Cricket World Cup 2019: Sri Lanka bank on scintillating Malinga to tackle demoralised Proteas

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The last fixture of round seven of the Cricket World Cup will feature two sides that started the tournament on a similar note but went on to script different fortunes.

While South Africa continued their sorry run with a defeat to Pakistan, the Lankans shocked hosts England and revived their campaign with a crucial win.

The Proteas hence play for pride after being eliminated from the World Cup while Dimuth Karunaratne’s men are expected to go hard at the two points at stake.

A bright day is expected at Chester-le-Street, with rain staying away. We take a look at the talking points ahead of the tie that could support or harm Sri Lanka’s chance at a spot in the semis.

Toe-crushers over six packs

Lasith Malinga has been at the end of criticism for sporting a relatively huge tummy in a picture that has gone viral over social media. But the pacer showed against England that substance matters more than a six-pack ab.

The veteran claimed a four-fer to dismantle England’s top order and later returned later to trouble the tail. The 35-year-old produced one of the best bowling performances of the tournament, given the circumstances.

Come Friday and Malinga will return to torment batsmen with his famous toe-crushing yorkers. The South African batsmen have failed to click in the World Cup and the pacer will be relishing the prospect of adding a few more World Cup wickets under his belt.

Amid criticism regarding his fitness, Malinga has returned to provide the Lankans that glimmer of hope they need to take off and turnaround their World Cup campaign.

Proteas look to salvage pride

South Africa v Bangladesh - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Faf du Plessis’ men have had a tournament to forget, failing to win a single game other than the one over bottom-placed Afghanistan. A series of woeful performances saw them out of contention for a top-four spot by the end of round six.

The Proteas will hence play for pride when they take the field at Durham. The batting has been insipid; bowling has been toothless and fielding poor. While there is no overnight solution for the problems South Africa are facing, they could start well with a win over the Lankans.

A strong finish in the World Cup could slightly affect their evaluation of the tournament and provide positive pointers in the rebuilding phase. Hence, the Proteas will be eager to win their remaining games and take something away from the World Cup.

A long way from March

Contrary to their form in the World Cup, South Africa were heavily dominant in the ODI series between the two sides in March. The Proteas recorded a 5-0 white-wash in the ODI series before winning the T20 series 2-0.

However, it seems like we have a come a long way since March and the 1996 World Cup champions now start as favourites. Sri Lanka will hence have revenge on their minds apart from the primary incentive to enter the top-four.

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Cricket World Cup 2019 LIVE: Can unbeaten India tame Windies batting heavyweights?

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India will bid to edge one step closer to a World Cup semi-final spot when they take on West Indies at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Virat Kohli’s side, unbeaten in the tournament so far, lie third in the table and one point better off than fourth-placed England having played two games less.

The West Indies still have a mathematical chance of a top-four finish and will be determined to keep their hopes alive after their agonising five-run defeat to New Zealand in their last match.

Who will prevail in Manchester?

Find out by following the ball-by-ball commentary below.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Mohammad Amir, Mitchell Starc and Lockie Ferguson among most efficient bowlers

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Amir has been on a roll in the World Cup.

The 2019 Cricket World Cup has witnessed two sides of a run chase where 300+ scores have been chased comfortably and sub-230 scores have been defended successfully.

While there were glimpses of this turning into a batsman’s tournament during the early stages, the bowlers have impressed on slow pitches, adding a sense of unpredictability to the games.

As we approach the final games of the group stages, we try to analyse the effectiveness of the top wicket-taker of each country.

Bowling average (runs per wicket) and bowling strike-rate (balls per wicket) provide us with a general insight of how effective and efficient the bowler has been so far.

Mohammad Amir, Mitchell Starc and Lockie Ferguson have emerged as top performers, with nothing separating the trio at the top.

Analysis of top leading wicket-takers of each nation in the CWC 2019

Analysis of top leading wicket-takers of each nation in the CWC 2019

Starc tops the wicket-takers chart with 19 wickets, maintaining a healthy lead over Amir (16), Jofra Archer (16) and Ferguson (15). But among the top bowlers, Amir is the only player who does not play for a team in the top-four.

In a way, the 27-year-old has carried Pakistan’s sub-par bowling attack and given them a second chance after a dismal start to the tournament.

The most impressive aspect of Amir’s game is the incredible consistency at which he has delivered for Pakistan. The strike-rate of 21 shows the Changa Bangial native has claimed wickets at a rate of one in every three and a half overs.

Mitchell Starc is having a magnificent World Cup.

Achieving such numbers on the biggest stage of the game is indeed commendable and it wouldn’t be a stretch to state that Amir has been carrying Pakistan’s bowling attack.

The Punjab-born has been sensationally economical and his bowling average looks great too. With an average wicket every 17.87 runs and an economy rate of just 5.1, Amir has proven to be the most efficient bowler among those who lead the wicket-taking charts for their respective nations.

Only Starc (20.4) has marginally better figures and Ferguson (17.8) has a slightly superior average when compared to the Pakistani pacer.

Ferguson and Starc complete our top three but the quality of opposition faced by Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan underlies the impact Amir has had on the tournament.

New Zealand pacer Lockie Ferguson.

The Aussies are yet to play the Kiwis and the struggling Proteas, while New Zealand are yet to be tested against England. Pakistan, on the other hand, face Bangladesh and tournament minnows Afghanistan in their remaining games, hence providing Amir a decent shot at establishing himself as the star bowler of the group stages.

Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga started slow but a match-winning performance over hosts England has provided him with the necessary momentum to join the elite.

South Africa and Afghanistan have been eliminated from the tournament and the graph clearly nods in agreement with their insipid bowling attacks.

With Kagiso Rabada failing to live up to the hype that surrounded him after a solid Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign, Imran Tahir has registered himself as the leading wicket-taker for the Proteas. The spinner has picked up wickets at an underwhelming rate of one every 27.9 runs, 34.2 balls and has still stood out as their best bowler.

India have not relied on one bowler to pick up wickets. While Yuzvendra Chahal (8) has clinched most wickets, he has enjoyed great support from Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami, all of whom have had their moments in the tournament.

Chahal’s par average and strike-rate of 23.23 and 27.7 can hence be attributed to the fact that the Indian bowlers have all done well to claim wickets and have not shown unhealthy reliance on the spinner.

This is quite contrary to the case of Amir and Pakistan’s position in the table – in contrast with that of India’s – which shows that over-reliance on any player is unhealthy for the team.

However, all is not lost for Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men who breathed life into their campaign with convincing wins over South Africa and New Zealand in recent weeks.

They uncovered a jewel in young Shaheen Afridi, who starred in an important victory over the Kiwis on Wednesday. With Amir being provided with some much-needed assistance, do the Men in Green now stand a definitive chance at making the semi-finals?

Numbers from cricinfo, updated until the end of Pakistan v New Zealand

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