Then there were four.
After forty-three games, four sides have a final shot at glory in the Cricket World Cup with India facing New Zealand at Old Trafford in the first semi-final. The Indians, tournament favourites after impressing in the group stages, are very short, but this is not a game where the match outcome makes much betting appeal. Of the last 20 games played in the tournament, 16 have been won by the team batting first, putting a huge amount of pressure on the toss, and in any case, there’s no value in backing a side at 1/3 to win a World Cup semi-final.
New Zealand, if anything, are too big in the match odds, but when these two sides last met in New Zealand, India were 4-1 series winners, and that was only in January. When taking into account that India won eight out of their nine group games, it seems entirely fair that they are favourites for this semi-final and the tournament.
We know how India operate. Bat early, and bat long. Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli have scored 1,449 runs between them, with Sharma leading the tournament’s run-scoring charts, and Kohli well up on the run-scoring charts to boot. If they win the toss, par tends to be about 300, and with scoreboard pressure, Jasprit Bumrah, who tops the India bowling with 17 wickets, is ably supported by Mohammad Shami (14 wickets) and Yuzvendra Chahal (11 wickets).
If India have a weakness, it might be that the middle order hasn’t matched the exploits of the top order when they’ve been called upon, but they bat reasonably long with Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, and Hardik Pandya all capable of rapid hitting. It remains to be seen if they can play more structured innings should New Zealand’s bowling attack manage to take the wickets of the first three.
New Zealand have relied heavily upon their bowlers, with Lockie Ferguson having 17 wickets to his name whilst Trent Boult is not far behind with 15. Those two have combined with Jimmy Neesham (11 wickets) and Matt Henry (10) to make for a very potent bowling attack, and Ferguson, returned from a hamstring injury that made him miss his game against England, might be best placed to benefit if there’s decent cloud cover.
The issue has been their batting. Where India have made powerful starts which have set them on their way to 300 being a minimum score, New Zealand openers Martin Guptill, and Henry Nicholls have barely hit a ball between them.
Since a serene victory against Sri Lanka, they have consistently found themselves in trouble. They were 35-1 against Bangladesh, 1-0 and then 41-2 against Afghanistan, 12-1 against South Africa, 1-0 against the West Indies, 5-1 against Pakistan, 29-1 against Australia, 2-1 and then 14-2 against England, and on each occasion they’ve won, they’ve been saved by Kane Williamson, who has scored 481 runs in the tournament.
That’s 220 more than Ross Taylor, whose big-hitting has been a feature in three of New Zealand’s wins, and if there is one player who could go a long way to deciding this game, it appears – at face value – to be him. Williamson has scores of 40, 79, 106, 148, 41, 40 and 27. He has top scored on four occasions so far, and the latter of them came when England tore through their battling lineup after setting a big total, so the 9/4 on him being the top run-scorer yet again for New Zealand makes appeal.
The same argument can basically be made for Rohit Sharma. Sharma has scored 122*, 57, 140, 1, 18, 102, 104 and 103 and averages 92.42 during the tournament. The 9/2 Skybet have on him being the top batsman also makes appeal.
Star Sports’ have a fascinating market where players are awarded 1 pt for a run, 20 for a wicket, 10 for a catch & 25 for a stumping. Bowlers and batsmen have generally fought pretty evenly through the tournament but New Zealand and India could find themselves sharing the wickets between two high-quality bowling attacks, which would give the advantage to the batsmen. Sharma is 10/1 behind Virat Kohli at 9’s, but MS Dhoni could be worth a flyer. When beating he has made 28, 56, 42 and 35 in his last three appearances and he had three catches and a stumping against Sri Lanka.
Cricket World Cup 2019
India v New Zealand
Tuesday, July 9,
First Ball 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event HD, Sky Sports World Cup HD
3 pts Rohit Sharma Top Indian Runscorer (5/2 Betfair)
2 pts Rohit Sharma Top Runscorer (9/2 Skybet)
2 pts Kane Williamson Top New Zealand Runscorer (9/4 general)
2 pts Lockie Ferguson Top New Zealand Bowler (7/2 Marathon, 3/1 general)
1 pt each/way MS Dhoni to be Star Sports’ Top Point Scorer (14/1)
1 pt each/way Rohit Sharma to be Star Sports’ Top Point Scorer (10/1)