3 players who might have played their last inn…

India v New Zealand – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Semi-Final

The Indian squads for the tour of West Indies comprising of 3 ODIs, 3 T20Is and 2 Test matches have been announced. The much talked about selection dilemma surrounding MS Dhoni has been put to rest for the time being with Dhoni himself opting out of the tour.

Prithvi Shaw, Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar missed out due to injuries while Shikhar Dhawan is making a welcome return to the team after sustaining a thumb fracture in the World Cup. Jasprit Bumrah has been rested for the ODIs and T20Is.

In the absence of some experienced players, the selectors have done a fantastic job by drafting in youngsters like Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Rahul Chahar and Deepak Chahar. And the re-introduction of players like Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and  Washington Sundar has emphasized the fact that the selectors are on the lookout to build a team for the future.

The selection of Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja for all the three formats of the game should augur well for the team as they are the “X-factors” in this squad.

Rishabh Pant

From having three wicket-keepers in the playing XI in the World Cup, the selectors have taken a U-turn by selecting Pant as the lone specialist wicket-keeper in white-ball cricket. KL Rahul will be the backup part-time wicket-keeper.

India will certainly miss a fast-bowling all-rounder in the absence of both Pandya and Shankar. The selectors have made their intentions quite clear by not selecting Test specialists like Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin in the ODI squad.

By not selecting Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Tests and Yuzvendra Chahal for T20Is, the selectors have achieved the dual goal of giving breaks to a few players and at the same time presenting the other players with an opportunity to showcase their talent.

The selectors have thrown a lifeline at Kedar Jadhav, but some of the other players have not been that fortunate. In this article, let us look at three such players who might have played their last innings for India based on the current selection.

Test squad

#3 Parthiv Patel

Parthiv Patel

In the absence of Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel found himself in the scheme of things for India’s Test squad for the tour of Australia in December 2018. The last time he played a Test for India was in January 2018, against South Africa. Since Rishabh Pant’s debut in August 2018, Patel has found himself as the second keeper in away tours.

Now with the return of Saha for the Test matches, Patel’s career is as good as finished. Having made his Test debut for India much before MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik, and represented India in 25 Test matches spread over a span of 16 years, Patel might have played his last innings for India.

#2 Murali Vijay

Murali Vijay

Like Parthiv Patel, Murali Vijay too was part of India’s Test squad for the tour of Australia. In spite of his failures in South Africa and England, he was preferred to open the batting with KL Rahul in the first two Tests in Australia.

But Vijay returned with poor scores of 11, 18, 0 and 20 which led to the selectors opting for Mayank Agarwal for the last two matches.

Vijay is no more the solid and consistent opener that he was once upon a time. His technique has become susceptible to short-pitched deliveries. His greatest virtue as an opener – leaving the balls outside the off-stump combined with the tight defense – has deserted him at a crucial phase of his career.

The successive tough away tours of South Africa, England and Australia took a heavy toll on Vijay’s career.

The success of Agarwal in Australia and the presence of another talented youngster in Prithvi Shaw ensured that Vijay’s absence was never felt. Now with his omission from the Test squad to tour West Indies, we can safely say that Vijay’s career has come to an end.

The selectors have taken a risk by going with only two regular Test openers, Rahul and Agarwal, in the squad. Nonetheless, they didn’t consider Vijay at all, which is a clear sign that his days as an Indian player are over.

ODI and T20I squads

#1 Dinesh Karthik

Dinesh Karthik

Dinesh Karthik’s is a curious case – he hasn’t got enough opportunities when in good form, and has failed to deliver when given an opportunity. His career should be an inspiration to youngsters to keep trying even when the odds are totally against them.

Karthik had a wonderful opportunity to redeem himself in the semifinal of the World Cup against New Zealand. India were reduced to 5 for 3 in the fourth over and Karthik had all the time in the world to build an innings of substance. A half-century at that stage could have done a world of good to his career and to India’s fortunes in the World Cup.

But at that crucial moment he failed once again, putting himself and his team in distress.

The Indian team management had shown loads of confidence in selecting Karthik ahead of Kedar Jadhav and thereby eliminating the sixth bowling option for the team. But the Tamil Nadu batsman failed to do justice to the confidence reposed in him.

Karthik has only himself to blame for his non-inclusion to the West Indies tour. By now, he must have understood that a few cameos here and there are not good enough to guarantee him a place in the Indian squad forever.

With so many young wicket-keepers like Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan in the mix, it will be very difficult for Karthik to make a comeback into the Indian team. We might have seen the last of Dinesh Karthik representing his nation.

World Cup 2019: One unique problem confronting…

Chasing has been this Indian team’s Achilles heel in the recent past.

The three teams who have already qualified for the semi-finals of World Cup 2019 are India, Australia, and England.  New Zealand will be the fourth team to join the race, in all probability, since Pakistan’s mathematical chances of brushing aside New Zealand are negligible because of their poor run rate.

By securing one of the top two spots, India have conveniently stayed away from defending champions Australia. They will either meet England or New Zealand in the semi-finals depending upon the outcome of the two matches that will be played on Saturday, July 6, 2019.

