Cricket World Cup 2019: How Australia, India, England and New Zealand are shaping up ahead of semi-finals

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Mitchell Starc is having a magnificent World Cup.

After five weeks and 43 matches, the four World Cup semi-finalists have been confirmed.

Here, PA assesses the remaining contenders for the trophy.

Australia

Form: A year out, the reigning champions’ one-day cricket was a mess, but they have timed their run to perfection. They have won 15 of their last 16 games, a sequence only interrupted by defeat to India at The Oval.

Strength: Winning mentality. Five trophies in the cabinet confirms the belief that nobody does World Cups quite like them. The spine of their side took part in their last success four years ago and with the likes of Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin in their backroom team, they do not lack for sound advice.

Weakness: While thoroughly effective on tricky pitches, there is a suspicion Australia might come off second best in a run-fest. Barring Glenn Maxwell, their batsmen can lack the extra gear.

Key man: Mitchell Starc (24 wickets at 15.54)

World ranking: 3

England

Form: Endured a mini identity crisis when losing back-to-back games against Sri Lanka and Australia. A frank team meeting appears to have put them back on track and they head into the knockouts after two stirring victories against fellow semi-finalists India and New Zealand.

Strength: In Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, England boast the most dangerous opening partnership in the world. They lift each other to a different level and have now scored three successive century partnerships. When they perform, it usually leads to victory.

Weakness: The good old fashioned English batting collapse. Eoin Morgan’s side might have reinvented almost everything else about their limited-overs cricket, but their bad days are still truly awful. Losing wickets in heavy clusters is a habit they would like to kick, but even their enviably long tail cannot bail them out when the fever hits.

Key man: Jonny Bairstow (462 runs at 51.33)

World ranking: 1

India

Form: Six wins and one washout from their first seven games meant India briefly reclaimed top place in the ICC standings before defeat against England. Most of their victories have been comfortable, but they were pushed all the way by underdogs Afghanistan.

Strength: Less of a collective than their rivals, India thrive when their stars shine. Rohit Sharma is in irrepressible form with four centuries in the tournament, Virat Kohli has yet to peak but will always carry the fear factor and paceman Jasprit Bumrah is a peerless specialist at the death.

Weakness: Reliance on a handful of matchwinners means there is the potential for others to slip under the radar. Injuries to Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar have left them light on top order options and spinners Yuzvrendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have under-performed.

Key man: Rohit Sharma (544 runs at 90.66)

World ranking: 2

New Zealand

Form: The Black Caps started the tournament in rude health, going unbeaten in their first six matches, only to go off the boil at just the wrong time. They have now lost three in a row, a last-over finish against Pakistan and thrashings by Australia and England. Momentum is fading.

Strength: Absolute clarity of method. The Kiwis know their preferred blueprint and rarely veer from it. They keep things simple but effective, rotating their hitters around Kane Williamson’s ultra-reliable output and cycle through a varied bowling attack.

Weakness: An element of conservatism might have crept in to their game following the retirement of Brendon McCullum. A born gambler, he always doubled down on aggression. Williamson is less inclined and when the pressure is on it may count against him.

Key man: Lockie Ferguson (17 wickets at 18.58)

World ranking: 4

New Zealand

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Jonny Bairstow sparkles as England make sure of place in semi-finals

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England locked down their place in the World Cup semi-finals, as Jonny Bairstow’s second successive century fired them to a dominant 119-run win over New Zealand.

Little more than a week after defeat to Australia left them fighting for their tournament lives, Eoin Morgan’s men were making plans for their first appearance in the last four since 1992.

They are now guaranteed to finish third in the table and will face either Australia or India at Edgbaston on Thursday.

That they do so with their identity crisis over and morale peaking owes much to Bairstow’s 106, a second bloody-minded hundred in four days that underpinned England’s 305 for eight.

If his previous effort against India was an emotionally-charged response to his minor spat with Michael Vaughan, the follow-up deserves to be remembered for nothing other than its sporting brilliance – 106 runs, 14 boundaries, one six and a thoroughly decisive contribution.

It has become increasingly apparent that his opening partnership with the fit-again Jason Roy (60) represents England’s ace in the hole, with the duo scoring their third consecutive three-figure stand and forging an advantage the Black Caps never wrestled back.

Things stalled once they exited, England reaching 194 for one from 30 overs and losing seven for 111 thereafter – but New Zealand’s reply never threatened and they were brushed aside for 186 at Chester-le-Street.

