South Africa World Cup profile: Hashim Amla's form a worry as Proteas aim to shed 'chokers' tag

Ashish Peter 26/05/2019
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Amla (centre) has been out of form for some time now.

ICC World Cup heartbreak and South Africa have become synonymous with each other ever since the Proteas made their debut in the competition in 1992.

Four times have South Africa failed at the semi-final hurdle with the latest of them coming in the 2015 edition, where they fell to an agonising defeat at the hands of co-hosts New Zealand.

From the dramatic loss to Australia in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup to being hard done by the Duckworth-Lewis (DLS) method in 1992, South Africa have a history of making a hash of the competition despite the prodigious talents at their disposal.

The current crop led by skipper Faf du Plessis is not short of talent themselves with the Proteas coming into the 2019 ICC World Cup on the back of some impressive results in the 50-over format.

Since their disappointing campaign in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England, South Africa have only been beaten once in any bilateral ODI series. Apart from India who prevailed 6-1, South Africa have notched convincing wins over Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in that period.

Shedding their tag of ‘chokers’ and advancing to their maiden World Cup final will be top of the agenda for du Plessis’ men in England.

Record: Semi-final 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015

Squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Chris Morris, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Strength: Pace battery. In Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi, the Proteas have one of the most fearsome pace arsenals at the World Cup. Rabada is coming off a stupendous IPL campaign while veteran Steyn will be desperate to perform in what is surely his final World Cup.

Weakness: Stalwart Hashim Amla is struggling for form in all three formats with an average of just 16.25 in his last 12 innings across all competitions. With AB de Villiers no more a part of the international setup, the Proteas need Amla back at his best at the top.

Tahir going strong at 40.

Tahir going strong at 40.

Man to watch: Veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir is showing no signs of slowing down with age. Tahir has been in sensational form for CSK in the IPL this year and will be expected to do plenty of damage in England with wrist-spinners set to play a massive role in the World Cup.

Surprise Package: Rassie van der Dussen has had an excellent start to his international career with a batting average of over 88 after nine ODIs. He could turn out to be the replacement South Africa need down the order for De Villiers.

Verdict: Semi-final

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West Indies World Cup profile: Chris Gayle and Andre Russell's returns pack side with dynamite

Ashish Peter 26/05/2019
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Gayle (r) is back for a final World Cup ride.

They might not be the unstoppable force they once were in international cricket but there is plenty to be excited about for two-times champions West Indies as they get ready to embark on their 12th ICC World Cup campaign.

The Caribbean side qualified for the 2019 edition in England by the skin of their teeth after failing to gain an automatic spot in the 10-team competition, but have shown plenty of positive signs of late in the limited-overs formats.

With a squad brimming with T20 franchise league stalwarts, the Windies are more than capable of beating any side on their day.

On paper, West Indies have failed to record a single bilateral series win in the ODI format since 2014 when they whitewashed Bangladesh by 3-0 at home.

Five years is a long wait for a bilateral series win and it is no surprise that they are ranked eighth in the format currently. However, the return of T20 kingpins Chris Gayle and Andre Russell to the ODI side has changed the complexion of the team entirely.

They gave No1 ranked England a scare in the drawn 2-2 series in February this year and it would be foolish for any opposition to discount their threat.

Record: Champions 1975 and 1979

Squad: Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ashley Nurse, Fabian Allen, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Oshane Thomas, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis.

Strength: Definitely the batting. In Gayle and Russell, Windies have some of the cleanest and biggest hitters of the cricket ball who are difficult to stop when they get stuck in. Add in the likes of Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer in the mix and the side possesses the capability to blow any bowling attack away.

Weakness: It doesn’t look the most frightening of bowling attacks, with the side placing their trust in Test stalwarts Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach to lead the line. The lack of a single wrist-spinner is also worrying.

One to watch: While Gayle will be keen to sign off in style in his last Windies hurrah, Andre Russell is coming into the tournament on the back of a monstrous IPL 2019 campaign where he struck a total of 52 sixes in 14 matches while also picking up 11 wickets.

Surprise package: While Gayle and Russell are drawing all the attention, newly promoted vice-captain Shai Hope has become one of the most consistent performers for the team. A batting average of nearly 50 after 52 ODI appearances along with six tons is no mean feat and Hope’s form has only been getting better.

Prediction: Group Stage

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Bangladesh World Cup profile: Experienced Tigers aiming to go one step higher than 2015

Ashish Peter 26/05/2019
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The experienced Mortaza will lead Bangladesh in the World Cup.

This edition marks the sixth ICC World Cup appearance for Bangladesh, who only made their debut in the competition in 1999.

No more the minnows they once were, Bangladesh have established the capability of beating any team on their day over the years.

Mashrafe Mortaza and his men will take confidence from their 2015 World Cup showing, where they managed to reach the quarter-final in their best-ever finish. The Tigers followed up that impressive World Cup campaign with ODI bilateral series wins over the likes of India, Pakistan and South Africa in quick succession to herald a golden period in international cricket.

The past year has seen Bangladesh beat the West Indies both home and away while they went all the way to the final of the 2018 Asia Cup before going down to eventual champions India.

There have been a few roadblocks of late, however,  with Mortaza’s men being convincingly blanked 3-0 by a formidable New Zealand side.

Here, we take a closer look at how the Bangla Tigers are shaping up ahead of the World Cup.

Record: Quarter-final 2015

Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper), Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Mithun, Sabbir Rahaman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed.

Strength: One of the biggest assets of the Bangladesh side is its formidable middle-order which includes Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah. The three experienced batsmen have been long-standing servants of Bangladesh cricket and have been consistent performers over the years.

Weakness: One major worrying sign for the Tigers is the number of players currently recovering from injury. Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur, Mustafizur Rahman and Rubel Hossain are all just getting back from injury troubles and it could see them being a tad rusty for the tournament.

Tamim has been among the top five ODI openers in recent years.

Tamim has been among the top five ODI openers in recent years.

One to watch: Veteran opener Tamim Iqbal has been doing the job at the top for Bangladesh for over a decade now and is getting better with each passing year. The southpaw is averaging over 50 since the turn of 2017 with his undeniable talent now being backed by the consistency which had previously been elusive.

Surprise package: Eyebrows were raised over the inclusion of uncapped seamer Abu Jayed, who has only featured at the Test and T20 level so far. The 25-year-old, however, can swing the ball prodigiously and that should work in his favour in English conditions.

Prediction: Group stage

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