World Cup 2019: One question each semi-finalist needs to answer
As the curtain is drawn on the group stages of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, we are left with the final four teams. New Zealand, England, Australia, and India have all survive the brutal group stage and now progress on to the semi-finals. While India and Australia would be at the top of the odds, considering they finished the group stage as first and second respectively, you cannot count out England or New Zealand either.
Coming in to the World Cup, England was the most in-form ODI team in the world, especially in their home country, regularly hitting scores of 350 plus and putting opposition teams to the sword with a combination of pace from the likes of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, mixed with the smothering spin duo of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.
New Zealand, for their part, made the final of the World Cup four years ago after beating South Africa in a memorable semi-final. While the Kiwis stuttered into the top four this time around and are set to play India, they will still feel like they are in with a chance. New Zealand will undoubtedly be buoyed by their victory against India in the warm-ups.
Australia lost two games in the group stages, only losing to top placed India, and South Africa, a game played after they had already secured qualification to the semi-final. Certainly with opening batters like Aaron Finch and David Warner who are both in great form, and Mitchell Starc at the top of the wickets table, the Australians will feel confident that they can successfully defend their title.
Finally, the in-form India will also be happy going into the knock out stages, finishing atop the table after the group stages. India lost only one game during the group stage against England but survived a trough of bad form in their games against Afghanistan and the West Indies. India will play New Zealand in the semi-finals, a team that they lost to during the warm-up games, while their group game was washed out by rain.
All four remaining teams will face questions going forward and whichever can address them the best, will go on to lift the trophy.
#1 New Zealand: Can someone other than Kane Williamson stand up?
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has had an impressive tournament, scoring 481 runs at an average of 96.20 with a top score of 148.. He has been integral to New Zealand making the knockout stage, but now it's only going to get harder and he needs others in the team to step up.
However, New Zealand's next best batter is Ross Taylor with over 200 runs fewer and openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro have over 300 runs fewer than the Kiwi captain. No one else in the side has an average over 45, with Williamson the only player to also push on to get a century in the tournament as well.
The Kiwis will face an in-form India with a top order that includes the in-form Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli. Nothing but New Zealand's best will see them getting over the line. That means the likes of Guptill, Munro or Henry Nicholls will need to step up to the plate, depending on who is selected.
#2 England: Can they regain their pre-World Cup form?
England has had an up and down campaign so far this World Cup. They came into the World Cup on the back of a dominant series against Pakistan and in red hot form. Unsurprisingly, considering the form and the fact that the World Cup would be on home soil, the English came into the World Cup as heavy favorites.
However, after suffering losses to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Australia, panic shot through the English camp about whether they would even make it to the knockout stages. After rallying victories against India and New Zealand, England has landed itself in 3rd place and regained some of the form that they had heading into the World Cup.
Now set to face Australia in the second semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday, can England retain their momentum and move one step closer to their first ever World Cup victory?
#3 Australia: How will they cover the injuries?
Of all the teams, Australia possibly had the easiest of runs in their group stage fixtures. Their matches against India, England, New Zealand, and South Africa were spread out and they were able to get early wins on the board against Afghanistan and the West Indies before they faced their first challenge in India.
They were also assisted by being one of the first teams to qualify to the knockouts, helped by the fact that they were one of the three teams who didn't have a rain-affected schedule.
However, coming out of the last match against South Africa, Australia has significant injury concerns. Mitchell Starc, Usman Khawaja (ruled out), and Marcus Stoinis all suffered injuries during the game and Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, and Shaun Marsh (ruled out) suffered injuries in a training session before the game. Australia will have a few extra days to recover before their semi-final against England on Thursday.
#4 India: Will their middle-order withstand the pressure?
India finished the group stage at the top and started the tournament as one of the favorites, and things have pretty much gone to plan for the team. So far, they have made it through the tournament relatively unscathed as they only lost one game, to England, and had their game against New Zealand washed out. However, it remains to be seen if the tough Indian exterior will crack, now that the pressure will be sure to be turned up.
Shikhar Dawan's injury has forced KL Rahul to be pushed up the order to open the batting with the in-form Rohit Sharma. Rohit has held the Indian batting order together scoring centuries in five of India's group games. However, the two games that he failed to get going in, saw India posted their worst scores in the tournament.
Virat Kohli, despite scoring runs, has failed to convert any of his starts into a 100+ score, and MS Dhoni has only one half-century in all of his innings. Hardik Pandya has also had starts but has failed to convert them into anything substantial.
With the extra pressure of the knockout stages, will India's middle order stand up to the occasion?