The Twenty20 format is considered a batsman’s game. But in the World Twenty20, New Zealand have produced results that prove that the shortest format could also be won with a disciplined and effective bowling unit. In the four games group games, New Zealand bowlers took 32 wickets out of the possible 40. Their semifinal opponents England managed to take only 22 wickets in their four games.
Despite New Zealand playing three games on spin-friendly tracks, the manner in which skipper Kane Williamson used spinners and pacers showed his attacking game plan while the batting side was also forced to change its approach quite often. More than taking wickets, the Kiwi bowlers have shown a lot of patience and discipline while defending small targets. Spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner have been tighter with their lines and adapted quickly on Indian tracks, varying their pace and never letting the opposition to dominate them.
Tighter bowling unit
Since the inaugural WT20 in 2007, this is the only bunch of bowlers whose economy rate has not crossed eight runs an over. All the bowlers average below twenty, proving that they have gone with a mindset to pick wickets. On the other hand, David Willey is the only England bowler to average 20. All bowlers other than Liam Plunkett have economy rates of eight plus. England managed to overcome Sri Lanka at the death in the crucial group game but lost to West Indies, failing to defend 182.
For New Zealand, this edition has been the best in terms of how they have grown as a bowling unit in the absence of Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee. In the last WT20 in Bangladesh two years ago, the Kiwis had only picked 26 wickets and their economy rates and averages reflected their defensive mindset. In Sri Lanka in 2012, Vettori and Nathan McCullum together had six wickets in five matches while Southee was the only bowler who picked wickets at the top. In 2010 in West Indies, Vettori again had just three wickets while McCullum had seven.
The attacking mindset
The rise of Brendon McCulllum gave rise to an attacking brand of cricket and it paid off in the 2015 World Cup in Australia, until the team lost to Australia in the final. Williamson has not let that attitude die down. He has set attacking fields and urged bowlers to go for wickets. Santner, who took 4/11 against India, has conceded at seven runs per over in other games, but the timing of his wickets has given Williamson the upper hand.
If New Zealand’s bowling has risen, England’s bowling has come down. After Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, England have struggled to find bowlers capable of bowling under pressure. Both Swann and Broad picked 14 wickets in 2012 and England had picked 29 scalps, out of a possible 50. In the next edition, out of the possible 40, England picked just 14 in the absence of Swann.
Come Wednesday, it will be a test of two bowling sides and it will be seen who adapts well to the fresh wicket being laid out for the game at the Kotla. England have found their feet at the Kotla, and for the first time have a bunch of players who are avid limited-overs players. But the question is whether Williamson will change his tactics. It doesn’t look like the Kiwis will blink.