CWC 2019 Power Rankings: Babar Azam new entry while Mitchell Starc surges up board

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It’s been another topsy-turvy week at Cricket World Cup 2019. Pakistan were in the ascendancy, then Bangladesh, then Pakistan again, then England. India and New Zealand have finally been defeated, while Australia are the only team to still be ticking along super-smooth.

That volatility has been reflected in these snakes-and-ladders rankings, with old faces coming back in and drastic changes elsewhere.

You can read parts one, two, three and four here, with standings up to date as of July 1.

1. Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh, up one)

Since these rankings were updated, Shakib has added just the half-century and five-for to his titanic World Cup so far. Bangladesh must win out to stand any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals and he was simply too good for Afghanistan in Southampton last Monday.

2. Mitchell Starc (Australia, up six)

Ben Stokes’ ‘mic’ drop and kick of his bat is almost as memorable as the delivery that sent him on his way. That vicious, in-swinging yorker castled England’s chase and four days later Starc came alive against more quality opposition in New Zealand, accounting for their talisman Kane Williamson while on course for a five-for. You don’t want to be batting second against Australia.

3. Ben Stokes (return entry)

If not for Stokes, the hosts’ rather embarrassing wobbles would have descended into sheer humiliation. At his very best, the ginger dynamo is arguably England’s best batsman. His technique is as exquisite as Joe Root and his power as explosive as Jos Buttler, and now he has learned to pace an innings in every situation. He so nearly rescued England against both Sri Lanka and Australia, while his 79 runs from just 54 balls took England’s total out of India’s reach.

4. Aaron Finch (Australia, up six)

David Warner leads the World Cup’s run charts but his captain has been the most effective scorer. Finch’s 504 runs, just 12 fewer than his opening partner have come at a hasty 102.6, while Warner has been decidedly more watchful at the crease. It seems hard to believe now but Australia’s skipper was in a dreadful rut of form in 2018 – now he sits on 1,138 runs for 2019, having added a ton against England in the last week.

5. Babar Azam (Pakistan, new entry)

Just as a dose of Stokes magic in the right places has kept England in the hunt, Babar’s brilliance means Pakistan can still dream of emulating their 1992 World Cup winners. He’s not been the most consistent batsmen in the competition, nor the most prolific, but he’s had quite the last week. In trying conditions against Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and company, Azam hit a wonderful century and backed that up with 45 in the Afghan nail-biter.

6. Kane Williamson (New Zealand, down three)

Williamson has had a rather indifferent week by his standards, but two 40s in games versus Australia and Pakistan – especially with the rest of the top-order toiling – were handy enough for a man averaging 113.5. The problem is that the Blackcaps have seemingly gone into their shells over the past week, and one wonders whether Williamson’s captaincy is a factor. He is more circumspect by nature – Brendon McCullum he is certainly not. Still, New Zealand remain on course with much thanks to him.

7. Jasprit Bumrah (India, new entry)

The golden rule of facing Bumrah is you don’t fight Bumrah. His mere 10 wickets from six games is a measure of the respect batsmen are affording him, rather than any inefficacy on his part. Indeed they want no part of trying to deduce his awkward windmill action and upright gait, which is why the all-star opening and death bowler is yielding an absurdly small 4.4 runs an over.

8. David Warner (Australia, down six spots)

Warner still tops the run charts, and his failure against the fierce opening duo of Boult and Ferguson shouldn’t count against him. Under intense pressure – which has hardly ceased since his return to the international fold – he also gritted out an important half-century against England in victory. Still, it’d be a joy to watch the usual Warner, the IPL 2019 Warner, biff boundary after boundary and win a game on his own. He’s not there yet.

9. Rohit Sharma (India, same)

Rohit remains head and shoulders above even Virat Kohli in the Indian run-scoring stakes, and given the stodginess of the middle-order they’d wish he could bat the entire innings. Though he was partially to blame for a sluggish start in the chase against England, his innings of 102 was brisk enough to give the men in blue a real platform – that they squandered.

