Cricket World Cup 2019: Kane Williamson show but big question marks over New Zealand

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Williamson has been the vital factor for New Zealand.

New Zealand have lived up to their tag of being historic overachievers in the ICC World Cup with the Black Caps now set to become only the third team in history to make four consecutive semi-final appearances.

It has very much been a campaign of two halves for Kane Williamson and his men, who went unbeaten for six games to make a blazing start in the competition. In the end, they just about managed to sneak into the last four on the basis of their superior net run-rate compared to Pakistan.

However, the wheels have started to come off of late with the side arriving in the semi-final on the back of three straight losses against Pakistan, England and Australia.

A maiden World Cup title is now within their sights  but the fact that they didn’t beat any of their fellow semi-finalists in the tournament does not augur well for facing India at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

WHAT’S WORKING FOR THEM

Pace attack

A formidable pace attack carried New Zealand in the early stages of the tournament with Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Matt Henry all on song with the ball. The bowling has generally been on point for the Kiwis with the 305-8 scored by England being the only instance in which they have conceded more than 300 runs in an innings.

Together, the trio has picked up 42 wickets among themselves while all-rounder James Neesham has chipped in with 11 wickets of his own.

Lockie Ferguson has had an excellent campaign.

Lockie Ferguson has had an excellent campaign.

Williamson to the rescue

With the bat, skipper Williamson has remained a class apart with the right-hander racking up 481 runs at an average of nearly 100 with the help of two tons.

The Kiwi stalwart has been at his resilient best and has helped bail his side out of some tricky situations with the openers in horrible form. Neesham has been a substantial contributor in this regard as well with the all-rounder chipping in with 201 runs.

WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE

Misfiring openers

The opening duo of Colin Munro and Martin Guptill have failed to come to the party for New Zealand with both batsmen struggling for form.

Both the openers are averaging under 25 with the bat in the tournament and have put the team on the backfoot time and time again.

Guptill has scored just 93 runs in his last seven innings while Munro has been continued his poor run in the format. Henry Nicholls has been tried twice in the slot but managed to score just eight runs in total.

Both Munro and Guptill have been out of form.

Both Munro and Guptill have been out of form.

Rusty middle-order

While Williamson has been excellent with the bat, the rest of New Zealand’s batting order has plenty of holes with several key batsmen out of form.

The Kiwi skipper himself has contributed with more than 30 per cent of the 1,591 runs scored in total by the team so far. That statistic reflects poorly on the rest of the batting order with the likes of Munro, Guptill and Tom Latham being the biggest culprits.

Even stalwart Ross Taylor has been below par so far with the right-hander yet to really stamp his authority bar two half-centuries. Batting failure was the cause of New Zealand’s defeats against Australia, England and Pakistan and it could cost them again in the business end if Williamson fails to click.

STAR PERFORMER

Kane Williamson

The New Zealand skipper is approaching nearly 500 runs in the campaign and has almost single-handedly dragged the batting unit into the final four.

The 28-year-old has played the anchor role to perfection for the team and the fact that he has scored more than 40 runs in all innings bar one speaks volumes about his incredible consistency.

Williamson has constantly been under early pressure due to New Zealand’s severely misfiring openers but he more often than not passed the test with flying colours. He remains key to the side’s hopes of making a successive appearance in the final but he will need the rest of the batsmen to finally come to the party if New Zealand are to go all the way, which is partially his responsibility as captain.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Ben Stokes turning out to be the X-factor as England inch closer to maiden title

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Stokes has been England's star man in the World Cup.

It has not been a campaign without its hiccups and stutters for England but the hosts still remain on course to break their 50-over World Cup title drought.

Eoin Morgan and his men were widely regarded as the favourites heading into the World Cup but those credentials were starting to wear thin after shock defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka before a loss to Australia.

Those three defeats nearly derailed England’s semi-final ambitions with their fate hanging in the balance before their fixtures against India and New Zealand. However, the hosts responded in brilliant fashion with two comprehensive victories over their two fellow semi-finalists to keep their maiden World Cup title dream alive.

WHATS WORKING FOR THEM

Batting firepower

England’s power-packed and deep batting unit was always going to be team’s primary strength in the tournament and that has been the case so far.

The hosts have managed to scale the 300-run barrier in six of their nine innings with a 397-6 being their best batting display. Joe Root has been the glue which hold the batting unit together with the right-hander amassing 500 runs while openers Jonny Bairstow (462) and Jason Roy (341) also starting to come into their own this tournament.

The middle-order fireworks have been provided by Morgan (317) along with star all-rounder Ben Stokes (381) who is having a stellar individual campaign.

