Cricket World Cup 2019: Middle-order muddle remains but inspired Rohit Sharma form raises India's hopes

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Both Kohli and Rohit have been in excellent form.

A third ICC World Cup semi-final appearance in a row beckons for India as the Men in Blue get ready to lock horns with New Zealand for a place in the final at Lord’s.

Virat Kohli and his men were expected to go deep in the World Cup and they have not let their fans down in that regard with a table-topping campaign that has seen them taste just the one defeat so far.

It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for the two-time champions with an injury to star opener Shikhar Dhawan ruling him out of the tournament and they were nearly given a scare by tournament minnows Afghanistan before ultimately prevailing in a tight contest.

Comprehensive victories over arch-rivals Pakistan, West Indies and Australia have been the high points of India’s campaign with a loss to hosts England being the only blot.

WHAT’S WORKING FOR THEM

Bowling prowess

India’s foundations have been built on a formidable bowling attack more than anything while Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have carried the batting unit.

Jasprit Bumrah has lived up to his No1 billing in ODI cricket with the India pacer picking up 14 wickets while exhibiting some sensational bowling in the death overs. He has been ably supported by a resurgent Mohammed Shami who has picked up 14 wickets in just four games since coming in to replace the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

All rounder Hardik Pandya has more then held his own as a third seam option while Yuzvendra Chahal’s leg-spin guile has also shone through in patches. More than anything, India’s bowling unit has been extremely economical with the likes of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Kuldeep Yadav going at less than five runs an over.

Bumrah has lived up to his No1 ODI billing.

Bumrah has lived up to his No1 ODI billing.

Top order in fine nick

India have very much followed the template they made their own over the past few years with the top order doing the majority of the run-scoring. With Dhawan out injured, Rohit Sharma (544) and Kohli (408) have done the bulk of the scoring with the former having a sensational tournament with four tons to his name already.

Rahul has been an able replacement for the injured Dhawan as well since moving up the order and the right-hander has now registered one ton and two half-centuries in the tournament.

WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE

Middle order woes remain

India can be thankful that Rohit and Kohli have been in top-form with the middle-order still looking like a big muddle at this stage of the tournament. The injury to Dhawan has opened up a can of worms with the No4 spot once again becoming a revolving door.

All-rounder Vijay Shankar was being backed for the role but a toe injury has ended his campaign as well with Rishabh Pant being flown in a replacement. While Pandya has played some entertaining cameos, the likes of Kedar Jadhav and veteran MS Dhoni have struggled to up the ante when required in the death overs.

Middle-order doesn't exactly inspire confidence for India.

Middle-order doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for India.

Dhoni’s performance in the defeat to England invited plenty of criticism with the veteran’s lack of intent being questioned by pundits and fans alike. However, Dhoni’s waning hitting abilities are the least of India’s worries with the team yet to have a settled middle-order combination before the start of the knock-outs.

The dependence on Rohit and Kohli is too high at the moment for the team and they could be in real trouble if both the batsmen are dismissed cheaply.

Kuldeep’s lack of wickets

Another concern for India is the lack of wickets for Kuldeep with the young wrist-spinner having claimed just five scalps so far in an underwhelming campaign.

The youngster had an excellent time in the ODI series against New Zealand at the start of the year and Kohli will want to go in with a two-man spin attack in the semi-final. It remains to be seen whether the India skipper trusts Kuldeep to come good again or go with a more reliable and safer performer in Ravindra Jadeja.

STAR MAN

Rohit Sharma

While Kohli has uncharacteristically struggled to convert any of his five half-centuries so far into a ton, the same cannot be said for his deputy Rohit who has been having a magnificent tournament.

The right-hander has now become the first batsman in history to register five centuries in a single World Cup campaign and could very well surpass Sachin Tendulkar’s record tally of 673 runs in the 2003 edition if he keeps up his current form.

India would have struggled big time without Rohit’s runs at the top and he will be the prize wicket for opposition bowlers when the knock-outs begin.

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Afghanistan to take on West Indies in one-off Test in India

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Afghanistan have another Test to look forward to.

Afghanistan will lock horns with the West Indies in a one-off Test in November this year in what will be the first red-ball meeting between the two sides.

The sole Test will get underway on November 27 in Afghanistan’s adopted home in India and is part of an extensive tour for the West Indies.

The Caribbean side will also play three T20Is and as many ODIs against Afghanistan as part of their tour before they take on India in another series.

The one-off Test against Jason Holder and his men will be the third ever match in the five-day format for Afghanistan who gained full ICC membership along with Ireland last year.

Afghanistan had tasted a heavy loss against India in their debut Test at Bengaluru last year before they beat Ireland by seven wickets at Dehradun in their second appearance in the format.

Afghanistan and West Indies have so far met in six ODI and four T20I clashes previously with their most recent encounter coming in the ongoing 2019 ICC World Cup in England.

Windies had prevailed by 23 runs in the World Cup clash between the two sides at Headingley although it was a campaign to forget for both sides.

While West Indies bowed out with a ninth-place finish in the 10-team competition, Afghanistan finished bottom of the table after losing nine matches on the trot.

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Calf injury cloud hangs over England's James Anderson ahead of Ashes series

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England Test stalwart James Anderson (r).

James Anderson faces a race to be fit for the start of the Ashes next month after it was revealed the England seamer suffered a low grade muscle tear to his right calf earlier this week.

England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker is seen as instrumental to their chances of toppling Australia but he pulled up while attempting to bowl during Lancashire’s Specsavers County Championship clash against Durham.

The 36-year-old, who only returned to bat briefly with a runner and did not bowl for the remainder of the drawn game, underwent scans which highlighted the injury.

The England and Wales Cricket Board says his availability will be “reassessed on an ongoing basis” for the one-off Test against Ireland, starting on July 24 at Lord’s, and the Ashes, which gets under way at Edgbaston on August 1.

However, he was not named in Lancashire’s XI to take on Northamptonshire on Sunday morning while he will be absent for their Division Two clash against Sussex, starting next Saturday.

An ECB statement said: “England seam bowler Jimmy Anderson, who left the field during Lancashire’s Specsavers County Championship match against Durham at Sedbergh School on Tuesday July 2 due to tightness to his right calf, underwent an MRI scan on Friday.

“The MRI confirmed that Anderson has suffered a low grade calf muscle tear. As a result of the injury, he will commence a rehabilitation programme with the England and Lancashire CCC medical teams.

“Anderson will miss Lancashire’s next two Championship matches against Northants and Sussex.

“He will be reassessed on an ongoing basis regarding his availability for the Specsavers Test match versus Ireland at Lord’s on July 24 and the Specsavers Ashes Series against Australia starting on August 1.”

Provided by Press Association Sports

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