take the Kiwis past the finish line. Jimmy Neesham’s 11-ball 27 blitz and Devon Conway’s calm and composed 38-ball 46 provided good support to Mitchell.

Right through the tournament, the Kiwis have been playing calculative and sensible cricket. Despite starting off with  a loss against Pakistan, they didn’t panic and went about their business in a professional manner winning all their next five games to reach the finals. Here’s a detailed look at their journey to the T20 World Cup 2021 finals:

New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell, right, and Mitchell Santner celebrate winning the T20 World Cup semi-final match against England. AP Photo

Kiwis go down fighting against Pakistan

New Zealand stuttered at the start with a defeat against Pakistan in their opener at Sharjah. On a slow and low wicket, they were put into bat by Pakistan. Pakistan were coming into the match on the back of a thumping 10-wicket win over India and had the momentum on their side. Their bowlers once again delivered in the second match. Led by Haris Rauf – 4-0-22-4, they restricted the Kiwis to 134/8. The New Zealand batsmen never really got the momentum going into the innings. The batsmen got starts but couldn’t consolidate as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Daryl Mitchell and Devon Conway top-scored with 27 each.

Experienced Shoaib Malik played a crucial knock of 26 off 20 help Pakistan beat New Zealand. AP Photo

In reply, their bowlers fought hard and kept a tight leash. They had reduced Pakistan to 87/5 in the 15th over. But then Shoaib Malik (26 off 20) and Asif Ali (27 off 12) got together and took the match away from the Kiwis. Pakistan needed 44 off the last five overs. The pair smashed 48 unbeaten runs off just 23 balls to take them home.

Choked India to submission in Dubai

New Zealand’s game against India was a crunch match as both the sides were looking to register their first wins of the tournament. And the Kiwi bowlers delivered. Williamson won the toss and put India into bat. The senior pros —Tim Southee and Trent Boult — laid the perfect platform by removing Ishan Kishan and Rahul inside the Powerplay. The spinners duo of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner then applied the choke in the middle overs and the pressure got them wickets. India lost wickets regularly and were in a state of inertia. They trudged along to 110/7 from their 20 overs.

New Zealand's Martin Guptill, center, takes the catch of India’s Rohit Sharma, left, during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and India in Dubai. AP

In reply, the Kiwi openers Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell provided them with a brisk start. Guptill departed in the fourth over but Mitchell (49 off 35) along with Kane Williamson steadied the ship and took the Kiwis closer to the finish line. Mitchell departed one short of his fifty but Williamson and Conway finished off the match with 39 balls to spare.

Scotland provide a slight scare but calm Kiwis see it through

With India breathing down the neck and looking to go all out in a bid to qualify, New Zealand knew they had to win every match to get through to the semifinals. After being put into bat by Scotland, the Kiwis got off to a brisk start again but then lost two quick wickets. This is when opener Guptill and Glenn Phillips got together and added 105 runs from 73 balls to turn things around. Guptill adapted to the conditions well and in the Dubai heat, played a brilliant knock of 93 off 56 balls laced with six fours and seven sixes to propel the Kiwis to a competitive 172/5.

Martin Guptill hits the ball for six runs during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and Scotland in Dubai. AP

In reply, Scotland too got off to a brisk start but they kept on losing wickets at regular intervals. The batsmen got starts but couldn’t convert them into big runs. The Kiwis reduced them to 106/5 in the 16th over. However, Michael Leask had a different plan as he launched a counterattack with a 20-ball 42. In the end, the Kiwis came on top as their bowlers restricted Scotland to 155, 17 runs short of their score.

A thumping win over Namibia

Kane Williamson lost another toss and the Kiwis were again put into bat. They stuttered a bit at the start losing Guptill and Mitchell inside seven overs. But Williamson and Conway steadied the ship with a 38-run stand. They, however, departed in quick succession later. The Kiwis were going at just a little over 6 an over at the 14th over mark, having lost four wickets. They needed to up the ante. The late surge was provided by Glenn Phillips (39 off 21 balls) and Jimmy Neesham (35 off 23 balls) pair who smashed 76 off 36 balls to propel New Zealand to a competitive 163/4.

