ICC World Cup 2019 | Smith Stands Tall Yet Aga…

He is not the prettiest of batsman. He is not easy on the eye. He is not an extravagant shot-maker. He also does not have the greatest record in ODI cricket – 3810 runs in 104 innings at an average of 41.41 and strike rate of 86.31, including 8 hundreds and 23 fifties – 8 Australian batsmen have a higher ODI average (min. 1000 runs). His form of late has also been quite average and he had scored just 294 runs in 9 innings in the group stages of the 2019 World Cup at an average of 32.67 – this includes three single-digit scores and two between 10 and 20.

But, Cometh the Hour and Cometh The Man!

Steve Smith made it count when it mattered the most – in the knockout matches of world tournaments – on the biggest stage of them all.

He top-scored for Australia in the semi-final against England at Birmingham. Coming in to bat at 4 for 1 (which worsened to 10 for 2 and 14 for 3), he resurrected the innings and was the 8th Australian wicket to fall at 217. It was an innings full of grit and determination picking a number of singles and twos keeping Australia afloat in the match. He anchored the innings even as wickets crumbled around him and put together 103 for the fourth-wicket with Alex Carey and 51 for the eighth-wicket with Mitchell Starc.

Smith has a great record in knockout matches – in matches that define winning or losing a tournament. In 4 such matches (three in 2015 World Cup), he has scored 311 runs at an average of 103.66 and strike rate of 88.35, including one hundred and three fifties.

Compare this to his record in preliminary matches in world tournaments (World Cup and Champions Trophy) – 609 runs in 19 innings at an average of 38.06 with no hundreds and just 6 fifties.

Nothing exemplified Smith’s temperament, mental toughness and his ability to raise his game in the big matches than his performance in the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

He scored tough runs under pressure in the Quarter-Final against Pakistan in Adelaide. Chasing 214, coming into bat at 15 for 1 which worsened to 49 for 2 and then 59 for 3 (Aaron Finch, David Warner and Michael Clarke in the pavilion), Smith scored 65 off just 69 deliveries top-scoring for Australia who went on to win by six wickets.

He then batted India out of the tournament in the semi-finals in Sydney with a magnificent 105 off just 93 deliveries. After the early exit of Warner, he put a match-winning 182-run stand with Finch for the second-wicket. Australia hammered 328 for 7 and went on to win by 95 runs.

He again came up with a match-winning innings under pressure in the final against New Zealand at the MCG. Australia, chasing 184, lost Finch early and it was Smith again, who anchored the innings with a patient and dogged unbeaten 56 off just 71 deliveries. He did not do anything extravagant but put a price on his wicket and did not take any unnecessary risks hitting just three boundaries in his innings – highlighting his ability to read the game-situation and adapt his game accordingly. Australia won by 7 wickets and lifted their fifth World Cup title.

Smith’s ability to absorb the pressure and rise to the occasion and score tough runs when his team needed him the most have defined his performance in the last two World Cups.

It is a special quality and to do it in four consecutive World Cup knockout matches showcases his exceptional temperament and batting prowess.

India vs New Zealand | India’s Knockout Games …

India has a great record in world tournaments (World Cup and Champions Trophy) since the 2011 World Cup. They have won 29 of the 36 matches (lost 6 and tied one) for a win-loss ratio of 4.833. It is, by far, the best win-loss ratio amongst all teams with New Zealand at a distant number 2 (won 20 and lost 10 of their 32 matches) with a ratio of 2.

India has a similar record in the World T20 too. They have won 12 and lost just 4 of the 16 matches they have played in three World T20 tournaments (in 2012, 2014 and 2016). Their win-loss ratio of 3 is again the best amongst all teams – at 3 and they are followed by West Indies (won 11 and lost 5).

While India won the 2011 World Cup in the Sub-continent and the 2013 Champions Trophy in England, they have stumbled in the knockouts in three successive world tournaments (ODI format) – in Australia 2015 (WC), England (2017; CT) and England 2019 (WC).

India won all their matches in 2015, most quite emphatically, before bowing out to Australia in the semi-finals in Sydney – and that too by 95 runs!

A similar story in the 2017 Champions Trophy – won three of the four matches with big margins but lost to Pakistan in the final – by 180 runs at The Oval.

India topped the group stages in the 2019 World Cup in England, losing just one match to England but again, the trend continued, and they lost in the semi-finals to the not so fancied New Zealand. The Indian top-order collapsed and although there was a late fightback from Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni, India fell just short.

