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World Cup 2019: Road to the semi-finals

ANALYST
Feature
21.51K   //    08 Jul 2019, 15:46 IST

The 2019 Cricket World Cup has reached its business end and after a long league stage, we've seen 4 teams qualifying for the semi-finals. India topped the table on the final day of the league stage while New Zealand made it despite a few wobbles at the end. Australia and England finished second and third respectively.

Let's take a look at how each team fared during the league stage and analyse how their knockout matches would go:

India (9 matches, 7 wins, 15 points)

India lost just one match in the league stage
India lost just one match in the league stage

India, recognized as firm favourites even before the tournament started, went about their business just as expected.

Their opening game against South Africa saw Rohit Sharma hit a fluent century, as India chased down a below-par total of 227-9. Yuzvendra Chahal’s four-wicket haul got vital support from all the other bowlers.

Against Australia, the side produced yet another clinical effort, winning by 36 runs after Shikhar Dhawan struck yet another century in an ICC tournament. The joy for the left-hander was shortlived, as he was soon ruled out of the entire competition with a thumb injury.

Rain was supposed to have its say in the tournament, and India was at the receiving end against New Zealand, with the match rained off. The outcome did not dampen their spirits.

Against Pakistan, India extended their unbeaten World Cup streak to seven matches, with an 89-run (DLS) win. Rohit Sharma was in sensational nick once again, scoring 140, as India amassed 336 in 50 overs. In Pakistan’s rain-affected innings, they could only return 212 runs.

India’s juggernaut was already on a roll, when they met Afghanistan in their next game. There was a spot of bother, as the top-order collapsed against a sustained Afghanistan bowling effort, but still managed to get 224. A spirited Afghanistan came agonizingly close, but fell short by 11 runs, with Mohammed Shami claiming a late hat-trick.

The side couldn’t afford to slip up, and managed to comfortably win their next game, against West Indies (125 runs). Kohli’s 72 and Shami’s four-wicket haul made the difference.

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However, they stumbled against England in their 31-run loss, failing to put the screws on England’s big hitting and losing track in their chase. It took them a 28-run win over Bangladesh, including Rohit Sharma’s 104, to seal a semi-final spot. Jasprit Bumrah’s yorkers were on point, despite a spirited effort by Bangladesh.

They capped off the league stages with another Rohit Sharma century, and a comfortable seven-wicket win.

Australia (9 matches, 7 wins, 14 points)

The World Cup surely brings the best out of the Aussies
The World Cup surely brings the best out of the Aussies

Not many would have predicted Australia to show such authority in the World Cup, given all that had happened to their side over the past year and a half. Reassembled just ahead of the tournament, Australia have dominated, and how, leading the points table for a major part of the edition.

Their first game, against Afghanistan, turned out to be an easy fixture; they steamrolled past the side with a seven-wicket win, after dismissing them for 207. It also kickstarted Warner’s tournament of dominance.

West Indies followed next, and although they gave Aaron Finch’s side a run for their money. Australia still defended 288 by 15 runs. This was after Nathan Coulter-Nile’s 92, and Steve Smith’s half-century pushed them to a healthy total, after stumbling to 79-5, exhibiting the remarkable depth their batting had. Mitchell Starc then turned on the heat with a fifer.

Their first obstacle came against India, where they fell short by 36 runs chasing 352. Even though there were sparks of good batting performances, the innings could never get going in their steep chase.

Australia faced Pakistan next, and were back to winning ways, helped by a strong stand by openers David Warner (107) and Aaron Finch (82). Despite a middle-order collapse, Australia’s total turned out to be enough for a Pakistan side battling with batting inconsistency.

The run extended to wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where Australia’s batting might came to the fore, posting totals of 334 and 381. While Aaron Finch scored 153 in the first one, it was Warner’s 166 that took them to their record total.

England came up next, and by this time, Mitchell Starc had warmed up well. They completed a 64-run win on the back of another Finch 100, following it up with a clinical 86-run win to New Zealand, led by Starc’s fifer.

