The Indian cricket team is just two wins away from clinching its third ICC ODI World Cup title. The two-time world champions will face New Zealand in the first semi-final of the ICC World Cup 2019 on July 9 in Manchester.
Virat Kohli and Co. are riding high on confidence after topping the points table in the group stage. On the other hand, the Kiwis are a bit on the backfoot after a dull campaign in the second-half of the group stages. The Kane Williamson-led side, who were on top during the initial stages, lost track midway and managed to qualify for the semi-finals due to a superior NRR (Net Run Rate) as compared to Pakistan who also finished with same points.
In the round-robin stage, India vs New Zealand match was washed out due to rain. Interestingly, both teams also faced each other in a warm-up match before the World Cup where the Blackcaps thrashed the Men in Blue by 6 wickets at Kennington Oval in London. In that game, the Kiwi bowlers ran through India's top-order as Trent Boult was close to unplayable in overcast conditions. While batting first, India were bundled out for just 179, a score which proved to be an easy task for the Kiwis. However, after that game, India never looked back and played dominant cricket throughout the group stage with 7 wins and a single loss against hosts England.
Strong and Weak Points of Indian team:
Strong Points: India's top order and the bowling department have been phenomenal throughout the tournament. With Rohit Sharma scoring a record five centuries and KL Rahul batting sensibly at the top, Team India has one of the strongest opening pairs in the tournament. At number 3, India have the 'Best in the Business' in Virat Kohli who has performed consistently well in this tournament. While in the bowling department, Team India has Jasprit Bumrah as the go-to man for Virat Kohli. ‘Yorker King’ Bumrah is undoubtedly the key for Team India's success in the tournament alongside Mohammed Shami and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Weak Points: The number four batting position has been an unsolved mystery for Team India from past one year as team management has tried several options at that slot but is yet to strike a perfect balance. All-rounder Vijay Shankar’s injury midway through the tournament forced India to call-up Rishabh Pant. Pant is an exceptional talent but his immaturity can cost India big as he has the habit of throwing away his wicket in crucial situations. Another issue which has plagued India in this World Cup is the below-par performance of veteran MS Dhoni. The former India skipper has not been at his very best with the bat, robbing the team of a strong finish on a few occasions.
Strong and Weak Points of New Zealand team:
Strong Points: New Zealand bowlers are the match-winners for their team. With the likes of Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry in the playing XI, the Kiwis can run through any batting order under favourable conditions. Looking at the weather forecast for Manchester, it will not be easy for Kohli and Co. to face the Boult brigade.
Weak Points: The overdependency on skipper Kane Williamson has hurt the New Zealand team big time as witnessed in the latter half of the group stages. Senior campaigners like Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor are going through a rough phase in the tournament and they need to come out of it if New Zealand want to overcome India in the semis. The Kiwis are also struggling in the spin department as both Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner have under-performed in the tournament.
Rohit Sharma vs Trent Boult:
India vice-captain Rohit Sharma is enjoying the form of his life and is just 27 runs away from breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s long-lasting record of scoring the most number of runs in a single edition of the World Cup. Against New Zealand, Rohit will face a tough challenge against pace spearhead Trent Boult, who removed him for just 2 runs in the warm-up game. Looking at the current Manchester weather reports, Boult will be a handy customer in the overcast conditions and Rohit needs to be cautious against him to lead his team to another emphatic win.
Kane Williamson vs Jasprit Bumrah
Williamson has been a one-man army for New Zealand in this edition of the World Cup and has single-handedly led his team on many occasions, taking the Kiwis forward when others failed to step up. However, the Indian bowling line-up is equally equipped to handle the threat of Williamson. The onus will again be on Jasprit Bumrah, the bowler who has troubled the best of the batsmen in this tournament. It will be interesting to see how Williamson fends off the Bumrah’s yorker.
Virat Kohli vs Lockie Ferguson
It has been an unlikely scenario for India captain Virat Kohli in this World Cup as the 30-year-old, widely regarded as the best batsman of this era, is yet to score a hundred. Kohli has smashed five half-centuries but has not been able to convert them into hundreds. However, the Indian skipper cherishes big occasions and the semis clash might well be the stage for Kohli to unleash his fury. On his way to the glory, however, Kohli will face the speed gun in Lockie Ferguson who is bowling lightning quick in this tournament. Ferguson has a habit of breaking crucial partnerships in middle of the innings and Kohli is famous for anchoring the innings. The contest between the two will surely be fascinating to watch.