10. Mohammad Amir (Pakistan, down four)

It has not been the best of weeks for Amir on a personal level. Expensive against the Kiwis and outshone by Shaheen Afridi against Afghanistan, his time in the limelight has dimmed a little. Let’s not forget though that he remains the reason why Pakistan are still in contention for a semi-final berth and his pace will be crucial in the do-or-die final clash against Bangladesh.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Semi-final spot on the line as India take on Bangladesh in Birmingham

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The 2019 World Cup semi-final qualification scenario has become straightforward for the handful of teams remaining in the race.

England’s win over India in Birmingham on Sunday knocked Sri Lanka out of the reckoning and made the qualification route for Pakistan and Bangladesh that much tougher.

The equation will be straightforward for India and Bangladesh when they lock horns in Birmingham on Tuesday – a win for India will ensure their progress to the semis while a win for Bangladesh keeps the Tigers in the hunt.

Intense rivalry

The Tigers have given India a horrid time in limited overs cricket, especially in multi-team tournaments. Bangladesh knocked India out of the 2007 World Cup and competed well in defeats in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final and 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final.

India had to give it their all to secure last-ball wins against Bangladesh in the 2016 World T20 and the Nidahas T20 and Asia Cup finals last year.

Simply put, Bangladesh will fancy their chances against India, especially since the Tigers have a more settled and experienced team. Skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said he is confident of getting the better of India.

“Every time we have played India, they have mostly been better. The current side is very strong too. But we go to play at our best but you never know. If we reach 100 per cent then you never know,” Mortaza said.

“In sport, anyone can beat anyone. It will be very hard but we have to be at our best.”

Shakib Al Hasan is in the form of his life.

Shakib Al Hasan is in the form of his life.

Fitness issues

Both teams are struggling with fitness issues to key personnel. India are already without Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar, who have suffered fractures. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has just recovered from a hamstring injury while keeper MS Dhoni took two nasty hits to the finger during the defeat to England.

Bangladesh too have their share of the walking wounded. Captain Mortaza’s hamstring is as good as gone, Mahmudullah is carrying shoulder and calf injuries while Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim suffered blows to the hand.

But given what is at stake, these veteran players are expected to take the field on sheer willpower.

Focus on pitch

The match will be played on the same strip where England beat India in a high-scoring game. Batting clearly became more difficult as the innings wore on and the team bowling second should have an advantage.

Both teams have excellent slow bowling options and it will be a case of win the toss, bat first and score as many as you can.

Likely XIs

India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Liton Das, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Mustafizur Rahman

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CWC 2019: Still no place for Ambati Rayudu in Team India as Mayank Agarwal replaces injured Vijay Shankar

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Vijay Shankar has injured his toe.

Opening batsman Mayank Agarwal was named as replacement for injured all-rounder Vijay Shankar in India’s 2019 World Cup squad on Monday.

Shankar had injured his toe during training before the game against Afghanistan but went on to play that game and the match against the West Indies. But he sat out the game against England on Sunday, which India lost, with Rishabh Pant playing in his place.

It is the latest injury setback for India after regular opener Shihhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament due to a fractured finger. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar too is recovering from a hamstring injury.

Shankar’s place in the team has gone to Karnataka batsman Agarwal, who has played two Tests but is yet to play an ODI.

His selection has come as a surprise as experienced middle order batsman Ambati Rayudu had been waiting in the wings. Until last year, Rayudu was the first choice number 4 batsman and did reasonably well.

After he was omitted from the World Cup squad, with the selectors going for ‘three-dimensional’ talent of Shankar, Rayudu took to social media and talked about ordering ‘3D glasses’ for the World Cup. That post didn’t go down well with the Indian management.

With KL Rahul not setting the stage alight at the top of the order, Mayank might end up making his ODI debut in this World Cup. In that case, either Rahul, Pant or Kedar Jadhav will be forced to sit out.

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