Barely a year ago, England were no-hope losers, stumblebums adrift in a limited-overs world that had passed them by. They had been summarily dismissed from the World Cup after playing catch-up cricket from another age.
Twelve months before that they had been eliminated from the World Twenty20, humiliatingly defeated by the giants of the Netherlands. Whatever was happening in the modern game – and plenty was – England were apart from it.
Something, it gradually dawned, had to change. Plenty has. On Wednesday, though not without a blip or two along the way in the past fortnight, England will play New Zealand in the semi-finals of the World Twenty20.
The idea of the men’s side being at this stage so soon after being so patently off the pace – the calls to bring them home were needless simply because they were usually already on their way home – could hardly be contemplated. It has not been lost on their captain, Eoin Morgan, that it was the style and method of Wednesday’s opponents that provided the catalyst for England’s conversion.
New Zealand reached the World Cup final last year, playing a brand of fearless, all-for-one, one-for-all cricket. When they came to England as the first touring team last summer they provided an obvious template for a squad which knew that the status quo was not an option.
England will have their hands full. As the only team in this tournament to have won all four of their matches, New Zealand know what they are about. They make bold team selections designed to fit the surface and the opposition at hand, they have superb batting and bowling combinations, they trust each other. Three of their bowlers are going at fewer than six runs an over in the competition.
But England will take succour from the fact that they have survived a series of precarious positions in the three matches they have won. They also defeated New Zealand in a warm-up match in Bombay before the tournament and at last they appear to know their best team.
Morgan sees comparisons with this team and the one which lifted the World T20 title in 2010. He was at the crease when the captain, Paul Collingwood, now part of England’s coaching team, hit the winning runs. “Quite a few, actually,” he said. “The main one would be how relaxed everybody is around the group. It’s all about having fun and enjoying what you are doing.”
England think playing at Delhi for the third time gives them a quasi-home advantage. But New Zealand played their four matches at four different venues and won the lot. It could be a thriller.
Three things England must do to beat New Zealand
Stop Martin Guptill The man from Auckland is a Twenty20 opener for the age and his bristling starts give the Kiwis an early surge.
Handle the spin Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi have come from nowhere to be revelations. If they dominate the middle overs England are in trouble.
Take every half chance England’s fielding has been mercurial. They need one of their good days. Sloppiness will be fatal to their cause.
England v New Zealand
Wednesday, Delhi, 2.30pm
England (probable): J Roy, A Hales, J Root, J Buttler (wk), E Morgan (capt), B Stokes, M Ali, A Rashid, C Jordan, D Willey, L Plunkett.
New Zealand (probable): M Guptill, K Williamson (capt), C Munro, C Anderson, R Taylor, G Elliott, L Ronchi (wk), M Santner, A Milne, I Sodhi, M McClenaghan.