Captain Eoin Morgan admits England’s renaissance in limited-overs cricket was partly inspired by their World Twenty20 semi-final opponents New Zealand.
A year ago the Black Caps finished runners-up at the 50-over World Cup, dealing in an imaginative, aggressive style of cricket that left England looking outgunned on power and outdated in approach.
But, when Peter Moores was ousted as head coach, the levee finally broke and the one-day side was flooded with fresh faces and a new outlook.
New Zealand, and neighbours Australia, were now the benchmark – one that was met quicker than anyone imagined last summer when England won a thrilling ODI series against the Black Caps 3-2 as well as the sole T20 by 56 runs.
It was a transformative moment for the squad, creating a bond and belief that lives on in their surge to the last four in India.
“Can I believe how far we’ve come? Absolutely not,” said Morgan, pictured below.
“I’ve been asked the question after every series that we’ve played, and I can’t quite believe how far we’ve come overall in our white-ball cricket.
“I think that New Zealand series was very important. We’d talked about emulating what Australia and New Zealand did at that World Cup.
“From where we were to where they were… we were miles away. In order to bridge the gap we had to try to emulate the fashion in which they played and the aggressive nature in which they went about their game. So they did play a key part, absolutely.”
Morgan was not always part of a team that needed to overcome the odds or play catch-up in the shortest format.
In 2010 he was a key member of the England side that, albeit briefly, became market leaders by winning the World T20 in the Caribbean.
He is the sole survivor from that vintage though the man who lifted the trophy, Paul Collingwood, is part of the coaching staff. Like Collingwood’s side, Morgan’s England were beaten in their first fixture by the West Indies – an omen that has not gone unnoticed in the camp.
And, looking around a buoyant dressing room, it is not the only parallel Morgan recognises. “I see a few actually,” he said. “The main one would be how relaxed everybody is around the group. How much they are enjoying the challenge of playing international cricket at the moment and their hunger to win.
“It is all right having fun and enjoying what you are doing but if you don’t have that inner drive to want to improve and win games of cricket you are going to stand still for a long time. This side has shown strengths which are similar [to 2010].” New Zealand are the only unbeaten side in the competition and qualified in first place to England’s second, though it is harder to pick between the two sides than that suggests.
England have the advantage of being familiar with the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, where they have played their last two games, and also won when the teams went head-to-head in a warm-up match in Mumbai ahead of the tournament proper. “We’ve got a tough game against a really strong New Zealand side, who have played probably the best cricket of the group stages,” said Morgan. “So we’re going to have to come up with a very strong game of cricket to beat them.
“In my experience of getting to the knockout stage in any tournament you have done the hard work and it is almost now that you have earned a licence to go out and express yourself as much as you can.
“To me that attitude means getting the best out of yourself. If you have guys coming out who are very relaxed about performing on the big stage I think that takes a lot of weight off your shoulders.
“May the best side win.”