“Well begun is half done.”
The impact the openers can have on a team’s success in a major tournament can’t be stressed enough. A strong start eases the pressure on the middle-order and ensures that the powerplay overs are utilised well.
It’s not surprising that the opening batsmen from three of the four teams that have made it to the semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup have performed a notch above the rest. New Zealand, however, have had to rely on captain and third man in, Kane Williamson, to get the job done.
We compare and contrast the openers based on their average, strike-rate and consistency.
The x-axis measures the batting average of the players while the y-axis scales their strike rate. The size of the bubble is proportional to the total runs scored by that player.
We can draw some major conclusions from the chart obtained by the data.
The defending champions have arguably the best opening pair in the tournament. David Warner and Aaron Finch have 1020 runs between them and have both led the leading run-getter’s chart at different times in the tournament.
Both the players have three fifties and two centuries in eight innings so far. The formidable pair has hence always formed a strong foundation for the Aussies to build a solid innings. However, the lower middle-order has often failed to end the game on the same tempo.
Warner boasts an average of 79.75 while Finch has a healthy 56.33. But the skipper has maintained a healthy strike-rate of 102.21, while the southpaw Warner has scored 638 runs at a cautious strike-rate of 89.48.
The Aussies are still strong contenders to defend the crown and the two players at the top of their batting line-up are the main reasons why they can threaten England at Edgbaston.
Hosts England are also top-heavy but enjoy a more stable middle-order. A largely dependable line-up marked by the likes of Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Ben Stokes has allowed openers Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy to play more freely and take more risks.
Given the liberty to go for the biggies, Roy (114.04) has registered the highest strike-rate among the opening batsmen from the top-four teams. Bairstow (97.26) has also achieved almost a run a ball so far and has completely let himself loose in the tail-end of the group stage games.
While Australia boast possibly the strongest opening pair, the Englishmen are up there as the most dangerous. Roy and Bairstow have maintained healthy strike-rates at a very good average of 68.2 and 51.33 respectively.
Both players have four 50+ scores – even though Roy missed three games with a hamstring injury – and have made it a habit to get there quickly. This pair can be extremely dangerous, especially if England bat first against Australia on Thursday.
Rohit Sharma has certainly been the best batsman of the World Cup. The 32-year-old has scored 647 runs in the tournament, smashing five centuries and one fifty in the process. The leading run-getter of the tournament now holds the record for the most centuries in a World Cup.
Rohit has achieved this at a commendable strike-rate of 97.77 and his average of 92.42 is a level above any other opener. He has taken his time to settle at times, but has looked unstoppable after gaining some momentum.
It appears that the withdrawal of the injured Shikhar Dhawan from the squad has not hurt India as much as people expected. KL Rahul has maintained a 50+ average to ensure that the southpaw is not missed. Although Rahul has failed to maintain a massive strike-rate, he has done a good job in providing Rohit the support he needs and allowed him the liberty to take initiative.
The Mangauru-born batsman clearly isn’t as destructive as Dhawan but with one century and two fifties, he has shown that he is here to leave a mark and not just as a spectator.
This opening pair contains a fair balance of safety and destruction and could just be the most dependable of the lot up against New Zealand’s dangerous pacemen.
Unlike their neighbours, the Kiwis have not had any luck at the top of the order. Martin Guptill – who had a sensational World Cup in 2015 – has amassed just 166 runs, which incidentally is Warner’s best score in an innings this season.
It does not help New Zealand that Guptill’s partner Colin Munro has fared no better. The 32-year-old scored 125 runs in six games before being replaced by Henry Nicholls, who has scored eight runs in two games.
Munro and Guptill have registered averages of 25 and 23.71 respectively. They’ve been consistent – just not in the way New Zealand would have wanted.
Guptill’s highest score – a 73* against Sri Lanka – accounts for about 44 per cent of his total score in this tournament. This means that the Auckland-born batter has averaged 13 runs in the remaining games.
