It’s the business end time. The semi-finals of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup are just a few hours away and the real pressure begins now. In the first semi-final, hosts India will face last season’s finalist New Zealand, while South Africa will face Australia in the other semi-final.
India have been outstanding at home in this World Cup, and they have won all of their last nine games prior to the semi-final. In the previous edition of the World Cup, India lost to the same team in the semi-final and Rohit Sharma, the Indian skipper, will be looking to avoid a similar fate.
Australia made a slow start to the World Cup, losing their opening two games, but they have come back strongly and cemented their position in the semifinal quite comfortably in the end. They are up against South Africa who have looked to morally destroy every opponent every time when they have batted first.
Australia have won this competition more than any other side, while India will be looking encore what they did in 2011 and win the trophy for the third time in their history. Both the Kiwis and the Proteas are yet to win this competition.
Teams: India v New Zealand
Date: 15 November
Venue: Wankhede Stadium
Time: 8.30 AM BST
India are looking unbeatable at this moment, and what has really impressed everyone is that all the players have hit the form at the right time. Understandably, cricket tickets for this game are in high demand with the passionate Indian support desperate to watch their team reach the World Cup final.
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have been the pick of the players in terms of batting while the likes of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul have chipped in with valuable runs throughout the tournament. The injury to Hardik Pandya has opened the door for Suryakumar Yadav who is finally looking like he belongs to the ODI cricket.
The bowling department has been equally impressive. The pace-trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Muhammad Shiraj and Mohamed Shami have been sensational so far and they have been taking early wickets in every single game. The spin twin of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav are doing damage as well on spin-friendly tracks.
Kohli has been in sensational form in this World Cup. Arguably, the best batsman of the modern era by a country mile, Kohli has managed 594 runs in this World Cup, the highest by any Indian batsman. He has also touched little master Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 centuries in ODI and Indian fans will hope that he can break that record within the next two games. In any case, he has loads of years ahead of him to create a new record that no one can even dare to think of coming close to it.
Sharma is also in good touch, along with Shubman Gill. India have beaten New Zealand in the group stages in this World Cup, so there’s no reason why they cannot do it again.
In bowling, Bumrah has taken 17 wickets, while Shami has picked up 16 wickets so far. Shami has also become India’s leading wicket-taker in this World Cup.
New Zealand are no longer the dark horse. They have proved in the last decade that they are a mighty force in world cricket after reaching back-to-back finals in the World Cup.
Trent Boult was magnificent in the semi-final four years ago, and New Zealand will hope that he will come good at Wankhede as well. While the conditions are favourable for swing bowling we all know what he can do when the ball starts to move a bit.
The biggest find of this World Cup is Rachin Ravindra who is scoring mountains of runs in the top order. Glenn Phillips is becoming a class all-rounder while Daryl Mitchell adds an extra pillar of strength in batting. With Kane Williamson back, New Zealand have the perfect set up to score any runs on any pitch and can defend any total.
Teams: Australia v South Africa
Date: 16 November
Venue: Eden Gardens
Just when it looked like this could be a nightmare World Cup for the Aussies they found a way to bounce back, and boy they did bounce back in some style.
David Warner and Mitchell Marsh have been firing all cylinders upfront but skipper Pat Cummins will be a little worried about the lack of significant contributions from the middle order.
In the crucial game against Afghanistan, Glenn Maxwell produced arguably one of the greatest-ever knocks in ODI history. With Australia losing seven players within hundred runs on board, Maxwell, fighting with cramps and playing on one foot literally, scored a majestic century, hitting ten sixes.
In bowling, Adam Zampa is their leading wicket-taker with 22 wickets, while Josh Hazlewood has picked up 14 wickets so far. The Australians are always a dangerous side in the knockout stages and they are capable of handling the pressure better than any other side.
South Africa suffered a humiliating defeat against India in the World Cup at Eden Gardens, but that was a different game. The semi-final brings a whole new challenge.
South Africa’s main strength lies in their batting. If they get going at the start of the innings, Australia could really struggle to keep hold of them. Quinton de Kock is the leading run scorer of the World Cup with 618 runs. Aiden Markram has also looked in fabulous touch with 489 runs.
Marco Jansen has taken 22 wickets while Keshav Maharaj has picked up 18 wickets so far. This is going to be a massive contest, but Australia probably hold an upper hand here. South Africa have struggled batting second, as seems like they do not have any plan B option.
In the knock-out games, what really matters is the ability to absorb pressure. South Africa have always produced quality teams in the past but they have choked at the wrong time. Hopefully this time they can re-write the history and move to the finals.
Prediction: It is really difficult to predict the outcome of the first semi-final but India hold an upper-hand due to their impressive form so far. India and Australia to progress to the final.
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