More than 11 years ago since they led their respective teams in the semi-final of the 2008 U19 World Cup at Kuala Lumpur, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will lock horns again as skippers in a game of an entirely different magnitude.
Old Trafford will be the theatre this time around with India and New Zealand set to go head-to-head in the first semi-final of the 2019 ICC World Cup on Tuesday.
On that particular occasion in 2008, it was Kohli and India who had triumphed by three wickets in a hard-fought encounter with the team ultimately going on to lift the trophy.
What’s more, Kohli had even managed to pick up the wicket of Williamson in the match and it is a fact he is keen to remind his New Zealand counterpart about when they take the field on Tuesday.
“I got Kane’s wicket? Did I? I don’t know if that can happen again. I’m sure he remembers and when we meet tomorrow, I’m going to remind him,” the India skipper stated on Monday.
Now more than a decade later, the two players have established themselves as ‘once in a generation’ talents for their respective countries and make up one-half of the ‘Fab Four’ that also includes Steve Smith and Joe Root.
11 years ago, #ViratKohli and #KaneWilliamson faced off in the ICC U19 World Cup semi-final in Malaysia.— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) July 7, 2019
On Tuesday, they will lead India and New Zealand in the #CWC19 semi-final at Old Trafford!
Full circle 🙌 #TeamIndia | #BackTheBlackCaps pic.twitter.com/FakooHmfUY
The two skippers have more than played their parts in their respective side’s march to the semi-final with both of them shining with the bat in hand.
It is Williamson who is slightly ahead of Kohli at this stage with the Kiwi stalwart amassing 481 runs so far compared to the 442 runs registered by his India counterpart.
The New Zealand skipper is averaging more than 96 with the bat in the tournament and has time and time again dug his team out of several holes. Kiwi openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro have been woefully out of form in the tournament which has meant that Williamson has had to arrive at the crease much earlier than expected.
Yet, the 28-year-old has been the ever-reliable hand that he is always has and has constantly doused out the fires with minimal fuss. Accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the team’s total runs in the tournament, Williamson has more than led from the front to drag an inconsistent side all the way to the semi-final.
The right-hander has already struck two tons in the competition and gave a masterclass in anchoring a difficult chase with his unbeaten 106 against South Africa.
Kohli, on the other hand, has not yet managed to breach three figures so far in the tournament but the India skipper has still managed to constantly churn up the runs at a handsome rate.
It speaks more about the 29-year-old’s genius with the bat that a run of five fifties on the trot is being seen as an underachievement but such are the lofty standards that the cricket world has become accustomed to expect from Kohli.
He has lived in the shadows of Rohit Sharma mostly with the opener creating history by registering five tons in a single World Cup edition. Not that the India superstar is complaining with the team now just two steps away from lifting a third world title.
Yet, Williamson of all people will know that Kohli’s is the prize wicket for his team on Tuesday. The sentiment will be very much the same on the Indian side with the Kiwi skipper’s wicket set to be the most crucial one.
The two gifted batsmen are very much the faces of their respective national teams which have been carved in their identity.
Two champion cricketers at the top of their games are set to lead out their respective sides in a game of immense magnitude at Manchester. For cricket neutrals from all over the world, it simply does not get better than this.
New Zealand and India are set to tussle for a spot in the 2019 Cricket World Cup final.
When the pair brushed shoulders in the warm-up game prior to the commencement of the prestigious tournament, the Kiwis emerged comfortable winners in a low-scoring affair. The group-stage game featuring the two teams was abandoned due to rain and Tuesday will mark the pair’s first meeting ever since.
The big battle on Tuesday will feature sub-sets of smaller battles that could determine the outcome of the big tie. We take you through the key-clashes.
Trent Boult v Rohit Sharma
After scalping a 4-for in the warm-up game, Boult will consider himself to be the trump card against an upbeat India in Manchester. Rohit Sharma is at the peak of his abilities, but he will be wary of what the pacer could do with his in-swingers.
In the warm-up game last month, the 32-year-old was caught on the plumb by a spectacular delivery by Boult. But both players have experienced opposing fortunes ever since.
The Indian opener has broken the reord for most centuries in a World Cup, smashing five tons en route to a tournament-leading tally of 647 runs.
On the other hand, Boult has not had the best of tournaments. The pacer’s only moment of the World Cup arrived when he claimed a hat-trick against Australia in the death, but the Kiwis went on to lose the match.
Boult has since been outshone by team-mate Lockie Ferguson.
However, both players know that form, history and numbers are immaterial when they take the pitch in the semis. It could be the case of who blinks first, with Boult holding the edge despite enduring inferior form.
Jasprit Bumrah v Kane Williamson
Kane Williamson has been leading by example and has registered the best batting average (96.2) in the group stage and will be New Zealand’s best hope at stability in the middle-order on Tuesday.
Jasprit Bumrah has been India’s best player in the bowling department and will be looking to nullify whatever the Kiwis skipper attempts to achieve.
This battle could consist of two parts, depending on how things progress. The New Zealand openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro have had a disappointing tournament and could be dismissed early on in the innings by India’s fierce bowling attack. Bumrah will then ask Williamson all sort of questions as the latter prepares to steady the ship.
The second part of the battle will arrive in the death, should Williamson and New Zealand survive any initial scare from the Men in Blue. Bumrah has established himself as one of the best death bowlers in the world and will be tasked to restrict the Kiwis.
He will then be put to test against the in-form Williamson who will be looking to take his team to a massive total.
Ultimately, it will come down to which player responds to pressure better and the Kiwis skipper has demonstrated his prowess in this arena quite spectacularly this World Cup.
Mitchell Santner v India’s middle-order
Kiwis spinner Mitchell Santner could be the unlikely hero against a shaky Indian middle-order.
Virat Kohli’s men have appeared fragile beyond the third batsman and are yet to find the winning combination.
Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant have all been tested, but none of the players have been able to make a strong case for themselves. MS Dhoni has anchored the ship at times, but at a concerning strike-rate.
Santner could play a key role in keeping a check on the Indian middle-order and handing the control to the Kiwis in case the former maintain the good momentum which is usually presented to them by the swashbuckling opening pair.
Sarfraz Ahmed has put the ball in the court of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) with regards to the captaincy of the Pakistan side across all formats.
The wicketkeeper batsman has been leading Pakistan across all three formats for some time now although the role is set to come under the scanner following the team’s exit in the 2019 ICC World Cup.
The Men in Green finished fifth on the points table after attaining five wins in their nine games and narrowly missed out on a spot in the semi-final due to their inferior net run-rate compared to New Zealand.
Addressing a media gathering in Lahore on the team’s return from England, Sarfraz stated that the captaincy decision solely rests on the PCB.
“It’s not that I’m saying I refuse to resign,” said the Pakistan skipper.
“All I’m saying is the decision rests with the PCB, the same way as the decision to appoint me captain was taken by them.
“I’m sure they’ll take the decision that’s best for Pakistan.”
Sarfraz lauded the displays of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi and expressed his satisfaction at the overall display of the squad. Babar’s reputation was further enhanced in the tournament with the right-hander’s tally of 474 runs now being the highest ever registered by any Pakistan batsman in World Cups.
Young Afridi, meanwhile, impressed one and all after picking up 16 wickets in just five matches including a memorable five-wicket haul at Lord’s against Bangladesh.
“The performances overall have been good,” Sarfraz stated.
“The most junior bowler (Shaheen Afridi) picked up 16 wickets. Babar Azam playing his first World Cup batted brilliantly and scored a century and half-centuries.
“As a team, we put up a great fight. It is unfortunate we couldn’t qualify.”