The one team which defied pre-tournament predictions by its pathetic performance was South Africa. While Pakistan and West Indies, as always, remained the dark horses in this ICC tournament as well, nothing dramatic was expected from the Asian teams Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in English conditions. Despite their impressive performances, Bangladesh have fallen short of a semis berth and a late charge from Pakistan seems to have been insufficient as well. Sri Lanka were never consistent in the long tournament to warrant a place in the last four.

Indias’s problems

Moving forward, this Indian team has some inherent weaknesses like a fragile middle-order, the surprising lack of batting firepower in the death overs (till now), the ineffectiveness of the wrist-spinners on flat decks and the absence of a sixth bowling option.

Besides, the Indian team, however, all the other teams who have qualified for the semi-finals are confronted by a unique problem going into the semi-finals. That problem may be classified as the lack of opportunities and a perceived apprehension in chasing down targets.

The chasing conundrum

India had batted second only twice in this tournament. They won their first match against South Africa batting second comfortably. Thereafter, they were required to chase only in their seventh match against England which they lost despite their best efforts.

The used wickets in England have slowed down considerably in the last two weeks or so.If one were to compare the first half of the tournament with the second half, in the first 19 completed matches of the tournament, there had been an even spread of 10 matches being won by the team batting first and the other nine matches by teams batting second.

In the 19 completed matches in the second half of the tournament, an astonishing number of 15 matches were won by teams batting first. This goes to prove how important is the toss has become in winning matches as the tournament progressed. In tune with the changing trend, the preferences of the captains at the toss has also changed. Even a team like the West Indies, who were inclined to bowl first in every match, have learned their lessons and decided to bat first in their last match of the tournament against Afghanistan.

After losing three matches chasing, England managed to win their last two matches defending targets.

Against this background, all the four teams in the fray would be looking to win the toss and bat first and India is no exception. In such a scenario, a daredevil captain may think out of the box and pack his team with more batsmen to go against the grain and chase. In any case, if the other captain wins the toss, he might anyway have to bat first and the all the teams must be ready for this worst-case scenario and strategize accordingly. But, it is unlikely that any captain will take that huge risk in the knockout stages of a World Cup.

How batting first has mattered

New Zealand lost their last two matches where they had to chase. England won their last two critical matches conveniently after electing to bat first. Before that they lost to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia batting second. In fact, their unexpected loss to Sri Lanka whilst chasing had opened up the tournament.

The last time Australia completed a successful run chase was in their first match against Afghanistan.

Australia’s position is similar to India. After losing to India chasing in their third match, Australia had batted first in the next five matches and won them all comfortably by margins of  41,87,48,64 and 86 runs respectively. The only time Australia batted second and completed a successful run chase was in their very first match against Afghanistan way back in the fourth match of the tournament. They might, in theory, have the bowling firepower to restrict teams, nonetheless, they will also be comfortable batting first and piling up runs on the board as per the winning formula so far.

Though New Zealand was at the receiving end in the last two matches that they chased, that experience should stand them in good stead going into the semi-finals. Compared to the other three teams, New Zealand are at an advantage in this respect.

New Zealand have the experience of batting second in their last two matches.

India’s position

Compared to the other teams, the pressure will be more on India to win the toss and bat first since they have not been exposed a great deal to chasing targets in this tournament.

India’s other weaknesses could all be masked and brushed under the carpet if Virat Kohli manages to win the toss and bat first in the knockout matches. Hence, the toss becomes a crucial factor for all the four teams. They have a fearsome top-order and a well-tuned bowling attack, but they have not bowled first with success since the first match against South Africa.

The decisions regarding team selection for all teams will have to address the issue of chasing and what is the ideal combination in such a scenario. For India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja could enter the fray as they are capable lower-order batsmen and competent bowlers.

The semi-finals are set to be intriguing battles and adding to the intrigue will be the toss which has become a vital element in the latter stages of the tournament.

World Cup 2019: Opinion – Time now for India t…

Will Virat Kohli experiment in the coming matches?

India is the only unbeaten team in World Cup 2019 after playing in 6 matches.  In their sixth match at Manchester yesterday, India crushed a hapless West Indies side by a walloping margin of 125 runs. India now need one more win in the remaining 3 matches to secure a semi-final spot.

As far as the tournament is concerned, the last week has been a successful week for the players who have been recently slotted into the playing XI. Mohammed Shami, Haris Sohail,  Kemar Roach, and Jason Behrendorff made all the difference to the fortunes of their respective teams.

As far as Team India is concerned, they should address their biggest worry associated with their brittle middle-order. Though Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, and Hardik Pandya scored vital runs in the last two matches, the No. 4 predicament has once again come back to haunt India.

Apart from the middle-order muddle, there is yet another issue which has not surfaced so far in the tournament. In the last 6 losses that India suffered in ODIs, 4 came while chasing.

Fortunately for India, they had chosen to chase only in their first match against South Africa. In that match, Rohit Sharma’s century ensured that there were no hiccups in chasing a modest total. Kohli was lucky to win the toss against Australia, Afghanistan and West Indies while Pakistan dug their own grave by choosing to chase against India.

