Preview – Strong India look favorites to surpass deflated New Zealand
This wasn’t the semi-final everyone was anticipating. For a while, it looked like it would be an Australia v New Zealand semi-final at Manchester. But after tasting defeat at the hands of South Africa in their last league game, Australia slipped to 2nd on the points table. India, meanwhile, defeated Sri Lanka in their last match and jumped to the 1st position on the points table and secured it.
Hence, it will be India v New Zealand in the first semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at Manchester on the 9th of July. India has lost just one game in the league stage, against England, and has looked pretty strong throughout despite the few issues they have. New Zealand, on the other hand, have now lost three back-to-back-games and are suddenly looking rather fragile. The league match between India and New Zealand was washed out in the World Cup and it would be an interesting battle to see in the semis.
India is looking confident and professional in their approach and should hence start as favorites for this semi-final. Opener Rohit Sharma is in the form of his life and has struck 5 hundreds in this edition – the first ever batsman to achieve this feat in a World Cup. KL Rahul too has slowly found his groove after his 111 against Sri Lanka and Virat Kohli looks as solid as ever. India’s only issue is its middle-order. Rishabh Pant is still inexperienced at No.4 and MS Dhoni has looked scratchy. This is the area that the New Zealand bowlers can exploit. However, Hardik Panyda has looked in superb touch throughout the tournament and can finish with a flourish.
India’s bowling has looked very good and will be heavily reliant again on Jasprit Bumrah. It will be interesting to note what other bowling combination captain Virat Kohli uses. Mohammad Shami is in great wicket-taking form and should be used. Ravindra Jadeja got to play his first game of the World Cup against Sri Lanka and returned with 1-40. He might be used as a second spin option with Yuzvendra Chahal being the other one. Together they might be handy against this New Zealand batting unit.
New Zealand’s openers and middle-order has greatly disappointed in the past few games and the likes of Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor and Colin Munro would have to really fire against India. Or it will be skipper Kane Williamson again doing the bulk of the work. The Kiwi bowling has been good, led by the ever dependable Trent Boult and followed by the impressive pace of Lockie Ferguson. Those two have the capability to rattle the Indian top-order.
A lot will also depend on the all-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, along with the spin of Mitchell Santner.
Pitch Conditions and Match Prediction:
The last match that was played in Manchester was a high-scoring encounter with South Africa and Australia both scoring 300-plus runs. The pitch is expected to stay true for batting and is likely to slow down in the second innings. Hence, batting first will be an advantage. And the seamers and spinners who use their varieties will prosper.
The team batting first should score in excess of 280-300. India, who has been in top form this World Cup and had beaten New Zealand 4-1 earlier this year in an ODI series, look favorites for the game. But given the semi-final pressure, anything can happen. In all likelihood, it should be an exciting game but India should emerge winners.