England v New Zealand: Strength in depth ensures Eoin Morgan’s men can cope without Jason Roy

WITH everything that has been going on in and around Yorkshire cricket lately, it is easy to forget that several thousand miles away there is a World Cup taking place and that England are just two games away from winning the thing.

Smack: Jonny Bairstow in the nets in Abu Dhabi yesterday as England prepare for the T20 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand today. (Picture: AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

It seems almost incongruous to be talking about matters relating to bat and ball at present, as opposed to the racism storm that has engulfed the ground formerly known as Emerald Headingley, but the fact is that England are quietly closing in on their ambition to become the first country to hold both World Cups simultaneously.

As sponsors such as the Emerald Group back away from Yorkshire, and as the club embarks on the long journey back towards regaining trust and financial support, the clamour to be associated with England’s white-ball side – whether commercially or non-materially – shows no sign of ending.

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If there is a good news story in English cricket right now – and boy, does it need some of those –then the efforts of Eoin Morgan and his men provide a ray of light amid the prevailing gloom, and a reminder – when all’s said and done – that we are supposedly all here for the cricket after all (if only things were that simple).

England's Reece Topley, 2nd right, gestures ahead of toda's semi-final match with New Zealand during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The prosaic detail, then, as opposed to the bigger picture at play, is that England take on New Zealand this afternoon in Abu Dhabi for a place in the T20 World Cup final in Dubai on Sunday.

It is a rematch of the 50-over World Cup final at Lord’s two years ago, a fixture that seems to belong to a bygone era, such have been the crises that have damaged the world and cricket in the meantime.

“England have won the World Cup – by the barest of margins,” cried Ian Smith, famously, as Jos Buttler completed the trophy-clinching run-out.

Even typing those words sends a shiver down the spine; it was one of English cricket’s most magical moments.

England's Adil Rashid, middle, warms up during a training session ahead of the semi-final. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

For another to materialise on Sunday afternoon, with the winners of tomorrow’s semi-final between Pakistan and Australia lying in wait, England must not only recover from their solitary defeat of the tournament so far, against South Africa last Saturday, but also the loss of Jason Roy, the opening batsman, to a torn left calf muscle.

Roy and Buttler are the threshing machines at the top of the batting order, heading up a battering ram of comparably frightening and powerful apparatus, and although Roy can reflect on a steady as opposed to a spectacular 
tournament, the make-up of the team is not one that you would ideally want to change at this late stage.

Fortunately, England have so many “options” that they could probably manufacture their own Belgian chocolates (bad joke intended).

Why, they could probably play – and still win – with 10 men if they had to, although that would clearly be taking the proverbial mickey.

Morgan must also make-do-and-mend without Tymal Mills, the fast bowler whose World Cup was ended by a right thigh strain, having gone into the competition without the injured trio of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran.

England, in effect, will be playing with half-a-side missing tomorrow, and yet it still feels as though there will be hardly any shortfall in terms of their strength.

New Zealand, of course, are one heck of a side, perhaps the most consistent across the three formats.

Led by Kane Williamson, our very own Kane Williamson, lest we forget his time here at Yorkshire, they won the inaugural World Test Championship earlier this year and just continue to be the most impressive outfit around – pretty much everyone’s second-favourite team.

They are also largely responsible for England’s white-ball resurgence under Morgan, who took his inspiration from the way that Brendon McCullum, the then New Zealand captain, adopted a fearless, attacking approach to the game.

The modern England were essentially made in the image of McCullum’s New Zealand, and it is a tribute to how well England have developed in recent times that the Kiwis will go into this match as the underdogs rather than the other way round.

It has not been a fantastic World Cup in terms of excitement – granted, some readers may well feel that “excitement” and T20 is a non-sequitur in any case, and they would not be without their sympathisers in this quarter.

But that is also a tribute to the way that England have played and also Pakistan – perhaps England’s greatest threat to taking home the prize.

Neither have come specifically to provide excitement, after all –they have simply come to win.