The 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage is finally in the books. A slow, rain-soaked start gave way to fireworks in the second half as Pakistan – almost – improbably came back to sneak a place in the final four.
There’s a strong argument to be made that Pakistan deserve a spot over New Zealand, but fear not – these rankings pay little attention to team position. Here, we’ve highlighted the very best 10 players to have made the last month worth watching.
1. Rohit Sharma (India, up eight spots)
Rohit has always been a great ODI player. Now he is an indisputable all-time great. His five centuries – in just nine group stage matches – surpass Kumar Sangakkara’s record for most at a World Cup, having occupied so much time at the crease that he has put Virat Kohli in the shade. If he can lead India to glory, well, perhaps Kohli should step aside in the ‘best-ever’ debate alongside Sachin Tendulkar.
“I really feel sorry for him … in fact, not only me but the whole team feels sorry for him.” So said Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza whose side, for the most part, feebly assisted Al Hasan’s heroics. One last half-century in defeat Pakistan topped up his statistics to 606 runs and 11 wickets. The next best true all-rounder on the list, Ben Stokes, compiled 381 runs and seven wickets. England are in the semis, Bangladesh were nowhere near. That, sadly for Al Hasan, says it all.
3. Jasprit Bumrah (India, up four spots)
Facing Bumrah is all about surviving, as was noted last time on these pages. Sri Lanka had no chance of doing even that against India’s premier paceman, who removed both openers and then Angelo Mathews to finally stall their brave innings at Headingley on Saturday. The 25-year-old became the second-fastest Indian to reach 100 ODI wickets behind his partner-in-crime Mohammed Shami. India’s pace attack will remain exceedingly bright in the hands of those two, especially given Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s recent troubles.
4. David Warner (Australia, up four spots)
England. World Cup semi-final. Edgbaston. Nothing will motivate Warner more after ending the group stage on a personal high with 122 against South Africa, struck at a strike-rate of 104 – his second quickest-knock of the tournament. With Aaron Finch’s form suddenly deserting him after two low scores on the bounce, the weight will rest ever more heavily on Warner’s shoulders. So far he’s matched it with sheer weight of runs.
5. Mitchell Starc (Australia, up three spots)
England’s boogeyman has suffered a scare himself. The tournament’s leading wicket-taker with an incredible 26 could not hide his consternation over a troubled right knee, leading to a generally off-key display at Old Trafford in which he went for other 6.5 runs an over against a South Africa side dead and buried a long time ago. Not that this should erase credit from his prior performances, but Eoin Morgan may be sleeping a little easier ahead of Thursday’s clash at Edgbaston.
6. Jonny Bairstow (England, new entry)
It took a spat with a fellow Yorkshireman to get Bairstow pumped up and England through to the semi-finals. Back-to-back centuries against India and New Zealand – nations both in the final four – have proved some riposte to a national media he felt were waiting for the team to lose, including White Rose legend Michael Vaughan. His run of form is also down to someone else’s return, but more on him in a bit.
7. Babar Azam (Pakistan, down two spots)
Pakistan fans are a passionate bunch. They’ve been through the mill in England, oscillating from despair to dreams of destiny three decades on from the 1992 World Cup. Babar Azam, born two years after that famous triumph, has not been bogged down by the past. Only once has Babar failed to reach 30, a small miracle in such a capricious side. He hit a stylish 96 against Bangladesh before cruelly being removed by Mohammad Saifuddin, and only moves down the rankings here because the game was essentially a dead rubber.
8. Jason Roy (England, new entry)
Bairstow’s best friend. Or at least he’s friendlier face than James Vince. Since the magic sponge was applied to Roy’s hamstring, not only has the gun batsman fired two consecutive 60s, but he’s enhanced his opening partner’s game. Those fast starts have meant that even when England’s middle order has floundered, they’ve scrabbled together enough runs to see them through. No opening pair in history with more than 1,000 ODI runs between them has done so at a better strike-rate (Bairstow at 111, Roy at 107).
9. Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan, new entry)
Maybe, just maybe, Pakistan would be extending their stay in England if Shaheen had been shown a bit more faith. He certainly deserved more than the wholly ineffective Hasan Ali, and has proved just that in the last three games – all resounding victories. Afridi snared three wickets against New Zealand, a five-for against Afghanistan and an incredible 6-35 against Bangladesh, the best-ever figures at a World Cup by a Pakistani bowler. The good news is that, at 19, Pakistan can probably get another three or four World Cups out of him.
10. Jofra Archer (England, new entry)
In much the same way as Bumrah, Archer’s efforts have probably not got the wickets they have deserved given he is definitely the bowler to avoid in England’s line-up. Only the hopelessly out-of-form Martin Guptill fell to him in England’s last group game, but the runs very rarely flow even when the wickets don’t either. The Barbados-born speedster yielded just 17 of them from his seven overs in the must-win game against the Blackcaps. Now for another crack at Warner and Finch.
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne said youngsters can learn a lot from Rohit Sharma after the India opener became the first player to score five hundreds at a single Cricket World Cup as India eased to a seven-wicket win in their final group match at Headingley on Saturday.
“Every time he gets a start, he keeps scoring big runs. That’s what you want. He was fearless and he knows how he is going to get a hundred, and he has planned it really well,” Karunaratne said.
“At one time, he went to take a charge and chose what bowlers he wanted to respect. That is what I want for the youngsters. He is an ideal character to watch and learn something from him, if you keep batting and batting.”
In a big blow for Australia, batsman Usman Khawaja has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2019 ICC World Cup following his injury in Saturday’s loss against South Africa.
The southpaw picked up a hamstring strain in the 10-run loss at Manchester and has now been confirmed to miss the rest of the tournament.
The defending champions had earlier named wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade as cover for the injured Khawaja and will now seek the approval of ICC’s event technical committee to permanently replace the player.
“Ussie’s got a hamstring strain so he’ll be out for probably three to four weeks which is a real shame but we have to work hard on getting him up for the Ashes now,” Australia head coach Justin Langer stated on Monday.
“Such a pity for him he’s been so intergral to how we’ve been playing. Like Shaun (Marsh) I feel sad for him that he’s going to miss the World Cup semi-final.”
Justin Langer says Usman Khawaja will be out for around 3 weeks with a hamstring strain. Decision on Stoinis in the next 24 hours but doesn’t look great. Confirmed Wade and M Marsh likely replacements in the squad. #CWC19 #AUSvENG— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) July 7, 2019
While Khawaja has now been ruled out, the Aussies are still sweating on the fitness of all-rounder Marcus Stoinis ahead of their semi-final against hosts England at Edgbaston.
Stoinis had injured himself in the clash against South Africa as well with all-rounder Mitchell Marsh named as his cover. The five-time champions are hoping to take a call on Stoinis’ fitness in the coming two days.
“And Marcus is the same, got another strain in his other side actually so we are working through that at the moment and we’ll have to make a decision on him in the next 24 to 48 hours,” said Langer.
“Not in the final XI yet but Matthew Wade is coming up. He’s in great form, he’s had a great 12 or so months back home but he’s also just scored two hundreds in one-day cricket so he’s in great nick.
“And Mitch Marsh is going to come on standby for Stoinis to see how he comes up.”
The semi-final meeting before Australia and England at Edgbaston is due to take place on Thursday.