The 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final qualification doors are closing fast on the West Indies as they prepare to lock horns against New Zealand at Manchester on Saturday.
Windies find themselves in a precarious spot after picking up just the solitary win in their five games and must now win each of their four remaining clashes to have any chances of making the semi-final.
New Zealand, on the other hand, already have one foot in the semi-final after an unbeaten campaign that has seen them win four out of their five games with their clash against India ending in a no-result.
MISFIRING GAYLE, RUSSELL IN FOCUS
It has all gone pear shaped for Windies ever since they thrashed Pakistan in their campaign opener with Jason Holder’s side yet to pick up a single win this month. Their fixture against South Africa was washed out by rain but the manner of their defeats against Australia, England and Bangladesh have all left plenty to be desired.
Their latest loss against Bangladesh was a chastening one with the Tigers chasing down a total of 322 runs with more than eight overs to spare. These losses have seen the shine wear off quickly from a Windies side who were being talked up as dark horses before the World Cup began.
A big reason for their struggles of late has been down to the poor form of Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, both of whom have failed to bring the firepower that makes them such fearsome batsmen for opposition bowlers.
While Gayle has not played a single innings of note since his fifty against Pakistan, Russell has simply not turned up with the bat with a high score of just 21 so far. The two stalwarts will need to make a much bigger contribution if the Caribbean side are to turn their campaign around.
HIGH-FLYING KIWIS LOOK TO MAINTAIN MOMENTUM
Yet again, the Blackcaps are living up to their billing as big performers in the World Cup with Kane Williamson and his men yet to taste defeat in the tournament. The Kiwis arrive at Manchester fresh from a thrilling last-gasp win against South Africa with Williamson starring with an unbeaten ton.
The victory has moved New Zealand to second spot in the table and a semi-final spot is theirs to lose at this stage. However, they will be wary of the fact that they have to face title contenders Australia and England in their final two league clashes and those are potential banana skins.
As such, getting maximum points from their upcoming clashes against Windies and Pakistan will be of utmost importance to the Blackcaps. Their bowling department, especially pace, is firing on all cylinders but the batting is still looking inconsistent at times. The Kiwis will want the likes of Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham to find some form as the business end of the tournament approaches.
West Indies: Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Shai Hope (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Jason Holder (c), Ashley Nurse, Carlos Brathwaite, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.
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