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.
Know more about Sport360 Application