Former England captain Michael Atherton hailed New Zealand as the strongest all-format team in the world, after they romped into the final of T20 World Cup 2021. The Blackcaps defeated 2016 runners-up England by five wickets in first semi-final of the tournament in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
With a sensational five-wicket win over tournament favourites and top-ranked T20I ranked outfit England on Wednesday, New Zealand have stormed through to their maiden T20 World Cup final.
It will be their third appearance in an ICC tournament final in as many years, after having finished runners-up at the 2019 World Cup with a thrilling finish in the final against England at Lord’s, and later having triumphed at the inaugural World Test Championship earlier this year.
Currently, they are the top-ranked team in Tests and ODIs, and occupy fourth position in T20I team rankings. Michael Atherton had no hesitation in labelling the Kane Williamson led side as the strongest all-format team in the world.
“They are an outstanding team, in all formats of the game really,” Atherton told Sky Sports.
“They are through to another World Cup final, they were a sliver away from winning the last World Cup in 2019, they are the World Test Championship winners.
“Across formats, you would have to say they are the strongest team at the moment so congratulations to them, a fantastic achievement with limited resources in terms of personnel and money and things that we’ve often talked about.”
New Zealand had lost Martin Guptill and Williamson early in their run-chase of 167 on Wednesday, before Daryl Mitchell and Devon Conway revived the innings with a steady 82-run stand. Jimmy Neesham then took over, partnering Mitchell in a match-defining 17-ball 40 stand to set it up for his team.
Atherton believed it was Neesham’s 11-ball 27, that turned the game in New Zealand’s favour.
“It just changed so quickly tonight. For a long time in that chase, I thought England were ahead of the game,” Atherton said.
“The pitch looked two-paced and sluggish, no one really got going and suddenly Neesham comes out and changed that game with some fantastic hitting.”
Pakistan and Australia will face-off in the second semi-final in Dubai on Thursday, and Atherton backed the Babar Azam led outfit to go through, highlighting their all-round bowling attack.
“I’m going with Pakistan, I think they have got the best and most varied attack in this competition,” he said.
“You think of that attack: Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, the spinners, the combinations that they have so I reckon they got the best attack and I think they will win it.”