With the Super 12 stage of the competition over, the focus now moves on the 2021 T20 World Cup semi-finals. There are two intriguing contests up ahead between four top-quality international sides. There are plenty of players in each team that can make the difference at this crunch stage but in this piece, we’re looking at eight such players whose matchups could be the deciding factor in this knockout game.
ENGLAND VS NEW ZEALAND (SEMI-FINAL 1)
Jos Buttler vs Ish Sodhi
Jos Buttler is often regarded as one of the best T20 batters in the world and this World Cup has more or less proved his superiority in the format. He has by far been the standout player of the competition and has been England’s man in form. A lot would be riding on Buttler’s shoulders when England comes up against the Kiwis in the T20 World Cup semi-finals.
New Zealand, on the other hand, would want to see the back of Buttler early in the innings. They have leg-spinner Ish Sodhi in their ranks who is like an ace up their sleeves against Buttler. There was a theory floating around a couple of years ago that Buttler struggles to pick leg-spin but the English opener has surely improved his skills against the trade. Ish Sodhi’s record against Buttler in T20 internationals is phenomenal. In three innings, Sodhi has got Buttler out twice while giving away just four runs. It will be interesting to see whether Williamson would introduce Sodhi in the power play or he’d come in straight after the sixth over.
Surely a matchup to look out for in this particular match.
Adil Rashid vs Martin Guptill
Another intense battle between a leg-spinner and an opening batter would be between England’s Adil Rashid up against New Zealand’s Martin Guptill. The Blackcaps opener has found some form in the latter half of the super 12 stage and he’ll be a key wicket from England’s perspective. Unlike Sodhi, England’s leg-spinner Adil Rashid has no issues with bowling in the power play. In fact, so far in the competition, he has been one of the most successful bowlers in the power play phase.
His matchup against Guptill would be key in this encounter. Rashid has dismissed Guptill three times in seven innings but the Kiwi opener has found it easy to score off the leggie previously. He averages 52 against Rashid in T20Is but Eoin Morgan would love for Guptill to take a chance against Rashid early in his innings as it might lead to a wicket-taking opportunity.
PAKISTAN VS AUSTRALIA (SEMI-FINAL 2)
Shadab Khan vs Glenn Maxwell
Sticking with another leg spinner, this time we are talking about Pakistan’s eccentric bowler Shadab Khan. The leggie has plenty of variations in his kitty bag and he’d be eager to unleash them in the second T20 World Cup semi-final.
The danger man in the Australian batting order is Glenn Maxwell. He has failed to fire so far in the competition but the Aussies would be hoping for him to step up in this crunch knockout game. His weakness against leg-spin is well known but Maxwell is a matured batter now. He targets the bowlers he fancies his matchup against and his approach is far more circumspect compared to the all-guns-blazing approach previously.
In six matches, Shadab has got the better of Maxwell twice. Interestingly, Maxwell has struggled to score runs off the Pakistani leg spinner as well. He averages just 4.50 against Shadab and would be hoping to improve these numbers in this semi-final.
Babar Azam vs Mitchell Starc
Talking about the Pakistani batting lineup, there is going to be plenty of expectations riding on the shoulders of their captain Babar Azam. The stylish opening batter has been in fine form in this tournament so far. Australians, on the other hand, would want to get his wicket early as it will send shockwaves through the opposition dressing room if their captain was to be dismissed early.
One way of getting the better of Azam is by having a left-arm pacer swinging the ball back into his pads. We’ve seen Australia’s Mitchell Starc do this time and time again and he has been successful against Babar previously in a T20 international. You’d expect Babar to be well equipped against such bowling given he would have been facing Shaheen Afridi in the nets regularly but the pressure in a match situation is completely different. Expect Starc to take the new ball and target the stumps of the Pakistani captain. This matchup surely would be key in this battle of the semi-finalists.
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