While it is this sceptre isle’s football team that has garnered much of the press coverage in recent days after an exciting win over Germany on Good Friday, slowly but surely another England team has navigated their way to a World Cup semi-final.
The T20 squad (that’s cricket to the uninitiated) has fought their way through a tough group stage to reach the last four of the competition, and now just two matches stand between them and the ultimate glory.
Unfortunately, the not-inconsequential task of defeating New Zealand is the first obstacle, and then a final against either hosts India or the unflinching power of the West Indies will push them to the limit.
So let’s take a look at those semi-final match-ups, and see if we can spot any betting tips of note.
New Zealand vs England – (Wednesday April 30, 2:30pm GMT)
The Kiwis set the tone for their tournament with pulsating victories over India and their old rivals Australia in their first two matches.
Their performance with the bat against the Indians was a little below par, but the way they bowled and fielded – with a three-pronged spin attack no less – suggested that New Zealand were going to be a force to be reckoned with in this competition.
And so it proved when they followed that triumph with a hard-fought two wicket win over the Aussies. This time their batsmen did fire – Martin Guptill at the top of the order in particular – to remove any doubt that they might struggle without the now retired Brendan McCullum.
Subsequent victories over Pakistan (where Guptill again starred with 80 of his side’s total of 180-5) and Bangladesh (where they bowled their opponents out for 70) highlight just how fine-a-fettle both components of their game are in right now.
So no easy task for England then as they seek to reach a second T20 World Cup final, but they’ve shown enough in their Super 10 matches to suggest that they can handle everything the Kiwis throw at them.
That world-record run chase against South Africa was a pretty good marker, and in Joe Root – who was one of the world’s best willow-wielders anyway – they have a batsman that can clear the rope at ease. Add in the bludgeoning of Jason Roy, the innovation of Jos Buttler and the sheer bloody-mindedness of Ben Stokes and you have a match-winning unit.
The bowlers have done the business when called upon too. There’s a nice balance to the seam bowling department now with Liam Plunkett added pace and bounce to Chris Jordan’s guile and David Willey’s swing, while the spin twins Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid – far from the finished article – are reaping the rewards of faith being kept in them.
So who will book their place in the final? Well the bookies haven’t a clue – they’ve priced the Kiwis at 4/5 and the Three Lions at Evens – and in truth you could make a case for either side. England have wobbled more though (if they hadn’t chased down 229 against the Proteas they would have been out of the competition), so perhaps New Zealand just have the edge.
Elsewhere, we can back Root to be England’s Top Batsman at 3/1. He is by far and away his team’s best player of spin bowling, and he can expect plenty of that here. For the Kiwis, it has been the tweak of Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi that has been the platform for their fine performances, and happily both are available at 7/2 to be New Zealand’s Top Bowler. That means we can back them in tandem and still trouser a profit.
West Indies vs India – (Thursday April 31, 2:30pm GMT)
It’s assumed by most on the betting floor that India, powered by their ever-vocal home support, will have enough to see off the threat of the brilliant but inconsistent West Indies.
The Caribbean side will have to make do without the blitzkrieg hitting of Chris Gayle, who appears to be carrying an injury at the moment although this hasn’t been confirmed. He hasn’t really featured since that earth-shattering century against England in their Super 10 fixture however.
India will need more than just Virat Kohli to fire with the bat however – the hosts have been too reliant on his admittedly world class ability. But thanks to the versatility of their bowling attack – and the fact that all of the momentum has been sucked out of the Windies following their defeat to Afghanistan in their Super 10 dead rubber – the Indians deserve their tag as 2/5 favourites here.