They lost their final league game, to South Africa, but still managed to stay second on the table.

England (9 matches, 6 wins, 12 points)

The hosts picked up their act at the end
The hosts picked up their act at the end

Dubbed one of the favourites before the tournament, England did not have the smoothest of rides, yet made it to the final four.

After a comfortable 104-run win in the opening game, where Ben Stokes’ all-round masterclass came to the fore, England were stunned by Pakistan, falling short of the 349-run target by 14 runs, despite centuries by Joe Root and Jos Buttler.

They returned with a strong statement against Bangladesh, amassing 386 on the back of Jason Roy’s 153, winning by 106 runs after sustained bowling efforts from their quicks.

Clinical wins against West Indies (8 wickets) and Afghanistan (150 runs) further strengthened their position in the table. Against West Indies, Mark Wood and Jofra Archer shone, while Eoin Morgan’s 148 turned out to be a difference against Afghanistan.

Then, England encountered a difficult phase, one that threatened to almost kick them out. An injury to their premier opener, Jason Roy, did not help.

A shock loss to Sri Lanka, where they failed to chase 233, became worse when they lost to Australia in the next game, stumbling, yet again, in a 289-run chase.

With the mid-table commotion challenging their chance to qualify, they came good once again, against India, winning by 31 runs after a stellar all-round show. Jonny Bairstow’s century, and Ben Stokes’ all-round effort, coupled with brilliant death bowling, sealed the game.

A 119-run numbing of New Zealand completed their turnaround; Bairstow came good once again with a century, and Mark Wood and company did the rest with the ball, restricting the Kiwis in their chase of 306.

With the win, they sealed their spot in the top four.

New Zealand (9 matches, 5 wins, 11 points)

New Zealand - Can they go one step better this time around?
New Zealand - Can they go one step better this time around?

New Zealand have always been identified as dark horses in global events, considering the hidden potential that they tend to possess. Despite a strange campaign, they edged out other teams to make it to the top-four.

It started with a 10-wicket thumping of Sri Lanka, where they bundled them out for 136. It gave them momentum, and great NRR, that ran throughout the tournament, despite late losses.

On the back of a fighting 82 by Ross Taylor, they sneaked out a two-wicket win against Bangladesh, before putting in a more complete performance in their seven-wicket victory against Afghanistan, where James Neesham took a five-wicket haul.

With the relatively easy fixtures taken care of, the Kiwis collected one point from the abandoned match against India.

Against South Africa, captain Kane Williamson showed his class, calmly taking the side over the line with an unbeaten 106 in their chase of 242. The side had looked scratchy at times, but were still unbeaten in the tournament.

They somehow scraped through against New Zealand, despite a stunning assault by centurion Carlos Brathwaite towards the end of West Indies’ 292-run chase. The openers weren’t firing, but Williamson was in his elements, compiling a stellar 148.

Their first roadblock came in their six-wicket loss to a spirited Pakistan. James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme did well to recover New Zealand from collapse, but the 238-run target wasn’t threatening enough for Pakistan.

The loss was followed by two more, against Australia and England. They suffered an 86-run blanking out against the Aussies, failing to capitalise on Trent Boult’s hat-trick. The batting crumbled against Australia, and followed it up with another poor showing against England, where they folded for another below-200 score, losing by 119 runs.

Three back-to-back defeats weren’t enough to keep the Kiwis out, as a strong start meant that they qualified with a superior net run-rate, edging out similar-placed Pakistan.


Semi-final clashes:

India vs New Zealand: India start as overwhelming favourites, considering their near-clinical display throughout the tournament. New Zealand have been scratchy, but have somehow managed to clinch key moments in games to stay afloat. It will be a clear competition between India’s batting might, and the Kiwis’ penetrative bowling.

Australia vs England: The clash of two bigwigs, this one’s going to be a cracker of a contest, considering the history that it brings along. Australia might seem to hold an edge, but you can never keep England away from the equation, given the home crowd and the belief in the dressing room of this strong ODI outfit.

Also read - World cup all time records

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