New Zealand's Jimmy Neesham, second left, is congratulated by teammates after he took the wicket Namibia's Michael Van Lingen. AP

In reply, Namibia had got off to a decent start with the opening pair of Stephan Baard and Michael van Lingen adding 47 from 7 overs. But Santner removed Baard and from there on, Namibia never recovered. They kept losing wickets as New Zealand bowlers stamped their authority to restrict them to just 111/7, winning the match by 52 runs.

Calm and composed Kiwis steer past Afghanistan and into the semis

It was another crucial match. Afghanistan too were in the hunt to qualify for the semi finals and they needed to win against New Zealand. The whole of India were praying for an Afghanistan win. But the Kiwis went about their business in a professional manner. Their bowling clicked again. The pacers Boult, Milne and Southee pegged Afghanistan back in the powerplay itself as they were reduced to 19/3. It took a valiant effort from Najibullah Zadran to drag Afghanistan to 124/8 as wickets kept falling at the other end. The New Zealand pacers took 7 off the eight wickets. The bowlers were backed by a good exhibition of fielding as the players took all the catches that came their way and also saved crucial runs.

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson shakes hands with the Afghan players after guiding his team to a comfortable eight-wicket win. AP

A win here and the Kiwis were through to the semis. Pakistan had already qualified. Chasing the target, they got off to a mixed start. They chalked off 57 runs but in the process lost Guptill and Mitchell inside nine overs. Williamson then build the innings with Devon Conway and the duo played sensible cricket to take the Kiwis past the finish line, with an unbeaten 68-run partnership from 56 balls. They tackled the Afghanistan spinners really well and sailed into the semis. A billion hearts were broken as India were knocked out of the tournament along with Afghanistan.

Kiwis see off England in a thriller in a rematch of 2019 WC to reach first final

Those memories of 2019 World Cup would have still been fresh in their minds. An aggressive England side had played some brilliant cricket so far in the tournament. It was an uphill task for the Kiwis to get past arguably the best white-ball side in the world. Williamson won the toss and invited England to bat. The bowlers started off well and kept the scoring in check. They didn’t really let England score freely and the wickets started to tumble. Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone did score briskly in the end to get England to 166/4, but it wasn’t a convincing batting effort from England. They could hit just four sixes and 14 fours in the innings.

New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell, right, and Mitchell Santner celebrate winning the T20 World Cup semi-final match against England. AP Photo

In reply, the Kiwis suffered an early jolt as Martin Guptill departed off just the third ball of the innings. A couple of overs later, Williamson too trudged back to the hut. At 13/2, the Kiwis were stunned early. But Mitchell kept his cool and steadied the ship with Devon Conway. They stabilised first and then upped the ante. The pair added 82 off 67 balls to keep New Zealand in the hunt. Conway departed at a crucial juncture for 46 off 38 balls. And an over later, Livingstone scalped Phillips who departed for two. He bowled a brilliant over giving away just three runs and taking the wicket of Phillips. At this stage, the Kiwis needed 57 off 24. The equation had become daunting.

But Neesham arrived and changed the course of the game straightaway. He hit Jordan for two sixes and a four, and overall New Zealand accumulated 23 runs from the over. It brought the equation down to 34 off 18. Mitchell and Neesham hit a six each off the next over from Rashid but Neesham got out off the last ball of the over. But crucially, they had scored 14 runs from that over. Mitchell got to his fifty. With 20 needed off 12, Mitchell took apart Woakes. He took a two off the first ball, then cracked a couple of sixes. After a couple of singles, Woakes delivered a full toss, Mitchell flicked it to long leg for a four to hit the winning runs. Mitchell remained unbeaten on 72 off 47 balls as a jubilant New Zealand qualified for their first-ever T20 World Cup final. They didn’t panic after two early wickets. Played percentage cricket. Took the chase deep. Targeted a couple of match-up overs to make up for the slow scoring and finished it off in style. Superb calculative cricket, MS Dhoni style.

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