India lost two of their original-squad members to injury, one of whom was the part of an all-important top-3 in the batting order. Three games into the tournament, the side was hurt with another injury setback – this time, in the form of a hamstring niggle to a first-choice pacer. Throughout the group stage, the side faced nervy moments in their middle-order, and all of this coincided with Virat Kohli’s inability to convert strong starts into three-figures – a scenario one could barely have imagined before the tournament.
The fact that India, on July 6, finished at the top of the points table after the end of the group stage of the 2019 World Cup, provides a testament to the fiery unit that is this Virat Kohli’s side.
India brought their A-game in all the contests and secured 15 points to secure a semifinal qualification for the seventh time in their World Cup history. Here’s how they did it:
India vs South Africa:
When India played their first World Cup game, the clouds of uncertainty over South Africa’s World Cup campaign had already begun to gather over Faf du Plessis’ side. The injury to fast bowler Dale Steyn came about as the lightning which struck and left the South African hopes for dead at the mere beginning of the tournament.
India came in as favourites against South Africa and did justice to the tag. The Men in Blue outclassed South Africa in all the three departments, clinching an easy six-wicket win to kick-start their World Cup campaign with a flyer. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were economical and among the wickets, but Yuzvendra Chahal was the standout performer with the ball, scalping four batsmen.
With the bat, Rohit Sharma scored his first century of the tournament, as he maintained the run-rate from one end to guide India to victory.
India vs Australia:
The scars of a shock defeat in the home series had hardly healed for the Indian fans, when the reminders of the 2015 World Cup semifinal made it even worse for the build-up to the high-profile clash. However, India defied the past, even as Australia returned stronger with the arrival of David Warner and Steve Smith.
It was a Shikhar Dhawan masterclass this time, with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni, all joining in with the fireworks. Dhawan scored 122 as India piled up 352 on the board, and bowled the Aussies out on 316 to register their second successive win in the tournament.
If not for a nasty bouncer from Pat Cummins in this game, however, India would still be relishing the opening partnerships of Rohit and Shikhar. Dhawan was struck on the thumb, which eventually ruled him out of the World Cup.
India vs New Zealand:
Both the sides will meet in the 1st semifinal of the 2019 World Cup, which will be the first time they will take each other on in this tournament. The group game between India and New Zealand was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
The fans were disappointed, but the unbeaten run for both the sides continued.
India vs Pakistan:
In a rivalry which thrives more on history than the quality of cricket in the last few years, India aimed to extend their winning streak to 7-0, and they did so in an emphatic but unsurprising fashion.
The fact that the only disappointment for the Indian fans was Rohit Sharma not reaching a double-hundred summed up the game at Old Trafford. It can be said, however, that Rohit has spoiled the fans with his incredible power-hitting and a significant regularity in the 200+ scores.
The opener scored 140, powering India to 336 in 50 overs. Virat Kohli scored 77, missing out on a second-consecutive hundred, while Pandya, even as he misfired, scored at a strike rate of 137. The game was further hit by rain, making it difficult for Pakistan with each passing shower.
In the end, India secured a comfortable 89-run win, thanks to an all-round effort from Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Shankar, Pandya, Kuldeep and Chahal.
India vs Afghanistan:
If there was ever a script on which this World Cup was panning out, this would’ve been a walkover for India. Thank the heavens there isn’t, because the contest between India and Afghanistan turned out to be an absolute blockbuster.
Afghanistan stretched India to their limit, triggering debates on MS Dhoni’s slow pace of batting, and India’s weak links in the middle-order. This game, however, also put to surface the rewards of a bowling revolution of sorts in the Indian cricket team.
Mohammed Shami, who replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar (hamstring niggle), became the second Indian bowler to take a World Cup-hattrick after Chetan Sharma. Jasprit Bumrah, once again, impacted the game with two wickets in an over, and the spinners restricted Afghanistan’s batsmen to aid the pacers in the end.
India scored 224/8 in 50 overs, with Virat Kohli ending up at a strike rate of over 100. Make that of what you will, because the pitch was indeed poor for batting. Dhoni scored 28 off 52, while Kedar Jadhav put 52 in 68 balls. Afghanistan looked to be cruising away with the game when Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi built on a solid partnership. In came Jasprit Bumrah, dismissing both the batsmen in a single over. Mohammad Nabi fought hard but failed to lead Afghanistan to a memorable victory, as Shami’s hattrick sealed the game for the Blues.
India vs West Indies:
KL Rahul failed to convert his start against Afghanistan, and the story wasn’t any different even as he looked confident in his stroke-play against the Windies.
Rohit Sharma, meanwhile, failed in his second successive game, but it was Virat Kohli who took on the charge again. He crossed his half-century, almost looked set for the hundred, but fell short of the three-figure mark by 28 runs. Dhoni scored 56 off 61 to lead India to 268 in 50 overs.
The bowlers shined for India again, as they bowled West Indies out on 143. Jasprit Bumrah conceded only 9 off 6 overs, taking two wickets as well. Shami took four wickets again, while Pandya, Kuldeep and Chahal, all pitched in with significant contributions.
England vs India:
The host-side was in a spot of bother after disappointing results against Sri Lanka and Australia, but a lack of intent from India, aided by a brilliant bowling performance from the English bowlers, handed Virat Kohli’s men their first loss of the 2019 World Cup.
Batting first, England, who were powered with the return of Jason Roy, put on 337 on the board. Jonny Bairstow scored a century while Roy scored 66, adding 160 for the opening stand. Ben Stokes continued with another fiery performance with the bat, scoring 79 off 54. While Bumrah was economical again, Shami took a five-wicket haul at the expense of conceding almost 7 run/over.
India suffered an early setback with the dismissal of KL Rahul, and the pitch, which had turned slower as the day passed, confined Rohit and Virat from attempting the big hits. It was a story of too little, too late as the innings progressed, as India faced a 31-run defeat.
India vs Bangladesh:
Bangladesh had been a revelation in this tournament, and Shakib Al Hasan could genuinely convert everything he touched into gold. Yet, India held their nerves to beat their sub-continental neighbors and qualify for the semifinals of the tournament.
India put on 314 on the board, with Rohit Sharma scoring his second successive century against Bangladesh in the World Cup. Rishabh Pant, who was drafted in as the replacement for Shikhar Dhawan, impressed at number 4 with a 41-ball 48.
Mohammed Shami’s conceding rate continued to be an issue, but it was negated by yet another brilliant performance from Bumrah, who took 4 wickets. Hardik Pandya was also influential, taking 3, as India bowled out Bangladesh on 286.
India vs Sri Lanka:
With a semifinal spot confirmed, India played to climb to the top of the points table. India did their bit efficiently, and Rohit Sharma was the star of the game – again. Scoring his fifth ton of the 2019 World Cup, he surpassed Kumar Sangakkara to slam the most three-figure scores in a single campaign.
Sri Lanka were struggling at 55/4, thanks to Bumrah, but Angelo Mathews’ ton powered them to a respectable score of 264. It was, still, a cakewalk for India, who successfully chased down the score inside 44 overs, losing only three wickets.
KL Rahul, who had been throwing his wickets with alarming consistency, finally hit his maiden World Cup century, and gained a much-needed confidence booster as India now prepares for the semifinal against New Zealand in Manchester.