New Zealand batsman Daryl Mitchell, who blasted an unbeaten 72 off 47 balls to help the Black Caps reach the final of the T20 World Cup, has hailed the contribution of his teammate Jimmy Neesham in changing the course of the semi-final match against England.
Neesham (27 off 11 balls) along with Mitchell powered New Zealand to five wickets victory in the first semi-final at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday evening. Chasing 167, New Zealand romped home with an over to spare and have now progressed to their first Men’s T20 World Cup final.
With New Zealand needing 57 off the last four overs, Neesham thumped two sixes (including an attempted catch by Bairstow at long-on) and a four while taking 23 runs off Chris Jordan in a match-changing 17th over. In the next over, Neesham slog-swept Adil Rashid over deep mid-wicket followed by Mitchell reaching his half-century with a pulled six over long-on.
“Yeah, I thought the way Jimmy came out and struck the ball pretty much from ball one was pretty special. It got us some momentum hitting up until the last few overs, and yeah, we always knew the rate was pretty high at that stage, and yeah, I thought his knock was pretty special in helping us get the win,” Mitchell said.
“Once the rate gets up to that height, you try and make sure you get your match-ups that work for you and hit it as far as you can. It was nice to get a few out the middle, it was a struggle in the middle overs.”
Inspired by Neesham, Mitchell, who has been patiently building up his innings, also got into the act. With 20 runs needed off the last two overs, Mitchell slammed Woakes for back-to-back sixes over long-on and deep mid-wicket before finishing the chase in style with a boundary past backward square leg as England conceded 23, 14, and 20 in the last three overs.
England skipper Eoin Morgan too acknowledged that it was Neesham who took it away from them.
“We were brilliant with the ball and we right in the game until Jimmy Neesham came to the wicket, if not ahead of the game.
“Everybody struggled to clear the ropes, that was just the nature of the pitch, but you have to take your hat off to him, he played really well.”
Mitchell said it was a ‘special feeling’ after steering his side into their first T20 World Cup final.
“Any game you win for your country is pretty special, let alone a World Cup semi,” he said. “It’s obviously a great honour to represent my country at a World Cup – if you said this five, six years ago I would have laughed at you, so to be here sitting right now is awesome,” added Mitchell, who was watched by his father John from the stands as he scored the winning runs.
“It’s nice to get us over the line but we’ve got another big one coming up in a few days we’re pretty excited about. It’s a bit of a blur but I imagine it was a hell of a game to watch. It’s a game of inches, that’s for sure. A couple of those sixes could have been a metre shorter and we might have been all out. But we knew if we kept it within certain numbers, we had a chance. It never felt like it was out of our grasp, especially with the smaller boundary on one side.
“We’re a bunch of Kiwis, there are only five million of us so we’re very proud to be representing our country.
“We’ll enjoy the win tonight but we’ll move on pretty quickly. Whoever we’re taking on, we’ll have fun,” said Mitchell, who won the Player of the Match award for his brilliant knock.