England v New Zealand
Wednesday, 14:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Injuries hurting England
England won four out of five and if the outright odds are to be believed, have the easier of the two semi-finalists up next.
But life isn't quite as rosy as it was this time last week. They've since lost Tymal Mills and Jason Roy to injury, Mills limping off against Sri Lanka, Roy hobbling, crying and swearing his way off the field against South Africa.
Mark Wood came in for Mills and went for 47 off four overs without taking a wicket. England have always liked his raw pace but they may see it as a gamble too far. Other options are Tom Curran and Reece Topley but neither are without risk themselves so they may just stick with Wood.
The Roy issue is less of one in terms of his replacement and more one of who will open. James Vince is a fine player who rarely lets you down. Worth remembering that in the 2020/21 Big Bash, he was man of the match in both the semi-final and final.
But will they keep the same batting order and have him open?
Or open with one of Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali or Jonny Bairstow and use Vince where they see fit, based on how things unfold? It's anyone's guess.
Likely XI: Vince, Buttler, Malan, Bairstow, Ali, Livingstone, Morgan, Woakes, Rashid, Jordan, Wood.
New Zealand peerless with ball and in the field
As Ed Hawkins points out, they're the best fielding side in the competition and that could go a long way.
We all know 'catches win matches' but so does brilliant athletic fielding in the covers in the Powerplay overs and good work on the boundary in the latter stages of the game. Don't underestimate the importance of it.
If they go on to win it, Trent Boult with 11 wickets would be a decent candidate for Player of the Tournament while Tim Southee would be in contention for most underrated player of the World Cup, if there was such a thing. He's taken seven wickets and gone at just 5.7 an over.
The problem with New Zealand is that they lack proper firepower in the middle-order. Did they write off Ross Taylor too early by not including him in the squad? Should they have given Devon Conway the gloves and brought in Mark Chapman for Glenn Phillips?
The proof will be in the pudding.
Likely XI: Guptill, Mitchell, Williamson, Conway, Phillips, Neesham, Santner, Southhe, Sodhi, Boult.
Why has chasing become the way to go?
In truth, I've pretty much given up trying to predict first innings scores in this tournament which have also been skewed by the likes of Bangladesh and Scotland putting in shocking performances with the bat, the odd outstanding bowling performance and different wickets being used.
So, I'd rather focus on the importance of the toss.
Up to about 10 years ago, you won the toss and batted, especially in the biggest games. The idea was that whatever you got around par or better meant early wickets, tight overs and scoreboard pressure often did the rest.
But that's very much changed and in addition to the dew factor here in the UAE, there's good reason as to why I think sides prefer to chase.
Given this is my last preview of the World Cup, I'll share it with you.
I think it's that batsmen are far more clued about stats, metrics and other factors than they used to be.
They'll know about short boundaries, the all-important match-ups, vulnerable bowlers, boundary percentages, sixes needed per match in light of par scores and a load of other things much better than they used to.
You didn't have four-man teams of data analysts 20 years ago, that's for sure.
And it's easier to put all that into practice when chasing than setting a total.
Conclusion: winning the toss and chasing could be where the game is won and lost before a ball is bowled.
Why New Zealand are the bet
Despite England having the better 'metrics' (again, read Ed's semi-finals preview), a 13-7 head-to-head record against New Zealand in T20IS, having beaten them at the semi-final stage of the 2016 edition of the T20WC and getting the better of them (just) in the 2019 ODI World Cup final...I just can't have England at 1.68/13.
The tougher the surface is, the harder it is to score boundaries and the more low-scoring the match is, the more it will play into New Zealand's hands. We may just get a surface where 150 is par.
If England lose the toss (and have to bat first) then they could struggle. On another day they could have lost defending against Sri Lanka and on Saturday against South Africa, they did lose doing just that.
Add those two injury problems, the possible change to the batting order and the fact that none of Bairstow, Malan or Morgan have shown any great form and you can see why they're far from foolproof.
Especially if Jos Buttler gets out early.
So, you have to ask yourself the question: if the toss goes against you, would you rather be on a 1.68/13 shot or a 2.6413/8 one?
I'll take a punt on New Zealand. It won't be easy if they're defending, far from it, but Santner and Sodhi could yet squeeze the life out of them if they get enough runs first up.
No first-innings fifty?
England and New Zealand are two of the better bowling outfits at this World Cup and are at the trickier ground of the three. That brings the 13/8 that there isn't a first-innings fifty into play.
In five matches only Martin Guptill has hit a fifty (and just the one) for New Zealand and for England there have been just two (plus Buttler's 100); Buttler (again) once and Roy once, who isn't playing anyway.
So New Zealand tend to 'share' their runs around and with England, it may just be Buttler or nothing in this regard. It's worth a bet.
For more on both semis, listen to the latest Cricket...Only Bettor