India will lock horns with New Zealand in the first semi-final of the ICC World Cup 2019. The venue for the match will be Old Trafford, Manchester.
India finished top of the pile in the pool stage with 15 points, while New Zealand finished fourth having accumulated 11 points.
India, in their last pool stage match, had crushed Sri Lanka by 7 wickets. In fact, the Men in Blue are coming into this match after picking up back-to-back victories over Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, New Zealand ended their pool stage after a damaging 119 run loss against hosts England. The Kiwis have suffered three consecutive defeats against Pakistan, Australia and England.
Team India has been plagued with several injuries as the tournament has progressed. Despite that, they have picked up seven wins from their eight completed matches.
Rohit Sharma has been at his fluent best, having already scored a record-breaking five centuries so far. He surpassed Sri Lankan maestro Kumar Sangakkara for the most centuries in a single World Cup campaign, in India’s last match against the Lankans.
Sharma is leading the chart of highest run-scorers in this edition as he has scored 647 runs in eight matches at an average of 92.4. The 32-year-old looks well on course to breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 673 runs in 2003, which is the most runs scored in a single edition in World Cup history.
Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament with an injury so, KL Rahul was promoted as Sharma’s new opening partner. Rahul has looked pretty promising so far, scoring 77 and 111 in his last two innings.
Virat Kohli has been a consistent performer in this World Cup, despite failing to register a three-figure score in the tournament. He has 442 runs from eight matches in his kitty. A high-pressure World Cup semi-final presents the perfect stage for Kohli to put up a match-winning performance.
Rishabh Pant has already proved a point in this World Cup as he is looking to solve India’s long-standing number four dilemma. The youngster has played reasonably well so far and has also been a live-wire on the field.
The bowling department, led by the ever reliable Jasprit Bumrah has been delivering on a consistent basis. Bumrah has been India’s leading wicket-taker with 17 scalps to his name.
Virat Kohli will have some interesting decisions to make in the bowling attack, as he seeks a perfect combination for an all-important clash. Mohammed Shami and Yuzvendra Chahal were rested in the previous match and are expected to come back and fire on all cylinders in this decisive contest.
It will be interesting to see if Ravindra Jadeja is retained, having featured for the first time in this World Cup in India’s previous match.
On the other hand, 2015 runners-up New Zealand have had a mixed campaign so far. Collective bowling performances from pace trio Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson coupled with brilliant batting displays from skipper Kane Williamson had helped the Kiwis register five wins from their first five completed matches.
However, a remarkable dip in form which saw New Zealand lose three consecutive matches meant the Kiwis dropped to fourth place and eventually qualified ahead of Pakistan on the basis of a superior net run-rate.
A lot will depend on the shoulders of Martin Guptill who has been out of touch since their opening match against Sri Lanka. Henry Nicholls will be expected to provide able support to his opening partner.
Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme will have to contribute with both the bat and the ball, as they did in New Zealand’s opening matches in this World Cup. Lockie Ferguson is expected to come into the starting line-up, having missed the last match due to a hamstring injury.
Though the Blackcaps are not in good touch, Kane Williamson is a shrewd captain and they are well capable of producing a clinical performance against any opposition on any given day.
Trent Boult, just like he did four years ago, is New Zealand’s biggest threat with the ball. He has grabbed 15 wickets in eight matches so far. Kane Williamson has been their best contributor with the bat having notched up 481 runs in eight matches at an average of 60.1.
New Zealand will need all their big players performing in this decisive clash just as they did against India in a warm-up game before the commencement of the World Cup. However, in the World Cup, India’s clash against the Blackcaps was washed out due to heavy rain without a ball being bowled. So, India will meet New Zealand for the first time in this edition of the ICC World Cup.
Interestingly, 11 years ago Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson faced off in the ICC U19 World Cup semi-final in Malaysia, with Kohli’s boys getting the better off Williamson’s troops on that occasion.
The rain Gods are expected to play a spoilsport yet again with downpour being predicted on the match day. Light showers are expected with the weather to be overcast throughout the day. If the match is washed out, it will be played on the following day, which is the ‘reserve day’.
Unlike the group stage fixtures where a point was allotted to both sides in case of a washout, ICC has a reserve day for both the semi-finals and the final. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the reserve day also suggests overcast conditions along with showers.
If the match is washed out on the reserve day too, then India will automatically qualify for the final courtesy of accumulating a higher number of points in the pool stages. That is the worst possible scenario from a cricketing perspective as both sides will hope that they are able to take to the field and both sets of fans will be expecting an enthralling contest.
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (C), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah.
Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, and Trent Boult.
(Featured Image: Twitter/Cricket World Cup)
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