Intriguing T20 World Cup semis locked in

·3-min read

Australia's first men's Twenty20 title, unprecedented dominance for New Zealand, another trophy for injury-hit favourites England, or a triumphant shedding of Pakistan's reputation for inconsistency.

The race to win this year's T20 World Cup in the UAE is down to four, some 67 months after Carlos Brathwaite's unforgettable finish to the previous edition.

The event may not hold the prestige of the ODI World Cup, nor the pizzazz of the IPL.

But recent weeks have produced captivating cricket, much drama and - for all the tactical microanalysis and talk of match-ups - a trend of the toss becoming far too important because of the dew factor.

Three high-stakes matches will determine who takes home the trophy and $2.2 million in prize money.

England and New Zealand square off in Abu Dhabi at 1am AEDT on Thursday, a rematch of the 2019 ODI World Cup final decided by boundary countback.

Australia face Pakistan in the other semi-final at 1am AEDT on Friday in Dubai, which also hosts the final at the same time next Monday.

Three of the semi-finalists also occupy top-four spots on the T20 rankings.

Australia are the outliers, having crashed to seventh on the T20 charts after a depleted squad suffered series losses to West Indies and Bangladesh this year.

Having weathered what coach Justin Langer termed a "sobering" loss to England, Australia are two wins away from landmark success.

"We've got a very, very talented and very, very experienced team. Those things are important in winning World Cups," Langer said.

Australia's first obstacle is an in-form Pakistan and the imposing frame of their batting coach Matthew Hayden, Langer's close friend.

Pakistan have been a clinical, composed and consistent force since shocking pre-tournament favourites India by 10 wickets.

Captain Babar Azam has equalled Hayden's record for most half-centuries at a T20 World Cup, while Pakistan are the only semi-finalists to have named an unchanged XI throughout the tournament.

Renowned for the unpredictable and unfathomable, Pakistan can become the first men's T20 champions to finish a World Cup undefeated.

"They (Australia) have been playing really good cricket. So are we," Shoaib Malik said.

The 39-year-old Malik, a late-call up for his seventh T20 World Cup because of Sohaib Maqsood's back injury, has been among the feel-good stories in Pakistan's surge.

England, fresh from their first defeat of the event in which opener Jason Roy suffered a calf injury, will start their semi as favourites.

The benchmark in white-ball cricket for some time, England's depth was already being tested by the absence of key players Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.

"The guys have unbelievable resilience and belief," captain Eoin Morgan said.

New Zealand have strolled into the finals with typical nonchalance.

Daryl Mitchell had never opened in a T20I before this tournament, Devon Conway had never taken the gloves in a T20I until this year.

Yet captain Kane Williamson, understated and underrated, can add a World Cup to the mace he hoisted after helping defeat India in this year's inaugural Test championship final.

"We're confident we can go out and beat anyone in this tournament," express paceman Adam Milne said.

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