This pattern of being clinical and dominant in the group stages and then succumbing to the pressure of the occasion at some stage in the knockouts is not limited only to ODIs for India. They hammered their way into the final of the World T20 in 2014 before losing comprehensively to Sri Lanka in the final at Dhaka.

They won 3 of the 4 group stage matches in the 2016 World T20 in India before suffering a seven-wicket defeat to the West Indies in the semi-final in Mumbai.

Overall, since the 2014 World T20, India has played 8 knockout matches in world tournaments. They have won 3 and lost 5.

Contrast this to the period between 2007 World T20 and the 2013 Champions Trophy – India won all 7 of its knockout matches in this period.

In 25 preliminary matches in world tournaments since World T20, 2014, India has a collective batting average of 43.67 and strike rate of 97.79, including 12 hundreds.

This average drops to just 34.19 in 8 knockout matches in these 5 tournaments with just two hundreds (a much lower frequency).

In particular, India’s top 3 have averaged 56.85 in the preliminary matches striking at 94.68 including 11 hundreds and 23 fifties.

This average has dropped to 47.65 including just two hundreds in the knockout matches in this time-frame.

In preliminary matches, Kohli averages 78.37, MS Dhoni 57.2, Rohit 53.59 and Shikhar Dhawan 44.83. Rohit has hit a total of 5 hundreds while Dhawan has registered 4.

Kohli’s average drops to 68.8 in the 8 knockout games where he is yet to register a hundred, Rohit’s two hundreds in these games have come against Bangladesh – he has two single-digit scores and 4 other scores of below 45, Dhoni’s average drops to 36 in the knockout games while Dhawan’s to 35.5 with no hundred or fifty.

Kohli has scored 1, 5 and 1 in the three losses in knockouts in the three 50-over world tournaments since World Cup 2015.

Rohit hasn’t fared much better with scores of 34, 0 and 1. There is a stark contrast in the bowling numbers too.

India’s bowlers average 25.42 and strike every 28.8 deliveries in the 25 preliminary matches picking 7 four-wicket and one five-wicket haul in these matches. They are also restrictive conceding at 5.28 runs per over.

But in the knockout matches, the Indian bowlers have performed poorly with a combined average of 41.27 and strike rate if 41.2. They have also tended to be a touch expensive giving away 6 runs per over.

Mohammed Shami, in 12 preliminary matches, has picked 31 wickets at 15.12 at a strike rate of 17. In two knockout matches, he has bagged just 2 wickets.

Jasprit Bumrah has also picked 22 wickets in 15 preliminary matches at 24.81 at an economy of 4.83. However, in the 4 knockout matches he has just averaged a wicket a game at an average of 47 also proving to be a tad expensive with an economy of 5.69.

Although, India, have been the best side in world tournaments since 2011, they seem to have crumbled under pressure of expectation in the knockout matches in the last 4 years.

Some of the best have failed to deliver when it has mattered the most.

India will have to address this problem – which is as much about mental toughness and temperament as about skill if they want to go all the way on the biggest stage in these flagship tournaments.

In Numbers: 70 Standout Numbers as Sunil Gavas…

Sunil Gavaskar is widely regarded as the greatest opener in the history of Test cricket. And the best batsman against genuine fast bowling. He was the first real cricket superstar from India and an international great. As he turns 70 on the 10th of July, Wednesday, we look at 70 numbers that defined his cricketing career – some well known and others not so well known.

1. 10,000: First batsman to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket

2. 344: Most Runs in a Test match for India (124 and 220 against West Indies at Port of Spain in April 1971)

3. 3: Hundreds in each innings of a Test three times – only Indian to achieve this feat (Overall, only Ricky Ponting and David Warner have achieved this feat)

4. 774: Most Runs in a Debut Test Series/ Highest Runs Aggregate by an Indian in a Test series (in West Indies in 1970-71 at an average of 154.8, including 4 hundreds)

5. 732: Second-Highest Runs Aggregate by an Indian in a Test Series (against West Indies in India in 1978-79)

6. 34: Number of Test centuries. He held the world record till Tendulkar broke it in 2004

7. 51.12: Fifth-Highest Test Batting Average for India

8. 4: Double Hundreds in Test cricket for India

9. 9607: Runs Scored as an Opener in Test Cricket – second-highest in history after Alastair Cook (11845)

10. 1407: Test Runs scored in 1979 – fourth-highest in a calendar year for India after Tendulkar (2010) and Sehwag (2008 and 2010)

