After 45 matches spread over 37 days, we have reached the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Semi-Final stage as the last four are now confirmed.The teams that moved on from the group stage were confirmed on Friday, with Australia, India, England and New Zealand having all booked their spots, however, the match-ups were still to be determined. That all changed on Saturday following India’s comprehensive victory over Sri Lanka, coupled with the Aussies losing a nail biter to South Africa.
It will be India taking on the Kiwis on Tuesday at Old Trafford, Manchester and the old enemies, Australia taking on hosts England at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Thursday.
Before the tournament started, most would have had cricket’s so called “Big 3” to be there with the fourth spot fought out between the rest. True to their traditions in ICC tournaments, the Black Caps have come through again. Below, I will discuss each match-up.
World Cup Semi-Final Previews
<h3India vs New Zealand :
This is a clash between teams of contrasting fortunes, with the Indians having strolled through the competition to finish atop the league table, losing just one game to England. On the other hand, New Zealand have stuttered to the semis after a friendly start to their campaign, having qualified on the basis of a better net run rate than Pakistan. The men in blue are favourites, not just for this encounter but to win the whole thing, but the Kiwis are never to be under-estimated.
India made a couple of changes for their last match of the group stage against Sri Lanka but are expected to revert back to what can be deemed their “best” side, with the three fast bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvi Kumar, ably supported by the spin of Yuzvendra Chahal and all-rounder Hardik Pandya. However, they may spring a surprise and draft in either Ravindra Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav into the team. Jadeja in particular is a supremely talented and consistent performer in all facets of the game and whenever called upon, even as a substitute fielder, has a knack of making key contributions.
So far, Rohit Sharma has been the Indians star performer with the bat, racking up 647 runs, including an incredible five centuries. In the bowling department, the ever reliable Bumrah has been showing just why he is considered the best in the business. Ominously for the rest of the competition, captain Virat Kohli has not registered a ton yet.
Unlike his opposite number, Kane Williamson has had to assume the lion’s share of the batting for the Kiwis. The skipper has the highest average at the World Cup, a staggering 96.20, almost acting as a de facto opener due to the poor form of the actual openers. For them to have any chance against the juggernaut that is India, their batsmen must come good, either if they bat first or in particular in a run chase.
Their bowling has been steady, if not spectacular, with the famed Boult-Southee combination which performed so well four years ago rarely seen, with the latter having only played one match. Trent Boult has been impressive but his performances have been trumped by those of Lockie Ferguson, who has taken 17 wickets so far in this World Cup.
This is India’s match to lose and the Kiwis will have to play the game of their lives to get past them, akin to their win over South Africa in the 2015 quarter final.
Australia vs England :
Unlike the first knockout match, this one is expected to be much closer. The Aussies entered the tournament with many not really knowing what to expect of the five time world champions because of the lack of ODI cricket played by David Warner and Steve Smith in the year leading up to the World Cup because of their bans, injuries to other players and a lack of consistency across the board. However, they are two wins away from winning another World Cup, having turned around their fortunes in both the two series leading up to the World Cup and the World Cup itself. Their old enemy and hosts England, came in as arguably joint favourites with India and it was going all so smoothly until back to back defeats to Sri Lanka and Pakistan left them under immense pressure just to qualify for the semi-finals. However, they got back on track versus India and New Zealand following stirring performances from several players, including a couple of Jonny Bairstow hundreds
Australia won the encounter between the teams in the group stage and pretty comprehensively by 64 runs, and all indications are that whichever team wins the toss will bat first. The men in yellow and green have been carried this tournament with their men at the top, Aaron Finch and Warner. Between them, they have amassed a whopping 1145 runs setting the tone at the top of the order to allow the others like Smith and co. to come in and play with freedom and help the team reach commanding totals.
At the last World Cup on home soil, Mitchell Starc was the leading wicket-taker and the Player of the Tournament, and this year again, he is leading his country’s charge for a record extending sixth win. The New South Welshman has already grabbed 26 scalps this campaign, to equal the record set by fellow Aussie Glenn McGrath at a single tournament.
The hosts have had to rely on all of their 15 man squad to get out the group stage. From Joe Root’s early dominance with the bat, to Jos Butler’s wicket-keeping to the consistent play of all-rounder Ben Stokes and new boy fast bowler Jofra Archer. England have had to make adjustments from their team selections, with Moeen Ali missing out at times when England preferred an extra pace bowler. They looked to have found the right combination and those defeats in the middle part of the competition may prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Besides their opponent, the home team will be battling the raised expectations which result from a prolonged period of excellence. Following their debacle at the last World Cup, the entire mentality of the team changed from one of conservatism to all out attack. Over the last three years, England have been the best ODI team and their performances and rankings have proved as such. Can they now take that final giant leap and finally win the World Cup that their fans, media and management so desperately crave? Only time will tell…
It’s unfortunate to say this, but this game could very well be decided by the toss, as both teams have fared much better batting first than second. Both teams have struggled mightily this tournament when having to reach a total.