The Kiwis have had to rely on Williamson – who is ticking along at an average of 96, despite recent woes – far too much in this World Cup and the inability of the openers to come clutch in crunch moments will most likely hurt them in their semi-final against India
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Sri Lanka all-rounder Lahiru Thirimanne has urged experienced paceman Lasith Malinga not to hang up his bowling boots just yet.
Malinga, who is renowned for delivering the ball with a unique action, made his farewell ODI appearance on Saturday as Sri Lanka slipped to a seven-wicket defeat against India in the World Cup at Headingley.
The 35-year-old from Galle has enjoyed a glittering international career, bagging 101 wickets in 30 Tests together with 335 wickets in 225 ODI appearances, and Thirimanne is hoping the veteran still has some fuel left in his tank.
“Lasith is a unique player and a very big loss for us,” said Thirimanne at the ICC media zone. “I hope he will continue to play T20s. He will be a very big loss to us, though, when he comes to the end of his career.”
Sri Lanka ended a disappointing World Cup campaign by sliding to a fourth defeat, although they were the team most affected by bad weather with two of their nine matches producing no results.
“We haven’t performed well, that’s the main thing,” said Thirimanne after he struck 53 in a fifth-wicket partnership of 124 with centurion Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka compiled 264/7 after winning the toss and electing to bat first.
“Overall our batting didn’t click. In some of the matches our bowlers didn’t bowl well, so in all three parts we weren’t up to the mark. We have to improve on those three dimensions.”
India eased to their target with 39 balls to spare thanks to 111 from KL Rahul and 103 by the remarkable Rohit Sharma.
Thirimanne said: “Rohit is in great touch. Five centuries in a World Cup is quite spectacular.
“The thing is, he is not hitting big shots first up, and then you see he’s scoring at a run a ball. That’s unique. I think he will score more runs in the semis as well.
“England and India have the best chance of winning the World Cup. I hope that India might win the World Cup.”
The World Cup is an opportunity for teams to put their best foot forward and try to claim the title of the best in the world. Up until now, the 50-over World Cup has been the most definitive platform to decide the top team in the world; T20 doesn’t allow a clear assessment on all three facets of the game.
It is therefore an opportunity for young players to make a mark and provide a glimpse into the future. Here we take a look at 10 players – in no particular order – under the age of 25 who impressed during the 2019 World Cup and look more than capable of starring in the 2023 World Cup and beyond. Note: Stats for 2019 World Cup group stage.
Age: 21, Matches: 4, Runs: 203, Best: 104
The Sri Lanka batsman has risen through the U19 ranks and emerged as a standout batsman, with a particularly impressive technique against genuine pace.
Thrown into the deep end against England on a tricky Leeds pitch, Fernando ripped Jofra Archer apart during a match-defining 49 off 39 balls. While he did smash a match-winning ton against the Windies and a 30 against the Proteas, his maiden knock against the Englishmen will be tough to top.
Age: 24, Matches: 9, Wickets: 17, Best: 3-27
England board had to move quite a few pieces to ensure Archer’s availability for the World Cup. The out-and-out quick was parachuted in for one purpose – blast the opposition away with pace. And he has done that with breathtaking ease.
Seemingly ambling in, Archer hurled 150kph thunderbolts and maintained an economy of well below five over after over, match after match, which is a testament to his once-in-a-generation talent. England haven’t just unearthed a diamond, it’s the Cullinan.
Age: 22, Matches: 7, Wickets: 13, Runs: 87
Bangladesh fans were looking forward to seeing the 22-year-old Saifuddin showcase his all-round skills at the World Cup. After giving glimpses of it throughout the tournament – notably in a tense game against New Zealand where he hit 29 and took 2-41 – Saifuddin showed his mettle against India.
He first used change of pace to restrict India’s scoring at the death and then when all seemed lost, smashed an audacious 51 not out from 38 balls to take the Tigers close to an improbable win. If he works on increasing his pace, Saifuddin can easily become a leading all-rounder in the game.
