Eoin Morgan said his England side were devastated after losing a thrilling and desperately close T20 World Cup semi-final to a New Zealand side turbo-boosted to glory by an innings of swashbuckling brilliance by Jimmy Neesham.
The two sides have played each other often over recent years – with England memorably edging out New Zealand in 2019 to win the 50-over World Cup – and become familiar with their strengths. But Neesham’s hitting skills at No 6 – he struck three sixes on his way to 27 runs off 11 balls – still caught England unawares.
“We’ve played against Jimmy a lot and he’s not struck the ball like that against us ever,” Morgan said. “Everything worked right up until the point he came in. It’s a fantastic cameo in high-pressure circumstances when his team needed it.
“We’re devastated. To be on the wrong side of a close game is not easy to take. We fought unbelievably well on a wicket that didn’t necessarily suit our batting and we were brilliant with the ball.
“We were right in the game until Jimmy came to the wicket, if not ahead of the game.”
England reached 166 for four in their 20 overs, scoring four sixes as their batters struggled to strike the ball cleanly.
“The hitting ability within our squad is quite strong and that the guys didn’t feel like they could clear the ropes due to the nature of the pitch was a good indication that it wasn’t coming on to the bat that well,” Morgan said.
“I think that continued throughout the Black Caps’ innings until Jimmy came to the crease. He was probably the only guy that came out and showed the ability to strike the ball cleanly from ball one.”
The match ultimately hinged on the 17th over of New Zealand’s innings, bowled by Chris Jordan, which contained two wides and two sixes and cost 23 runs as Neesham hit England out of the game.
“Sometimes you’ve got to accept someone is going to get you and that’s what Neesham did,” said Chris Silverwood, the England head coach.
Daryl Mitchell scored the winning runs with an over to spare. “The way Jimmy came out and struck the ball pretty much from ball one was pretty special,” said Mitchell, whose highest score in T20 internationals, 72 off 47 balls, was also sweetly timed.
“The rate was pretty high at that stage. It’s a bit of a blur, but I can imagine it was a hell of a game to watch and the way England played was very special as well.
“It’s pretty cool to get the job done, but it’s a game of inches, that’s for sure.”
Morgan refused to blame injuries, the lost toss or a bit of late dew for his side’s defeat. “I don’t think it made a huge impact,” he said of the dew.
“The Black Caps have still outplayed us. There’s a huge amount of respect between both sides because we know every time we play them we’re going to be up against it.”
Mitchell was equally complimentary about his opponents. “England played a hell of a game,” he said. “I guess it’s the nature of finals, it’s always a game of inches and we were lucky that we got some momentum right at the end.The way they went about their innings with both bat and ball was very special.”
New Zealand will face the winner of Thursday’s game between Pakistan and Australia in Sunday’s final.
“We’re a bunch of Kiwis, there’s only five million of us, so we’re very proud,” said Mitchell. “Whoever we’re taking on should be good fun – we’ll give it everything we’ve got.”