International Cricket Council
Kane Williamson

"A very strong side": Williamson wary of injury-hit England

New Zealand take on England in the first semi-final of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup. Ahead of the all-important match, Kane Williamson spoke about the recent rivalry between the two teams and more.

New Zealand qualified for the semi-finals with a win over Afghanistan in their last Super 12 game. After losing their opening match against Pakistan, the Black Caps showed great resilience to win four games out of four and finish as the runners-up in Group 2.

They will now face the table-toppers of Group 1, England, in the first semi-final of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Abu Dhabi on November 10.

There has been a rivalry building between the two teams that started with the 2016 T20 World Cup, where England beat New Zealand in the semi-finals. The two teams then met on the biggest ODI stage in cricket, the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019, where England emerged victorious by the skin of their teeth in a Super Over to lift the coveted trophy.

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In the shortest form, however, it is all even - both teams have three wins against each other since the 2016 T20 World Cup.

Speaking about England's rise in the shorter formats since 2015, Williamson was all praise for the approach.

"Look, we've played each other a number of times. We've had some really good games in really good series," said Williamson. "The evolution of the England side, and particularly the white-ball side, has been significant over a number of years. [They] have got a lot of experienced T20 players on their side.

"As a collective, they're playing some really good cricket. We know it's a nice challenge that we're looking forward to. And both teams try and utilize what they have to the best of their ability and try and play their best cricket.

"This format it's fickle in its nature and both teams will go out to look to put their best foot forward and what will be will be at the end of it. But for us, it's been a real growth focus.

"Although, it was like I mentioned slightly disjointed and preparation at the start. It's been sort of one game at a time and trying to adapt and make those small improvements throughout the competition as quickly as we could.

"It meant that the team have been ticking over reasonably nicely and watching from afar England have been doing something very similar, playing some really good cricket. So it should be a really good contest come tomorrow."

England, however, are without some of their first-choice players. The likes of Jofra Archer (injury), Ben Stokes (break to focus on mental health) and Sam Curran (injury) didn't make the tournament. It went from bad to worse for England as they lost Tymal Mills and Jason Roy to injury close to the knockouts.

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Williamson, however, is not taking England too lightly, given the depth of resources available to them.

"They're both big players for England. It's a real shame that they have suffered injuries in this competition. But I think one of the strengths as well of the England side is their depth that they've managed to produce over a period of time and having spent some time at the Birmingham Phoenix and being sort of a little bit involved in that 100-ball comp and you can tell that there's a huge amount of talent throughout."

"They're still very much a very strong side who have been playing some really good cricket."

England have enough options available to them at the top of the order to replace Jason Roy, with Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow all capable of opening the batting with Jos Buttler. James Vince, Roy's replacement, or even Sam Billings could slot right up the order.

In such a scenario, the Black Caps will have to be prepared for whatever England is going to throw at them. Speaking on the uncertainty of England's lineup, Williamson said, "I suppose whenever there's an injury, someone else comes in and you're not to know who they are until the toss."

"But you try and prepare and plan as best you can and then when you go out there you're sort of competing in the moment.

"And that kind of all matters then. But Jason's a big player for England and has been playing really nicely and getting the team off to good starts along with Jos. But as I mentioned, the depth on the England side is one of their strengths and we'll try and plan accordingly to the best of our ability.

"But largely want to focus on the sort of cricket that we want to play as a group and keep developing on that as we've been doing throughout this tournament."

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