The lack of opportunity for India to chase down targets either by choice or design has created a concealed weakness in India’s prospects. If India is compelled to chase in a crunch game, they might crumble as they did against Australia in the semi-final of the last World Cup.

 As such, England has lost its last two matches against Sri Lanka and Australia after sending the opposition in. Hence, England might look to bat first against India on Sunday irrespective of the conditions if they win the toss. That should stretch the Indian batting, more so in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan at the top and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the lower-order. But it should be a proper workout for the Indian batsmen to assess their potency while chasing.

On the other hand, if Kohli wins the toss against England, he might not wish to risk by opting to chase. If India could go past England and secure a place in the semi-final, then Kohli might look to experiment in the matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Unlike the previous World Cups in Australia and India, the chasing teams in England have a fair chance to compete with the wicket expected to assist the bowlers in the morning session. But as we go further deep into the tournament, the weary nature of the wicket should bring the spinners in to play.

In such a state of affairs, batting first would be a definite advantage. But any team worthy of being champions should be equally adept at chasing in unfavourable conditions. Pakistan proved that against New Zealand.

At this juncture, India would be better off being exposed to batting second in the league stages to equip themselves to such eventuality in the knock out stages. But will Virat Kohli take the risk to experiment by choice?

 

World Cup 2019: Five close encounters of the t…

Kane Williamson’s century against South Africa helped New Zealand register a thrilling win

The 2019 World Cup is past its half-way stage mark now as India and New Zealand are unbeaten in their campaign and appear firm favorites to clinch the title. Hosts England and Australia have one loss from their matches but are strong contenders for a spot in the last four.

Bangladesh’s gritty show in this edition of the World Cup has seen them win two important games and gives teams such as West Indies, Australia a run for their money while Sri Lanka and West Indies have only one win to show.

Yet, the biggest surprise has been the form of South Africa, with the Faf du Plessis-led side winning just one out of the six games while Pakistan and Afghanistan have failed to turn up and are at the brink of elimination.

As we are now past the halfway stage of the tournament, here is a look at the five most thrilling matches of this tournament.


#5 Bangladesh vs South Africa at the Oval, London

Bangladesh, the giant killers

Bangladesh played their first match of this World Cup against South Africa at the Oval. South Africa came into the contest at the back of their heavy defeat against England in the opening match of the tournament.

In the 20 ODIs played between these two teams before this match, Bangladesh had managed to win just three matches, including a World Cup win in 2007. For South Africa, both Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla were not playing this match due to injury which proved to be a major blow.

South Africa won the toss and elected to field. Though they got two early wickets, Lungi Ngidi had to leave the field with a hamstring issue after bowling his opening spell of 4 overs.

Bangladesh’s experienced batting pair of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim took advantage of South Africa’s bowling woes and added 142 runs for the third wicket. With some lusty hits in the end from Mahmudullah (46 off 33), Bangladesh reached their highest ever ODI score of 330.

In reply, South Africa were comfortably placed in the run chase at one stage with the score reading 147/2 from 26 overs. Howeer, Faf du Plessis was castled by Mehidy Hasan as the floodgates were now open.

Though the middle order line-up of David Miller (38), Rassie van der Dussen (41) and JP Duminy (45) contributed to the chase, none of them survived long enough to play an impact knock.

Against a mounting required run rate, the late order batting caved in leaving Bangladesh victorious by a narrow margin of 21 runs.

#4 Pakistan vs England at Nottingham

Amir was in fine touch against England

Hosts England met Pakistan at Nottingham in the sixth match of the tournament. While England thrashed South Africa in the first match, Pakistan went down to West Indies in their first encounter.

England’s captain Eoin Morgan won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat first. After the openers put on 82 runs, Babar Azam and the experienced Mohammad Hafeez took the England attack apart, smashing them for 88 runs from the last 12 overs.

Hafeez was the top scorer with a 62-ball 84 and with Pakistan putting up 348/8 from their allotted 50 overs, one expected an exciting run chase on the cards. However, the target was certainly a steep one, with Pakistan boasting of a solid bowling unit.

The Pakistan captain wisely started the innings with spinner Shahab Khan who accounted for the in-form Jason Roy. Soon England were reduced to 118 for 4 and with 231 runs needed in 29 overs, Pakistan were on top. However, they had Joe Root and Jos Buttler to deal with.

While Root was the steady accumulator, Buttler took on the Pakistan bowlers. The pair added 130 runs in 18 overs to bring the target below 100. Root was the first to reach his hundred in the 38th over. Yet, he was guilty of throwing his wicket away immediately after reaching the landmark.

With Root back in the hut, the onus was on Buttler to score the remaining 91 runs in the last 10 overs. However, after Root’s exit, Buttler lost his rhythm and his wicket immediately after reaching his hundred. Just as Buttler got out for a quick fire 103 off 76 balls, England needed 60 off 33 balls.

Unfortunately for England, Moeen Ali could not put the bat on the ball and Chris Woakes cameo didn’t last long. Wahab Riaz removed both Ali and Woakes off successive deliveries to put an end to England’s run chase. In the end, Pakistan managed to squeeze through by 14 runs to cause the second upset of the tournament.