Bairstow has roared back into form.

Bairstow has roared back into form.

Archer and Wood lead strong pace attack

The introduction of Jofra Archer has also transformed England’s pace attack with the Barbados-born bowler picking up 17 wickets and counting in nine games. Not far behind Archer has been Mark Wood with the pacer cranking up the heat on his way to 16 wickets while Chris Woakes has been excellent of late with the new ball in hand.

Liam Plunkett has been an excellent foil in the middle-overs and the bowling unit has only been strengthened since his return to the playing XI.

WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE

Chasing under pressure

While England’s batting firepower has shone on several occasions in the tournament, it has also been made to look ordinary when the pressure has been applied. The hosts are near unstoppable when it comes to batting first but their vulnerabilities and shortcomings have been exposed time and again when it comes to chasing.

Morgan’s men have won all five games where they have batted first in the World Cup but have tasted three defeats in four while chasing. They were particularly dismal in their loss to Sri Lanka where they fall short in a chase of just 233 at Headingley.

The pressure always seems to get to them in tricky run chases and it will only be amplified in the knock-out clashes with a trophy ever so close.

England remain vulnerable in the chase.

England remain vulnerable in the chase.

Spinners out of form

Their spin attack hasn’t been the most convincing as well with Adil Rashid averaging more than 54 with the ball while Moeen Ali has been out of favour since a string of poor displays.

While England will probably go in with a four-man pace attack at Edgbaston against Australia, they will need to play one spinner and the defending champions will look to target this weakness.

STAR MAN

Ben Stokes

While Root and Archer have been key with bat and ball respectively for England, it has been Stokes who has been the X-factor.

The all-rounder has been in the thick of the action with ball and bat and has always managed to put his hands up when the chips have been down for his team.

Seven wickets with the ball and 317 runs with the bat have been Stokes’ key contributions so far and he has already played match-winning knocks against South Africa and India. He was unfortunate to end up on the losing side against Australia after a valiant 89-run knock.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: India and New Zealand lock horns on batting track at Old Trafford

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The Old Trafford pitch will witness Trent Boult’s dangerous in-swingers and Jasprit Bumrah’s fiery yorkers on Tuesday as an upbeat India take on a shaky Kiwi side in the 2019 Cricket World Cup semi-final.

The historic pitch, which has played host to World Cup games in the 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999 editions, will be the venue where one of the finalists of the 2019 edition will be declared.

We take a look at what the pitch has in store for both sides, based on what it has produced throughout the tournament.

Great surface to bat on

India v Pakistan - ICC Champions Trophy

Old Trafford has been one of the best batting surfaces of the tournament. Of the 10 innings played here across five games, only one has seen a team score fewer than 200 runs. We have witnessed four 50+ scores, including England’s 397 against Afghanistan.

The team batting first has won the game on all five occasions at this pitch. The decision following the toss should hence be a no-brainer.

The teams batting first has also averaged 323.4 at Old Trafford in this World Cup. Although England’s massive score against Afghanistan skews the average, the fact that the team batting first has registered 290+ scores on four of the five occasions is a testimony to this being a batsman’s pitch.

Openers have put on big scores on this pitch and have provided their team great starts. Both the Kiwis openers registering ducks against West Indies could count as probably the only occasion when the team batting first started off horribly. That shows just how out-of-form New Zealand’s openers have been – they will therefore need to start off cautiously regardless.

Pacers over spinners?

Pacers have accounted for 62 of the 76 wickets that have fallen on this pitch. Spinners have scalped just 12 times and there have been two run-outs. The fact that pacers have had a massive share of the overs and have hence been able to pick up more wickets on this surface can’t be ignored.

But teams have generally chosen to go with extra pacers, often at the cost of a spinner. This paints a story of how the pitch is more likely to favour the fast bowlers. Pakistan attacked India with three pacers and four spinners and the Men in Blue cruised comfortably to the second-highest score at this ground – 336-5 – at this World Cup. The spinners failed to pick up a single wicket and pacer Mohammad Amir was the only bowler who made any impact.

Youngster Rashid Khan went for 110 runs in nine overs against England in what was definitely his worst performance to date. All other games have seen teams making the best use of the pacers.

TrentBoultNZSA2 (1)

The contest between Boult and Bumrah could hence prove to be a cracker of a contest. Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Mitchell Santner could play a key role in controlling the run-rate in the middle overs and are hence crucial for their team’s chances.

There have been no particular trends regarding how economical the bowlers have been in the last five games here. The pacers have averaged an economy rate of 5.66 but the spinners (6.00) have not been too expensive either.

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