After a total of 45 round-robin matches, the business end of the 2019 ICC World Cup has finally arrived with India and New Zealand set to lock horns in the first semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
The momentum definitely rests with India for the clash with the Men in Blue arriving in the last four on the back of a table-topping display which has seen them lose just one game so far.
The Black Caps, on the other hand, have stuttered and stumbled after a strong start and come into Tuesday’s semi-final after tasting three losses on the bounce.
India ponder bowling combinations
While India’s bowling unit has been the most economical so far in the World Cup, there are some selection headaches in the department for Virat Kohli.
Jasprit Bumrah will definitely spearhead the pace attack but who partners him with the new ball remains to be seen. Both Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are in contention for the role with the former having picked up 14 wickets so far compared to the seven for the latter.
Shami, however, has been expensive at the death in his last two outings although his overall average of 13.78 remains an excellent one.
India also have a dilemma in the spin department with three options available in the form of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. Old Trafford has not exactly been conducive to spin so far in the tournament and India could be tempted to play just the one specialist spinner for the clash.
India’s middle-order hole
India’s top-order comprising of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Kohli has been a formidable one throughout the course of the World Cup but the middle-order issues still remain unaddressed ahead of the semi-final.
Kedar Jadhav has struggled for runs while MS Dhoni’s growing inability to up the ante at the death has not helped matters either. Time and again, India have let the momentum generated by the top-order slip in the death overs and they cannot afford to make the same mistake in a knock-out clash.
Who bats at No4 will once again be interesting to see although India have persisted with Rishabh Pant in the slot in their three most recent outings with the left-hander putting in a highest score of 48 against Bangladesh.
Young Pant could get the nod once again on Tuesday but both he and veteran Dhoni will be under pressure to deliver on the big stage.
Kiwis bank on pace to rattle India
The game plan for the Black Caps on Tuesday will be fairly straightforward with their impressive pace arsenal set to be unleashed on India’s top-order.
Skipper Kane Williamson will want to put India’s middle-order to the test but they will first need to get past an in-form Rohit Sharma and Kohli.
The Kiwis will take confidence from their warm-up triumph over the Indians where they managed to bowl out India for just 179 runs in a comprehensive victory.
It was Trent Boult who did the damage then and the left-arm seamer will be eager to repeat his exploits. Boult has been backed excellently by Lockie Ferguson, James Neesham and Matt Henry with the four pacers picking up 53 wickets between themselves so far.
If the New Zealand pacers can make early inroads on Tuesday, it will be a whole different ball game.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.
New Zealand: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson.
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