#3 Australia Vs West Indies at Nottingham

Nathan Coulter- Nile registered the highest score made by a No 8 batsman in a World Cup

Jason Holder put Australia in to bat on a cloudy morning at Nottingham and was expecting a similar performance from his bowlers that skittled Pakistan out for 105 from 21.4 overs.

The West Indies bowlers did enjoy the upper hand initially by putting Australia on the mat on 79/5 and then on 147/6. Steve Smith was the lone man standing amidst the flurry of wickets and was joined at the middle by Nathan Coulter-Nile. The burly all-rounder not only needed to support Smith at the other end, but also needed to contribute to the score.

Coulter-Nile mixed up his innings with patience and brute force as he notched up a 60-ball 92 and in the process also smashed the record for the highest score by a No.8 batsman in World Cup history.

Steven Smith’s 103-ball 73 and Nathan Coulter-Nile’s alliance worked wonders for Australia as the duo put up a 102-run stand that took Australia to 288-10 from 49 overs.

Mitchell Starc was unplayable at the death and Aaron Finch handled him excellently

The chase started on a disastrous note when West Indies lost both their openers for just 31 on the board. Shai Hope steadied the innings but he was slow in scoring 68 off 105 balls. Holder kept West Indies in the game with a half-century.

With Andre Russell and Jason Holder in the middle, West Indies were still in the game as Aaron Finch turned to his strike bowler Mitchell Starc to make an impact. Starc removed Andre Russell and struck again a few overs later to remove the dangerous Carlos Brathwaite and Holder in a single over.

At the point of Holder’s dismissal, West Indies needed a further 47 runs to win from a little over four overs, a seemingly difficult task against a fiery Australian bowling unit. Despite a late surge from Ashley Nurse, West Indies fell short by 15 runs in the end.

#2. New Zealand Vs Bangladesh at the Oval, London

The moment of the match

New Zealand and Bangladesh met at the Oval in the ninth match of the tournament. New Zealand won the toss and put their opponents into bat first under overcast conditions.

For Bangladesh, it was yet again a special knock on display from Shakib Al Hasan that led the way for his team as the rest of the batsmen failed to convert their starts. While five batsmen went on to notch up scores in the 20s, only Shakib Al Hasan scored a kncok of substance, a 68-ball 64 that took Bangladesh total to a respectable 244 from 49.2 overs.

After a decent start by the New Zealand openers, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor joined forces with the score on 55/2 from 10 overs. Bangladesh came close to removing Williamson in the 11th over when he was on 8, only to miss out as Mushfiqur Rahim failed to effect a regulation run-out.

However, the loss of Williamson and Tom Latham in quick succession in the 32nd over and Ross Taylor in the 39th over set the cat amongst the pigeons in the New Zealand dressing room.

At Taylor’s dismissal, New Zealand further needed 54 runs from 11.3 overs, hardly a matter of concern. However, Colin de Grandhomme and James Neesham went sent back in a space of four balls with the score on 218/7 and the Black Caps needing 27 runs more to win.

Yet another wicket could have given Bangladesh an upper hand but Mitchell Santner and Matt Henry held their end to put up a 20-run partnership before the latter was dismissed in the 47th over.

However, Santner ensured that he applied his technique well and in the end, took New Zealand across the line with two wickets and 17 balls to spare.

#1 New Zealand Vs South Africa at Birmingham

A Captain’s innings from Kane Williamson took his team home

This was a do or die match for South Africa as one more slip up would take them to the rim of elimination. New Zealand, on the other hand, had three wins against the lesser fancied teams in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis lost an important toss and had to bat first on bowler-friendly conditions. After the early loss of Quinton de Kock, the South African innings simply failed to take off. Hashim Amla did notch up his first fifty of the competition but was a tad bit slow in constructing his 83-ball 55 run knock.

South Africa’s run-rate never crossed 4 RPO until the halfway mark. A late flourish from Aiden Markram (38), Rassie van der Dussen (67) and David Miller (36) helped South Africa to reach a competitive total of 241 in their allotted 49 overs.

New Zealand lost Colin Munro quite early but Martin Guptill was in cracking form. However, his innings ended in a bizarre fashion when he slipped and knocked over his stumps to get out hit wicket to Andile Phehlukwayo in the 15th over.

Chris Morris then removed Ross Taylor and Tom Latham in successive overs to make it 80/4 as South Africa found themselves well in the game and on course to register an important win.

However, Kane Williamson was unperturbed at one end while wickets kept tumbling at the other. He reached 50 off 72 balls and in the process kept Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir at bay. Yet, Morris struck again with the wicket of James Neesham.

Faf du Plessis was quick to bring on Imran Tahir to bowl to the new batsman Colin de Grandhomme who has a history of struggling to spinners at the start of his innings and the last over of Imran Tahir could be touted as the turning point of the match.

First, David Miller dropped a tough chance offered by Grandhomme and off the last ball of his spell, Tahir evoked a faint bottom edge off Williamson’s bat but the South Africans did not appeal as an opportunity to tighten the screws went begging.

Williamson lived to fight another day and scored his 12th ODI century while Grandhomme, at the other end, was severe on Andile Phehlukwayo who leaked 72 runs in 8 overs. The pair of Williamson and Grandhomme added 91 runs for the sixth wicket as South Africa were left to lament the lack of a sixth bowler.

