With the semi-final matches decided already, this Cricket World Cup is all set to reach its culmination on the 14th of this month at the Lord’s Cricket stadium in UK. The peculiar English weather was no exception. It played its role and broke many hearts and proved detrimental in the exodus of the Pakistan cricket team.
Sri Lanka were struggling in the first half of the tournament and had Pakistan played them, the scenario could have been different. New Zealand too went on to qualify because of a better net run rate than Pakistan. Had Pakistan taken their opportunities we would have had another gruelling India-Pakistan match.
New Zealand is set to lock horns with India on the 9th of this month. On paper, India seems to have a walk in the park. The Kiwi top order, barring Kane Williamson, has failed miserably in the tournament, particularly their openers. Out of form Martin Guptil and Collin Munro are struggling with their form. Although Ross Taylor and Jimmy Neesham have shown their metal at times, the rest of the players have not lived up to their expectations. Even though Trent Boult has bowled a few magical spells, and Lockie Ferguson has terrorized many with his raw pace, the bowling unit has never looked penetrative enough to defend a decent total on the board.
On the other hand, the Indian team has been the most formidable side in the tournament. Rohit Sharma, opening, has been formidable. With four tons to his name, he has emerged as the most prolific scorer of the tournament. Although they lost Shikhar Dhawan to an injury, KL Rahul has never looked an incompetent or weak replacement. He has also registered a hundred in the tournament. The likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are the foundation of the Indian cricket team. MS Dhoni has been a bit off color but he is the organizer and his experience is priceless. Hardik Pandya is firing on all cylinders in the tournament. He can give impetus to the score board with his raw power as well as come in handy with the ball. In the bowling department, the inclusion of Mohammad Shami has put the team management in a dilemma. Shami has bowled with pace and accuracy and it will be very difficult for the team management to decide between him and Bhuvneshwar, and the latter is known for his ability to swing the new ball.
The Indian spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have cemented their authority in the team and the trump card of Indian bowling attack, Jasprit Bumrah, can topple any side. His accuracy and persistence to bowl yorkers makes him quite unique and he can surprise and test any batsman with his atypical action. Thus, the first semifinal is almost a one sided affair, though, in any sport, the uncertainty of the game can sink the Titanic. Let us hope that the encounter is thrilling, contrary to the predictions and analysis of the experts.
The second semi-final of the tournament is probably the match of the tournament. The traditional English-Ausie rivalry will be at its peak when the two teams will meet at Birmingham on the 11th of this month. It will be the battle of equals. Though, the home team will enjoy the advantage, both the sides will try to give their best. The Australian team has played some fearless cricket in the tournament. The opening pair of Aaron Finch and the mercurial David Warner have played some exceptional cricket in the tournament. The Kangaroos are probably going to miss the services of inform Usman Khwaja for the rest of the tournament, but despite that, this team has a strong batting unit to unbalance any bowling attack. Alex Carey, the wicket keeper, has shown tremendous promise and composure. His twin innings against South Africa and New Zealand reminded me of the legendary Adam Gilchrist. The cool and composed Steve Smith is reliable and Mitchell Starc is back to his best with his blistering pace and accuracy. He is the leading wicket-taker with 26 wickets already to his name. Pat Cummins and Jason Behrendorff have been decent as well. They can generate pace and hit the deck hard, making good use of their height. Orthodox off spinner Nathan Lyon will be quite effective in the hot English weather.
On the other hand, the English team would like to continue their winning run. They will carry their momentum after playing some extraordinary cricket against India and New Zealand. After loosing to Pakistan and Sri Lanka, their chances of qualifying had dwindled, but the English team performed well under pressure in their last two matches. The opening duo of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have exihibited some remarkable displays. Jonny Bairstow has scored back to back centuries in the last couple of games and will try to continue his exuberant form in the rest of the tournament. Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan and the magical Ben Stokes make England a powerful one day side. This batting lineup is good enough for England to win them their maiden world cup title. Mark Wood, Liam Plunket and Jofra Archer can defend any total. Leg spinner Adil Rashid can make things difficult for any batsmen.
Thus, the second knockout match is probably the tussle of equals, contrary to the first match which looks like the battle of unequals.
The second semi-final of the tournament is probably the match of the tournament. The traditional English-Ausie rivalry will be at its peak when the two teams will meet at Birmingham on the 11th of this month. It will be the battle of equals. Though, the home team will enjoy the advantage, both the sides will try to give their best. The Australian team has played some fearless cricket in the tournament.