India will aim to take another giant step towards 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final qualification when they take on West Indies at Old Trafford on Thursday.
The Men in Blue remain unbeaten in England with four wins from five clashes while one encounter with New Zealand ended in a no-result.
Windies, on the other hand, are all but out of the running for the semi-finals after picking up just the one win in their six games.
FOCUS ON INDIA’S MIDDLE-ORDER
India’s start to their World Cup campaign had been an impressive one but they come into the Old Trafford clash after being given a big scare by Afghanistan.
India’s batting struggled massively against Afghanistan’s slower bowlers with MS Dhoni, in particular, having a hard time in the middle. The veteran wicketkeeper scratched his way to a 52-ball 28 and looked unconvincing throughout his stay at the crease.
Even the normally restrained Sachin Tendulkar criticised Dhoni for a lack of intent in the middle as India ultimately posted a below-par total of 224-8.
Dhoni will be in the spotlight once again and it will be interesting to see whether skipper Virat Kohli shuffles the batting order. India are set to persist with all-rounder Vijay Shankar in the middle-order despite the availability of Rishabh Pant while Hardik Pandya will likely be used as a floater once again.
Kedar Jadhav should retain his place as well after a fighting fifty against the Afghans while he also bowls part-time off-spin.
A sensational maiden ODI ton from Carlos Brathwaite was not enough for the Windies as the Caribbean side falling to an agonising five-run loss to New Zealand in their most recent encounter.
It was the fourth loss in six games for Jason Holder and his men who had started their campaign with a comprehensive thrashing of Pakistan. Despite coming into the tournament with a power-packed side containing the likes of Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, the Windies have failed to put together a complete team display which in turn has cost them in crux situations.
Star all-rounder Russell has now been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament to rub salt into Windies’ wounds with batsman Sunil Ambris called up as a replacement.
Although they still hold an outside chance of qualifying, the writing is well and truly on the wall for West Indies. They will now be playing mostly for pride in their three remaining games.
India seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar returned to bowling in the nets after picking up a hamstring niggle in India’s win over arch-rivals Pakistan. However, India are set to proceed with caution when it comes to Bhuvneshwar and he is likely to miss out again while hat-trick hero Mohammed Shami should retain his spot in the playing XI.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Shai Hope (wk), Sunil Ambris, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder (c), Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas.
Mitchell Starc was thrilled that Australia were the first team to book their place in the semi-finals of the ICC Men’s World Cup 2019 following their victory over England at Lord’s.
Despite already having qualified for the semi-finals – Starc says there will be no let up from Australia as they take on New Zealand and South Africa in their final two group games.
He said: “There’s a lot of cricket to come before semi-final time. We’ve got two really important games but playing here at Lord’s where the final’s going to be has given us confidence,” he said.
“We’ve got another game here against New Zealand, which is going to be tough. They’re playing some fantastic cricket and they’ve really gone under the radar. Nobody’s really spoken too much about them and they keep winning games.
“So they’ve got a really strong side, Kane Williamson is their lynchpin in the middle and they have have bowlers who swing the ball, so it’s another big game but we’ve cemented our spot in the semis and we want to try and finish as high as we can building towards the final series of matches.”
Starc was happy to share the bowling laurels with his more unsung fellow left-armer, Jason Behrendorff, who took a five-for in only his second World Cup match.
“Dorff bowled awesome, beautifully, and deserved his five wickets – and it’s great to see him do so well here at Lord’s against England. I’ve bowled a fair bit with Mitchell Johnson in the past and this showed again today that there’s no reason why you can’t play two left armers when the pitch and match-ups suit.
“Dorff actually asked me if there was anything of note about the wicket here and, to be honest, I didn’t have much for him as I haven’t been here for about four years.”
They key to the victory, felt Starc, was the way the Australian bowlers got their lengths right in the England innings. “After watching them, as a bowling group we all wanted to bowl a bit fuller and make them drive the ball, and I think we did that really well. It was a positive for us to bowl them out and win the game fairly strongly.”
With typical modesty, he was not making a big deal of the key delivery, a reverse swing yorker, that skittled Ben Stokes just as England’s dangerous all-rounder looked particularly threatening.
“He’s a fantastic player, one of their key batters. He nearly got them home against Sri Lanka and so we knew while he was batting that we couldn’t rest up. Fortunately, I got one through the gate,” shrugged Starc.
Some were hailing it as the delivery of the tournament so far, but Starc insisted: “I’ve got a pretty simple one-day plan and for me its all about execution.
“To execute that ball exactly how I wanted and for it to result the way it did was pleasing for me – but it was pleasing to contribute to the whole group.”
Start also laughed off an incident at breakfast in his team hotel when a supporter ‘sledged’ him while he was going to eat his three poached eggs.
“Some bloke in a suit was having a go about my strapping tape on my elbow and about me eating too much and how it was going to affect my bowling!” smiled Starc.
“He had a bit of a click at me – all good fun. I was still half-asleep, didn’t think much of it. It’s all been good fun around the tour, it’s all part and parcel of a World Cup!”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson won the toss and chose to bat in the World Cup match against Pakistan at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
The unbeaten Blackcaps are second on the 10-team table with 11 points, winning five matches and one no result while Pakistan are seventh with just two wins, three defeats and a no result.
Who will prevail in Birmingham?
Find out by following the ball-by-ball commentary below.