Grandhomme’s dismissal took the game till the end as the Black Caps needed 12 runs off 7 balls. However, a dab from Williamson trickled away to the third man fence before he kneeled down to deposit Phehlukwayo over mid-wicket for six as New Zealand now needed just a run to win.

Williamson smacked the next delivery past point for a boundary as New Zealand celebrated yet another victory while South Africa were yet again left to lick their wounds post a tough loss.

World Cup 2019: Five close encounters of the t…

Kane Williamson’s century against South Africa helped New Zealand register a thrilling win

The 2019 World Cup is past its half-way stage mark now as India and New Zealand are unbeaten in their campaign and appear firm favorites to clinch the title. Hosts England and Australia have one loss from their matches but are strong contenders for a spot in the last four.

Bangladesh’s gritty show in this edition of the World Cup has seen them win two important games and gives teams such as West Indies, Australia a run for their money while Sri Lanka and West Indies have only one win to show.

Yet, the biggest surprise has been the form of South Africa, with the Faf du Plessis-led side winning just one out of the six games while Pakistan and Afghanistan have failed to turn up and are at the brink of elimination.

As we are now past the halfway stage of the tournament, here is a look at the five most thrilling matches of this tournament.


#5 Bangladesh vs South Africa at the Oval, London

Bangladesh, the giant killers

Bangladesh played their first match of this World Cup against South Africa at the Oval. South Africa came into the contest at the back of their heavy defeat against England in the opening match of the tournament.

In the 20 ODIs played between these two teams before this match, Bangladesh had managed to win just three matches, including a World Cup win in 2007. For South Africa, both Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla were not playing this match due to injury which proved to be a major blow.

South Africa won the toss and elected to field. Though they got two early wickets, Lungi Ngidi had to leave the field with a hamstring issue after bowling his opening spell of 4 overs.

Bangladesh’s experienced batting pair of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim took advantage of South Africa’s bowling woes and added 142 runs for the third wicket. With some lusty hits in the end from Mahmudullah (46 off 33), Bangladesh reached their highest ever ODI score of 330.

In reply, South Africa were comfortably placed in the run chase at one stage with the score reading 147/2 from 26 overs. Howeer, Faf du Plessis was castled by Mehidy Hasan as the floodgates were now open.

Though the middle order line-up of David Miller (38), Rassie van der Dussen (41) and JP Duminy (45) contributed to the chase, none of them survived long enough to play an impact knock.

Against a mounting required run rate, the late order batting caved in leaving Bangladesh victorious by a narrow margin of 21 runs.

#4 Pakistan vs England at Nottingham

Amir was in fine touch against England

Hosts England met Pakistan at Nottingham in the sixth match of the tournament. While England thrashed South Africa in the first match, Pakistan went down to West Indies in their first encounter.

England’s captain Eoin Morgan won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat first. After the openers put on 82 runs, Babar Azam and the experienced Mohammad Hafeez took the England attack apart, smashing them for 88 runs from the last 12 overs.

Hafeez was the top scorer with a 62-ball 84 and with Pakistan putting up 348/8 from their allotted 50 overs, one expected an exciting run chase on the cards. However, the target was certainly a steep one, with Pakistan boasting of a solid bowling unit.

The Pakistan captain wisely started the innings with spinner Shahab Khan who accounted for the in-form Jason Roy. Soon England were reduced to 118 for 4 and with 231 runs needed in 29 overs, Pakistan were on top. However, they had Joe Root and Jos Buttler to deal with.

While Root was the steady accumulator, Buttler took on the Pakistan bowlers. The pair added 130 runs in 18 overs to bring the target below 100. Root was the first to reach his hundred in the 38th over. Yet, he was guilty of throwing his wicket away immediately after reaching the landmark.

With Root back in the hut, the onus was on Buttler to score the remaining 91 runs in the last 10 overs. However, after Root’s exit, Buttler lost his rhythm and his wicket immediately after reaching his hundred. Just as Buttler got out for a quick fire 103 off 76 balls, England needed 60 off 33 balls.

Unfortunately for England, Moeen Ali could not put the bat on the ball and Chris Woakes cameo didn’t last long. Wahab Riaz removed both Ali and Woakes off successive deliveries to put an end to England’s run chase. In the end, Pakistan managed to squeeze through by 14 runs to cause the second upset of the tournament.

#3 Australia Vs West Indies at Nottingham

Nathan Coulter- Nile registered the highest score made by a No 8 batsman in a World Cup

Jason Holder put Australia in to bat on a cloudy morning at Nottingham and was expecting a similar performance from his bowlers that skittled Pakistan out for 105 from 21.4 overs.

The West Indies bowlers did enjoy the upper hand initially by putting Australia on the mat on 79/5 and then on 147/6. Steve Smith was the lone man standing amidst the flurry of wickets and was joined at the middle by Nathan Coulter-Nile. The burly all-rounder not only needed to support Smith at the other end, but also needed to contribute to the score.

