An unbeaten century from captain Kane Williamson led New Zealand to a tense four-wicket win over South Africa in the World Cup on Wednesday.
The result not only maintained New Zealand’s unbeaten record in this tournament but also pushed South Africa closer to the exit with their fourth defeat from six games.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis admitted qualification from this stage seems extremely unlikely and that the dressing room is low on confidence.
“Yeah, it’s tough now. I mean… you can feel (it in) the dressing room. The guys are… they’re hurting,” Du Plessis said.
“I’m feeling five years older, my body’s really sore after that. So, we left everything out there. And, that’s all I can ask for as a captain, that the guys fight. They showed that. Unfortunately we’ve just not been, as good as the opposition we’ve played against.”
Australia will bid to go top of the World Cup table when they take on Bangladesh at Trent Bridge.
New Zealand lead the way after their thrilling four-wicket win against South Africa on Wednesday, but Australia are in a healthy position – behind England in third place – after four wins from their first five games.
Bangladesh though have hopes of a top-four finish themselves after securing their second tournament win by beating the West Indies in their last match.
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Halfway through the 2019 Cricket World Cup, the top teams have put on quite a show. The batsmen are staging commanding performances with totals of over 300 not only being achieved but chased down.
Apart from the likes of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan succumbing to sub-200 scores early on, this has been a batsman’s tournament so far.
There are also several instances where captains have led from the front when the team needed them to. We take a look at three of the best captain’s innings so far.
3. Eoin Morgan (England) v Afghanistan
While Virat Kohli’s resilient knock of 77 runs off 65 balls in India’s win over rivals Pakistan deserves a mention given the weight of the encounter, the sheer impact of Eoin Morgan’s innings against Afghanistan on the record books trumps it.
Doubts were cast over the skipper’s participation in that encounter after a back injury affected his preparations for the game. But the 32-year-old made his way to the crease and staged a record-breaking innings that saw the ball sail over the boundary line 17 times.
The hosts won the game by 150 runs after Afghanistan managed just 247 from their 50-over quota. Although the fireworks were directed at the bottom-placed team, the fact that Morgan performed so well despite not being at a 100 per cent is impressive.
England are tipped to go all the way and claim their maiden title and to do that inspirational performances like this one are needed.
2. Aaron Finch (Australia) v Sri Lanka
After a defeat to India and a scare against Pakistan, defending champions Australia were in need of a comprehensive win against Sri Lanka to reassert themselves as one of the tournament favourites.
Captain Aaron Finch cut loose in that match. The Colac-born batsman displayed some eye-catching shots en route to his 132-ball 153. With 15 boundaries and five sixes, the Aussie captain fell after a lazy shot off Isuru Udana was caught by Dimuth Karunaratne.
However, the job was done and Australia reached a respectable total of 344 runs, claiming victory by 87 runs. Eventually it was an easy day at the office for Finch’s side but the spectacular innings from the skipper himself was crucial in raising the morale of the team and providing a push ahead of bigger games.
The 32-year-old announced his arrival with a half-ton against Pakistan in the previous game and with a huge hundred against the Lankans, he made a real statement.
1. Kane Williamson (New Zealand) v South Africa
Given the circumstances under which Kane Williamson performed, his century against South Africa is our best captain’s innings this World Cup has seen so far.
The Kiwis skipper put 106 runs on the board in 138 balls as he carried his team to a successful chase of 241.
On paper, the equation seemed simple; there are far more challenging tasks than scoring 242 runs against a team that has won just one game so far. But the tricky pitch caused an ugly collapse involving the likes of Ross Taylor and Tom Latham and begged for a Williamson masterclass to save the day.
Chris Morris was gunning down New Zealand middle-order and although Imran Tahir failed to take a single wicket, his deliveries were almost unplayable.
Williamson stood strong right from the third over until the last ball and was the architect of his side’s success.
He was well-supported by Colin de Grandhomme, who scored a quick-fire 60. But ultimately, the all-rounder was sent back to the pavilion and the team’s fate rested in Williamson’s hands. The 28-year-old responded brilliantly and took his team over the finish line.