Age: 23, Matches: 7, Runs: 367, Best: 118
The left-handed batsmen had long been earmarked as a special talent. The West Indian had a great tournament, hitting fifty against England and Afghanistan, and a quick 40 against the Aussies. His best, however, came against Sri Lanka where with the team 199-6 chasing 339, Pooran cracked 119 from 103 balls to take the Windies close to a miraculous win.
The Trinidadian has a long and fruitful career ahead of him. And to think he had to start his career afresh after a career-threatening car accident in 2015.
Age: 19, Matches: 5, Wickets: 16, Best: 6-35
The young left-arm fast bowler is the one to take Pakistan bowling forward in the coming years. Ever since he burst onto the scene during the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, Shaheen has only gotten better with each outing.
A late addition to the playing XI after Hasan Ali failed to impress, Shaheen has outperformed veteran left-arm quicks Mohammad Air and Wahab Riaz, which is a big plus for Pakistan cricket.
Shaheen saved his best for last, blasting Bangladesh away with a six-for, becoming the youngest to take an ODI five-wicket haul at Lord’s.
Age: 21, Matches: 3, Runs: 84, Best: 48
In many ways the future of Indian cricket, Pant was not even part of the original squad for the World Cup. But injury to Shikhar Dhawan saw him drafted in and injury to Vijay Shankar saw him in the playing XI.
And in two outings – a quick 32 in a losing chase against England and a fine 48 against Bangladesh – Pant gave a glimpse of what he has to offer in the ODI arena. Already established in the Test and T20 arena, ODIs were a bit of a bugbear for Pant but after being thrust into the most high-pressure situation – big chase against World Cup hosts and favourites England – Pant has come out with flying colours.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Age: 18, Matches: 7, Wickets: 7, Best: 3-39
The Afghanistan spinners seems to have been around for ages but is still just 18. Mujeeb showed remarkable control and guile while bowling with the new ball and was markedly better than Rashid Khan. Even in the match against England where the hosts 397, Mujeeb gave away just 44 runs in 10 overs.
The teenager made ample use of the helpful conditions in England this year and credit to him for maintaining an economy of just 4.47 after bowling close to 60 overs.
Age: 24, Matches: 8, Runs: 474, Best: 101*
Undoubtedly the best batsman in Pakistan and sure-shot entry into the hall of fame. Babar has the technique and temperament to prosper in all formats and conditions and he put his best foot forward in England.
Unfortunately he didn’t get enough support from those around him, with his partnership with Haris Sohail coming a bit.
But the signs are there for a bright future. Not only will Babar become a leading batsman soon, but will take over the captaincy reins soon.
Age: 23, Matches:8, Wickets: 20, Best: 5-59
Bangladesh left-arm seamer was devastating on responsive pitches in England, with his off-cutters proving to be almost impossible to hit away.
Rahman is a bit of a mystery figure as he rarely speaks even to his compatriots. That mystery spilled onto the field as well as The Fizz exploited the dry conditions with his best coming against a strong Indian batting line-up at the death in Birmingham that resulted in a five-for. He finished the tournament with another five wicket haul – against Pakistan at Lord’s in the next match.
If he manages to remain injury free – he has had shoulder and foot injuries – then Mustafizur will develop into a world-beating bowler.
Age: 18, Matches: 7, Runs: 142, Best: 86
The Afghanistan wicketkeeper was handed the keeping gloves after veteran Mohammad Shahzad made an acrimonious exit following controversy over his fitness levels.
Ikram is just 18 but warmed up to the job brilliantly, improving with the bat as the tournament wore on and in the final league game of the tournament – against West Indies – Ikram was pushed up to number three and hit a superb 86.
He struggled in the beginning of the tournament but got better and provided enough encouragement to the Afghanistan management moving forward in the post-Shahzad era.