Coulter-Nile mixed up his innings with patience and brute force as he notched up a 60-ball 92 and in the process also smashed the record for the highest score by a No.8 batsman in World Cup history.

Steven Smith’s 103-ball 73 and Nathan Coulter-Nile’s alliance worked wonders for Australia as the duo put up a 102-run stand that took Australia to 288-10 from 49 overs.

Mitchell Starc was unplayable at the death and Aaron Finch handled him excellently

The chase started on a disastrous note when West Indies lost both their openers for just 31 on the board. Shai Hope steadied the innings but he was slow in scoring 68 off 105 balls. Holder kept West Indies in the game with a half-century.

With Andre Russell and Jason Holder in the middle, West Indies were still in the game as Aaron Finch turned to his strike bowler Mitchell Starc to make an impact. Starc removed Andre Russell and struck again a few overs later to remove the dangerous Carlos Brathwaite and Holder in a single over.

At the point of Holder’s dismissal, West Indies needed a further 47 runs to win from a little over four overs, a seemingly difficult task against a fiery Australian bowling unit. Despite a late surge from Ashley Nurse, West Indies fell short by 15 runs in the end.

#2. New Zealand Vs Bangladesh at the Oval, London

The moment of the match

New Zealand and Bangladesh met at the Oval in the ninth match of the tournament. New Zealand won the toss and put their opponents into bat first under overcast conditions.

For Bangladesh, it was yet again a special knock on display from Shakib Al Hasan that led the way for his team as the rest of the batsmen failed to convert their starts. While five batsmen went on to notch up scores in the 20s, only Shakib Al Hasan scored a kncok of substance, a 68-ball 64 that took Bangladesh total to a respectable 244 from 49.2 overs.

After a decent start by the New Zealand openers, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor joined forces with the score on 55/2 from 10 overs. Bangladesh came close to removing Williamson in the 11th over when he was on 8, only to miss out as Mushfiqur Rahim failed to effect a regulation run-out.

However, the loss of Williamson and Tom Latham in quick succession in the 32nd over and Ross Taylor in the 39th over set the cat amongst the pigeons in the New Zealand dressing room.

At Taylor’s dismissal, New Zealand further needed 54 runs from 11.3 overs, hardly a matter of concern. However, Colin de Grandhomme and James Neesham went sent back in a space of four balls with the score on 218/7 and the Black Caps needing 27 runs more to win.

Yet another wicket could have given Bangladesh an upper hand but Mitchell Santner and Matt Henry held their end to put up a 20-run partnership before the latter was dismissed in the 47th over.

However, Santner ensured that he applied his technique well and in the end, took New Zealand across the line with two wickets and 17 balls to spare.

#1 New Zealand Vs South Africa at Birmingham

A Captain’s innings from Kane Williamson took his team home

This was a do or die match for South Africa as one more slip up would take them to the rim of elimination. New Zealand, on the other hand, had three wins against the lesser fancied teams in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis lost an important toss and had to bat first on bowler-friendly conditions. After the early loss of Quinton de Kock, the South African innings simply failed to take off. Hashim Amla did notch up his first fifty of the competition but was a tad bit slow in constructing his 83-ball 55 run knock.

South Africa’s run-rate never crossed 4 RPO until the halfway mark. A late flourish from Aiden Markram (38), Rassie van der Dussen (67) and David Miller (36) helped South Africa to reach a competitive total of 241 in their allotted 49 overs.

New Zealand lost Colin Munro quite early but Martin Guptill was in cracking form. However, his innings ended in a bizarre fashion when he slipped and knocked over his stumps to get out hit wicket to Andile Phehlukwayo in the 15th over.

Chris Morris then removed Ross Taylor and Tom Latham in successive overs to make it 80/4 as South Africa found themselves well in the game and on course to register an important win.

However, Kane Williamson was unperturbed at one end while wickets kept tumbling at the other. He reached 50 off 72 balls and in the process kept Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir at bay. Yet, Morris struck again with the wicket of James Neesham.

Faf du Plessis was quick to bring on Imran Tahir to bowl to the new batsman Colin de Grandhomme who has a history of struggling to spinners at the start of his innings and the last over of Imran Tahir could be touted as the turning point of the match.

First, David Miller dropped a tough chance offered by Grandhomme and off the last ball of his spell, Tahir evoked a faint bottom edge off Williamson’s bat but the South Africans did not appeal as an opportunity to tighten the screws went begging.

Williamson lived to fight another day and scored his 12th ODI century while Grandhomme, at the other end, was severe on Andile Phehlukwayo who leaked 72 runs in 8 overs. The pair of Williamson and Grandhomme added 91 runs for the sixth wicket as South Africa were left to lament the lack of a sixth bowler.

Grandhomme’s dismissal took the game till the end as the Black Caps needed 12 runs off 7 balls. However, a dab from Williamson trickled away to the third man fence before he kneeled down to deposit Phehlukwayo over mid-wicket for six as New Zealand now needed just a run to win.

Williamson smacked the next delivery past point for a boundary as New Zealand celebrated yet another victory while South Africa were yet again left to lick their wounds post a tough loss.

