By Mushtaq Hurra
With the semifinal lineup decided already, World Cup 2019 is all set to reach its culmination on the 14th of this month at Lord’s Cricket stadium in London, England after some great exhibition of leather and willow. The peculiar English weather didn’t lag behind. It played its role, and broke many hearts rather proved detrimental in the exodus of Pakistan cricket team. The Sri Lankan cricket team was struggling badly in the first half of the tournament. So, it was not difficult for Pakistan to beat them. Had they played the match, the scenario could have been altogether different.
New Zealand, which is going to lock horns with the Indian side on the 9th of this month, to seal a berth in the final of the tournament, could have been out of the contention at the knockout stage. And the infamous rule of net run rate came in a blessing in disguise for them. This rule has already come under severe criticism from different quarters. We can attribute the exodus of Pakistan cricket team to their bad luck. Pakistan team played better cricket than Kiwis but destiny had something else in store for them.
Now, the first semifinal clash between strong India and fragile New Zealand is looking like an easy walk for the men in blue. The Kiwi top order, barring Kane Williamson has miserably failed in the tournament, particularly their openers have let them down. Out of form Martin Guptil and Collin Munro are struggling with their form. Though Ross Taylor and Jimmy shone on a couple of times but rest of the middle order and late middle order has not lived up to the reputation. Though Trent Bolt bowled a few magical spells, and Lockie Ferguson terrorized many with his raw pace but the bowling unit never looked penetrative enough to defend a total on the board. On the other hand, Indian team has looked the most formidable side of the tournament. Rohit Sharma at the top of the order, has been simply awesome. With five three figure scores to his credit, he is emerging as the most prolific scorer of the tournament. Though they lost Shikhar Dhawan to an injury, but KL Rahul never looked an incompetent or weak replacement. He has also registered his three figure mark in the tournament. The likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are the rock of Gibraltar of the Indian cricket team. Though MS Dhoni was a bit off color in the league matches but he can come good at time. And Hardik Pandya is firing with all cylinders in the tournament. He can give impetus to the score board with his blistering hits. Rishab Pant is also in the side to free his arms, and has the ability to take the attack to the opposite camp. In the bowling department, the inclusion of Mohammad Shami has put the team management into a virtual dilemma. Shami has bowled with pace and accuracy. Now, it is very difficult for the team management to decide between Shami and Bhuvneshwar.
The latter is known for his ability to swing the new ball in the beginning of a clash, in any conditions or ground. Indian spin duo of Yuvendar Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have cemented their authority in the tournament. And the trump card of Indian bowling attack, Jasprit Bumrah can topple any batting side at any time. His accuracy and persistence to bowl Yorkers makes him quite unique. He can surprise and test any batsman with his typical short pitch armory. Thus, the first semifinal is almost a one sided affair though the uncertain Character of the game can sink the boat of a bigger side on a given day. Let us hope that the encounter proves thrilling contrary to the predictions and analysis of experts.
The second semifinal of the tournament is probably the match of the tournament. The traditional English-Kangaroo rivalry will be at its Zenith when the two strong teams will meet at Birmingham on the 11th of this month. It will be a battle of equals. Though the home team will enjoy the advantage of playing at home but both the sides will try to give their hundred percent. The Australian team has played some fearless cricket in the tournament. The opening pair of Aaron Finch and mercurial David Warner has played some exceptional cricket in the tournament. Though 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 Ausie batsman has shown tremendous promise and composure. His twin innings against South Africa and New Zealand has refreshed the memories of the legendary Adam Gilchrist. And the cool and composed Steven Smith gives reliability to the Kangaroo batting lineup. Mitchell Starc is making merry with his pace and accuracy. He is bowling the best of his career. He is leading the bowlers with 26 scalps already to his name. Pat Cummins and Jason Behrandoff are never easy to face. Both the pacers can generate pace and hit the deck hard, making good use of their height The orthodox off spinner, Nathan Lyon will be quite effective in the hot English weather. On the other side, English team will like to continue their winning run. They will carry the winning momentum, after playing some extraordinary cricket against India and New Zealand. After losing to Pakistan and Sri lanka, their chances of qualifying for semis had quite darkened. But the English team come up good in their last two matches. The Opening duo of Jason Roy and Jhony Bairstow have exhibited some remarkable display of Willow. The former 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 Butter, Eion Morgan and the magical Ben Stokes make England a powerful one day side. This batting lineup is enough for England to win them their maiden World Cup title. Mark wood, Liam Plunket and Jofra Archer backs its batsmen. This pace battery can give strong and surprise jolts to any batting lineup. The leggie, Adil Rashid can make things difficult for batsmen. Thus, the second knockout match is probably the tussle of equals contrary to the first match which looks the battle of unequals.
—The writer is a Teacher and Columnist. He can be reached at: email@example.com