Dangerman Kane Williamson was run out backing up via the tiniest of touches off Mark Wood’s outstretched hand, with the seamer also helping himself to three for 34.

Morgan won the toss and chose to bat, allowing Bairstow and Roy to grab the initiative from the off.

Their only real awkward moment came from the very first delivery of the match, slow left-armer Mitchell Santner squeezing one between Roy’s inside edge and the off stump. Thereafter it was 18 overs of unbridled serenity.

Bairstow got things going by laying into Tim Southee on his first outing of the tournament, swatting five of the seamer’s first 10 balls to the ropes.

It was Southee’s seven for 33 that hastened England’s catastrophic defeat in Wellington in the 2015 World Cup but he has struggled in the fixture since,  his nine overs here costing 70.

Roy, so badly missed during his three-game injury absence, batted with his customary force and intent at the other end.

The hundred – number 10 in their 31 outings as a twosome – ticked by inside 15 overs and by the 17th both men had 50. Each looked set fair to convert and Roy clearly agreed, hacking at the turf in anger after he lifted Jimmy Neesham to cover.

Bairstow refused to risk a similar lapse, easing into a series of well-directed pulls and England’s only six, launched right back over Southee’s head. He reached his landmark off the final ball of the 30th over before stretching his arms to bask in the moment.

Things deflated quickly from there, Bairstow playing Matt Henry into his stumps and Boult taking Joe Root and Jos Buttler cheaply. Between the 30th and 45th overs, they lost as many batsmen – five – as they scored boundaries.

Morgan ground out 42 while Ben Stokes laboured for 11, but the damage had been done.

New Zealand, eyeing a successful 300-plus chase for just the sixth time in their history, lost Henry Nicholls for a golden duck. Replays showed Chris Woakes’ ball clearing the stumps but by then the opener had already turned down a review.

Buttler took a leaping one-hander to claim Martin Guptill down leg and by the time a couple of unlikely run-outs emerged, things were foundering at 69 for four.

Williamson’s exit for 27 was bad luck, Ross Taylor’s firm straight hit smashing into the non-striker’s stumps courtesy of a fractional flick off Wood’s finger.

Rather than shouldering the responsibility Taylor quickly burned his own bridges, taking on an optimistic two and falling foul of Adil Rashid’s fizzing throw from the deep.

From there, New Zealand appeared to accept the defeat and focused on massaging the margin. The chase slowed to a crawl but the home attack persevered gamely.

Wood fared best of all, smashing the stumps of Neesham and Henry in more conventional fashion and trapping Santner leg before. Stokes got in on the act when Colin de Grandhomme mistimed a pull and Rashid ended things five overs early when Boult was stumped.

Bairstow’s team-mates would have winced to see his full-blooded dive on the ropes when the result was already long settled, hurting his shoulder in the process, but his competitive spirit had already served them too well to complain.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Afghanistan look to end campaign on a high against West Indies

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Afghanistan and West Indies feature in a dead-rubber clash on Thursday at Headingly in their last game of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

Both teams have been eliminated, owing to woeful World Cup campaigns and are currently lingering at the bottom of the table.

While the result could have little to no significance in the points table, both teams will want to sign off on a high. We take a look at the talking points ahead of the clash.

Can Afghanistan break the duck?

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The fact that tournament minnows Afghanistan have failed to acquire a single point this World Cup does not do justice to the performances they have produced.

Gulbadin Naib’s men were tantalisingly close to a historic win against India and lost the game by 11 runs despite restricting the Men in Blue to just 224. This was incidentally India’s lowest total in the tournament.

One could also say that their defeat to Pakistan was an encounter that slipped through their fingers. Afghanistan lost the game by just three wickets and two balls after posting a modest 227.

Afghanistan surely had their moments in the World Cup and deserve to take something away from the tournament. A win over West Indies – a team they have beaten three times in the last four encounters – would be most welcome and well-earned.

Lessons to learn for the Windies

Gayle (15)

Jason Holder’s men failed to build on a strong opening to the World Cup in which they defeated Pakistan in a low-scoring affair.

They followed it up with a hard-hitting defeat against Australia in a close encounter. Over the next few games, the Windies were humiliated by Bangladesh, crumbled against India and have been defeated comfortably by England and Sri Lanka.

The cracks are visible in the bowling, batting and fielding departments and the Caribbean side need to address their issues soon. They have failed to convert good starts into successful finishes in the tournament.

Clearly, there are a lot of lessons to learn for the Windies but they will be eager to end their campaign with a win over Afghanistan.

Key players: Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan), Sheldon Cottrell (West Indies)

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