World Cup 2019: Two forced changes that India …

Bhuvneswar Kumar’s untimely injury has upset India’s team balance

India’s domination in the 2019 World Cup continued in fine fashion as the Men in Blue registered a comfortable 89-run victory against Pakistan.

Coming into the game, India had a 6-0 upper hand in terms of World Cup wins against Pakistan and it was no surprise that Virat Kohli’s men outclassed Pakistan at the end of the game.

Rohit Sharma’s masterful 140-run knock was the standout for India. In the end, India was too hot to handle for Pakistan in yet another World Cup encounter.

The only negative outcome for India in the match against Pakistan was the injury to India’s main bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was into his third over when he suffered a hamstring injury which has ruled him out of India’s next 3 matches. India already lost the services of opening batsman  Shikhar Dhawan for 3 weeks with a thumb injury. Dhawan’s replacement Vijay Shankar became the first Indian bowler to take a wicket off the first ball in a World Cup match.

Mohammed Shami for Bhuvneshwar Kumar

In Mohammed Shami, India has a ready replacement for Bhuvi

The Indians have a perfect replacement for Bhuvi in the form of Mohammed Shami.  Shami is in fine wicket-taking form of late and with his inclusion in the playing XI, Kumar will not be missed as a bowler. Shami would be a direct swap for the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Shami is equally experienced and effective with the new ball and with the old ball in the middle overs and at the death. Amongst a current lot of Indian bowlers, Shami is the highest wicket-taker for India in World Cups with 17 wickets.

The necessity for effecting the second change

Hardik Pandya on a fast track mode in this World Cup

In the absence of Bhuvi, India’s real problem lies in the composition of the lower-order batting. At #8, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been an effective batsman, though not a flamboyant all-rounder like Hardik Pandya. Bhuvi is quite capable of playing to the situation and hanging around with a specialist batsman in case of a batting collapse.

The same thing cannot be said of Mohammed Shami. Shami always looks to send every ball into the orbit irrespective of the match situation. In the absence of Kumar, India’s tail starts at  No 8.

The lack of firepower in the late order would be exposed while chasing. So far India has been lucky to bat first and pile up runs against Australia and Pakistan. The below-par target and Rohit Sharma’s century ensured that the late order was never exposed against South Africa.

In the upcoming matches, conditions might warrant Kohli to opt to chase. In such a scenario, India might find the going difficult if the top order fails to deliver. The middle-order consisting of MS Dhoni, Vijay Shankar, and Kedar Jadhav haven’t had enough time in the middle.

Ravindra Jadeja in place of Kedar Jadhav

Ravindra Jadeja – An utility cricketer who could contribute to all facets of the game

Without upsetting the bowling strength much, the late-order can be strengthened by the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja in place of one of the wrist-spinners. The only other option to accommodate Jadeja is to leave out  Kedar Jadhav. However, that would not serve the purpose and would weaken the batting substantially. Besides, too many bowling options would be too confusing for the captain to deploy. Playing 3 spinners against 3 Asian teams would defy logic.

The presence of Jadeja at No 8 at the cost of one of the wrist-spinners would prompt the Indian top order to go on an all-out attack from the word go. Jadeja is an economical bowler and a better batsman than Vijay Shankar at the death.  He is a left-hander who can be sent up the order to upset the rhythm of the bowlers. In the present squad, after Shami, Jadeja is the second highest wicket-taker for India in World Cups.

What’s more, by including Jadeja in the playing XI, India will have the luxury of fielding 3 all-rounders of a different calibre. The absence of one wrist-spinner might affect India’s wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs. But that could be overcome to a certain extent by the presence of Mohammed Shami.

World Cup History: Three best wins for India a…

One of the long-lasting memories of India-Pakistan encounter

India and Pakistan will meet for the seventh time in a 50-over World Cup on Sunday, the 16th June 2019. In all the six previous occasions, it has been India all the way. Team India’s victories came across continents and across generations. India meeting Pakistan has been a marquee event in every World Cup.

India’s below-par performances in the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 ensured that they never went on to meet Pakistan. While most of the current generation was aware who was the champion of World Cup 1983,  what they were not aware was Pakistan was one of the semi-finalists in World Cup 1983 before they ran into the mighty West Indies in the semi-final.

In the World Cup 1987, India’s huge win over New Zealand in the last league match ensured that they avoided meeting Pakistan in the semi-final at Lahore. It was another matter that both the teams were knocked out in the semi-final at their respective homes. By that time, the organizers, ICC, and broadcasters realized that there should be a meeting of the giants in every World Cup at the league stage itself to cover up any eventuality at a later stage.

It all started for India at Sydney in World Cup 1992 and continued through World Cups 1996,1999 and 2003. In World Cup 2007 both India and Pakistan suffered shocking defeats against Bangladesh and Ireland respectively in the preliminary rounds and bowed out of the tournament.

India’s golden run against Pakistan in World Cups was once again revived from World Cup 2011 and continued into World Cup 2015. Now the arch-rivals are all set to meet for the seventh time with the pressure more on India to keep their unbeaten record intact.

The World Cup 2019 has turned out to be a wet blanket so far with very little action in the middle testing out the patience of all ardent cricket fans. One means of venting out the frustration arising out of washouts and staying positive is to concentrate on writing and reading by flipping through the pages of the history of the World Cup.

