CWC 2019 Semi Finals: Looking Back In Retrospect (Part One)
Four teams India, Australia, England and New Zealand moved into semi finals of CWC 2019 after conclusion of 45 matches in the preliminary round. 10 participating teams played against one another.
ICC ODI top ranked teams England, India, Australia and New Zealand qualified with some ups and downs of the favorites in some matches. There were some dodgy matches and some poor umpiring. Few rain ruined matches also marginally impacted the ultimate outcome.
But qualifications of four in the semi finals was not a big surprise. The order in the points table was England, Australia, England and New Zealand. Top ranked India played against New Zealand at Manchester and 2nd and 3rd ranked Australia and England played at Birmingham.
Top ranked India and second ranked Australia getting knocked out created some surprise and lot of noise. Australia won the world cup five times in the past India won twice. England and New Zealand have never won. CWC 2019 is not set to welcome a new champion.
There has been considerable post mortem and review of the two semi finals following knock out of the two tournament favorites. Former test players of India, Australia, England and leading analysts expressed differing views. The massive social media gossips in face book and twitter continues.
This write up will attempt to look back into retrospect into developments of the two semi finals in two installments.
India New Zealand Low Scoring Exciting Semi Final:
India was the form team of the tournament finishing on top after preliminary round with 15 points from 9 matches. They lost only against England where few analysts thought strategically India did not go all out for winning.
An Indian win in that match could create uncertainty for England to qualify opening the doors for one among Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka going through. India won remaining matches. But vulnerability of its batting was exposed in matches against Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Most of their runs were scored by prolific Rohit Sharma at the top scoring as many as 5 centuries. Rahul replacing injured Shikhar also made good distribution. Kohli though not his brilliant best was also contributing.
But the rest of the batting including great finisher MS Dhoni looked struggling to deliver their best. India still won for their high quality versatile bowling attack. Perhaps some ego, some over confidence grew in Indian camp that they could blew away New Zealand in the semifinals. They were looking beyond semi finals.
New Zealand as a team was much more coherent and cohesive. Their strength is very high quality pace bowling attack, very suitable for green top wickets under cloudy sky. They also have three top quality batsmen in the top order who are comparable with top order batsmen of India, Australia and England. On top of all New Zealand is arguably the best fielding team of the tournament.
Still New Zealand was the clear underdog in the contest. Winning the toss was a big advantage. India opted to go with two genuine seam bowlers leaving in form Mohammad Shami in the dugout. Karthik was preferred to lengthen the batting.
New Zealand elected to bat and immediately ran into top quality pace attack of Kumar and Burma. Guptill, Nichols and Latham were taken out early. Two champions Williamson and Taylor judging the sluggish nature of the wicket and looking at the prospect of rain interruption kept cool and made survival their first option.
Many observers were talking about target, stating that anything less than 280 would be cake walk for India. The rain came with New Zealand looking ordinary at 211/5 in 46.1 overs. Taylor was still there. Rain made the match roll over to the reserve day which in many ways went in New Zealand favor.
India possibly thought New Zealand may go up to 250 at most. They were possibly thinking given the eclectic form of their top order they will overhaul easy. New Zealand captain and the team had greater feel of the wicket.
They thought that on this grass top wicket gripping a bit was ideally suited for their top quality pace attack. They thought on a wicket where Williamson and Taylor struggle for timing Kiwis bowlers could frustrate Indian stroke makers bowling consistently at right channel. New Zealand think tank worked out a plan for Indian batsmen.
The second day witnessed New Zealand adding another 28 in the remaining 23 deliveries. The target of 240 was still modest.
India got rocked and rolled within half an hour. Henry and Boult removed Rohit, Kohli and Rahul with only 5 runs on board. Kohli made a major strategic mistake. There is no semblance of doubt of talent of young Pant and Pandya.
But in a semifinal match of a global tournament with team reeling at 5/3 experienced high quality batsman Dhoni was the horse for the course. Kiwi bowlers had their tails up. Sensing blood fielders were moving like greyhounds and Cheetahs.
Not only Henry, Boult and Ferguson even left arm spinner Santner appeared unplayable. Young Pant and Pandya could not pace their innings. With run rate climbing both lost their wickets playing wrong strokes.
When Dhoni came and later joined by enterprising it was already too late. Moreover, Williamson handled his bowling resources very smartly. The 5th bowling option a combination of Nisha and Grandhomme was sand witched very smartly.
Yet Dhoni – Jadeja went about the task in grand fashion. But again Jadeja playing one shot too many lost his wicket. Dhoni was smartly run out by Guptill when victory was in sight. India got knocked out losing by 18 runs.
Many thought it an upset. But how can it be. On a green top wicket under cloud cover Boult, Henry and Ferguson are among the top of the world. Rohit, Rahul and Virat got out to virtually unplayable deliveries. Most of the leading Kiwi players play in IPL.
They know each Indian players inside out. Indian middle order was suspect and as mentioned sending Dhoni very late was suicidal. If he was there early he could also guide young Punt and Pandya. One must not forget that New Zealand was losing finalist in 2015.
They are along the top five in ICC ranking. Perhaps Kohli did not use his thinking cap in stressed condition well also.
It was great that New Zealand moved to the final. They would not be a mere push over by even England in the final.
To be continued in Part Two