In this article, let us revisit India’s best wins against Pakistan in World Cups.


#3 Group Stage, Centurion, 2003

Sachin played the best innings by an Indian batsman against Pakistan in a World Cup encounter

India met Pakistan in the super six stages of World Cup 2003 at Centurion. The Indians were on a high after winning every previous match of the tournament except the match against Australia. Pakistan was on their way out of the tournament. But they had a score to settle against India.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first. This was the only time Pakistan batted first against India in the six World Cup encounters.

Helped by a customary century from Saeed Anwar against India, Pakistan reached a formidable score of 273. The stiff target obligated a flying start from the Indian openers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag against Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar.

The Indian openers were in a murderous mood. Tendulkar was in his element from the first ball he faced as he drilled Shoaib Akhtar for six and two fours in the second over of the innings. His aggressive intent got Sehwag going too as he pasted Waqar Younis for a four and six in one over.

Akram was not spared either as India’s 50 came in the fifth over. But the wickets of Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly off successive deliveries brought some sanity to the proceedings as the new batsman Mohammad Kaif took time to settle down.

But Sachin was unstoppable on that day as he reached his 50 off 37 balls with 6 fours and one six. Akhtar, who gave away 18 runs in his first over, was brought back for his second spell. Sachin hit him out of the attack scoring 18 runs in his next 2 overs. India reached 100 in the 12th over.

It was Akhtar who finally removed Tendulkar with a short delivery when on 98. But by then India reached a score of 181 in 28 overs. Tendulkar has just played the best innings by an Indian against Pakistan in a World Cup match.

Yuvraj Singh gave the finishing touches to India’s chase with a 50 while Rahul Dravid remained not out on 44. India eased into a comfortable win against arch-rivals Pakistan in a World Cup match yet again. This match will be remembered for Sachin’s hurricane innings and Sehwag’s contribution to the opening stand.

#2 Quarter-final, Bangalore, 1996

Venkatesh Prasad – The hero of India’s win against Pakistan in World Cup 1996

India and Pakistan met in the quarterfinals of World Cup 1996 at Bangalore. This was the first time that both the teams were meeting in a World Cup knock out game. Pakistan was the then-defending champion playing the quarterfinals on Indian soil. If they could go past India, they had the luxury of playing their semi-final and final in Pakistan.

For India, they were playing in a World Cup at home after 9 years and the minimum expectation from the public was a place in the semi-final. A lot was at stake as these two teams lock horns at Bangalore.

The match started for India on a positive note on two counts. First, the Pakistan captain and ace fast bowler Wasim Akram was unfit to play the match which was a huge blow for Pakistan. In the absence of Akram, Aamir Sohail was leading Pakistan who lost an important toss and his team was sent into the field on a hot afternoon in Bangalore.

The Indian openers Navjot Sidhu and Sachin Tendulkar put on 90 runs for the first wicket before Sachin was cleaned up by Ata-ur-Rehman. Sidhu was steady at the other end as he scored 93. At one point of time, Pakistan was looking to restrict India to a total of 250 or less.

But Ajay Jadeja had other ideas as he struck into Waqar Younis who ended up leaking 40 runs in his last two overs. Pakistan was sorely missing Akram and his yorkers at the death. Even Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath took advantage of the situation and helped themselves to a couple of sixes. India scored 57 runs in the last 4 overs to reach 287.

In reply, Pakistan openers were off to a good start and reached 84 by the 10th over before Srinath got the prize wicket of India’s tormentor Saeed Anwar. Pakistan was comfortably placed at 113 for 1 before the Pakistan Captain Aamer Sohail lost his head and got into a confrontation with Venkatesh Prasad after hitting him for a four. That altercation pumped up Prasad as he knocked over Sohail’s off-stump of the very next ball.

That moment of madness cost Pakistan the match as Prasad went on to claim the wickets of Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq. That broke the back of Pakistan’s middle-order as the chase became too difficult for veterans Saleem Malik and Javed Miandad. In the end, India marched to a famous win against Pakistan.

#1 Semi-final, Mohali, 2011

Yuvraj Singh came good with the ball against Pakistan at Mohali

India met Pakistan in the semi-final of World Cup 2011 at Mohali. The Indian captain MS Dhoni won an important toss and had no hesitation in deciding to bat first.

Virender Sehwag took care of the Umar Gul threat by discharging him for five fours in his second over. In no time, Sehwag reached 38 off 25 balls before losing his wicket in the sixth over of the innings.  Sachin Tendulkar was living dangerously at the other end and played a strange innings as he was dropped four times and saved by the technology twice. But he battled on to stay at the wicket to score a gritty 85.

With contributions from Dhoni (25) and Suresh Raina (36) in the end, India reached a fighting total of 260. In reply, Pakistan reached 100 for 2 before Yuvraj Singh got into the act with the ball. He dismissed Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan in successive overs.  Harbhajan Singh made further inroads into the Pakistan middle-order with the wickets of Umar Akmal and captain Shahid Afridi.

Misbah-ul-Haq waged a lone battle before he too perished in the last over of the match to leave India victorious by 29 runs.