11. 51.46: Average in First-Class cricket

12. 2749: Highest Aggregate Runs against West Indies in Test cricket

13. 13: Maximum Number of Hundreds against West Indies in Test cricket

14. 65.45: Highest Average for an Indian against West Indies in Test cricket

15. 447: Aggregate against Pakistan in the 1978-79 Away Series

16. 43.97: Average in Winning Tests

17. 5055: Third-Highest Away Aggregate after Tendulkar and Dravid for India

18. 44.80: Average in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries

19. 51.46: Highest Average for India in Third and Fourth Innings

20. 58.25: Highest Average for India in Fourth Innings

21. 70.20: Highest Batting Average in the West Indies for a Visiting Batsman

22. 3272: Highest Partnership Aggregate (Personal Record) – Dilip Vengsarkar at an average of 50.33 with 10 hundreds)

23. 7: Number of Calendar Years where Average was above 50

24. 4: Number of Calendar Years in which Aggregated above 1000

25. 51.66: Test Average against Australia

26. 50.84: Test Average in the Subcontinent (including UAE)

27. 1122: Maximum Runs at a Venue (Personal Record) – Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

28. 793: Maximum Runs at an Away Venue (Personal Record) – Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain (average of 99.12, including 4 hundreds)

29. 236 not out: Highest Personal Score against West Indies in Chennai in 1983

30. 45.44: Fourth-Highest Average in ODI cricket between 1985 and 1987 after Graham Gooch, Javed Miandad and Vivian Richards

31. 50.29: Highest Average for an Indian Test Opener

32. 33: Maximum Number of Hundreds for an Indian Test Opener

33. 5: Fifth-Highest Test Average during his Career after Greg Chappell, Javed Miandad, Allan Border and Vivian Richards

34. 11: Difference in the Number of Hundreds between Gavaskar and second-highest on this count – Greg Chappell – during the former’s career

35. 6: Number of Times Aggregated 500-plus Runs in a Series

36. 344*: Highest Partnership (with Dilip Vengsarkar) against West Indies in Calcutta in 1978

37. 4: Double Century Partnerships outside India

38. 7: Number of Venues with Aggregate Runs Higher than 500

39. 5: Maximum Hundreds at a Venue (Wankhede Stadium)

40. 6039: Maximum Runs in Drawn Tests in Test History

41. 22: Maximum Hundreds in Drawn Tests in Test History

42. 96: Final Test Innings (against Pakistan in Bangalore, 1987; Chasing 221, India fell 17 runs short)

43. 48.84: Second-Highest ODI Average Chasing till December 1989 (after Gordon Greenidge)

44. 1555: Second-Highest Aggregate for India in a Calendar Year (1979)

45. 124 and 220: Only Indian and one of the seven batsmen in the world to register a hundred and a double hundred in the same Test (against West Indies in Port of Spain in 1971)

46. 21 Years and 277 Days: Second-Youngest Indian to Score a Double Hundred (after Vinod Kambli) – against West Indies in Port of Spain in 1971

47. 4: Consecutive Hundreds (England in Bombay 1977, Australia in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne in 1977)

48. 95: Innings to 5000 Test Runs (Joint Third-Fastest after Don Bradman and Jack Hobbs)

49. 3449: Third-Highest Aggregate as Captain for India after Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni

50. 50.90: Average in First and Second Innings in Test Cricket

51. 127 Not Out: First Indian Batsman to Carry his Bat in an Innings (against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1983)

52. 3: Only Indian Batsman to Score Three Consecutive Test Tons on Two Occasions (in 1971: 117*, 124 and 220 vs West Indies; in 1978: 111, 137 vs Pakistan and 205 vs West Indies)

53. 1, 1: Solitary Test Wicket (Zaheer Abbas, India vs Pakistan in Faisalabad, 1978),

Solitary ODI Wicket (Zaheer Abbas, India vs Pakistan in Sialkot, 1978)

54. 103 not out: Solitary ODI Hundred (in 88 deliveries against New Zealand in Nagpur, 1987 World Cup)

55. 340: Highest First Class Score (Personal Best) – Bombay vs Bengal (1981-82)

56. 26: Number of Sixes in Test Cricket

57. 25834: Highest First-Class Runs Aggregate for India

58. 300: Aggregate in 1987 World Cup (average 50 and strike rate 79.15)

59. 12: Number of 150-plus Scores in Test Cricket (Only Tendulkar and Sehwag have more for India)

60. 4: Only Indian to Score 4 Test Hundreds in a Series on Two Occasions (India in West Indies, 1971 and West Indies in India, 1978)

61. 30: First Batsman to Score 30 Test Hundreds

62: 50.72: Test Average as Captain (third-highest after Kohli and Tendulkar for India)

63. 55.02: Highest Partnership Average (Personal Best; with Mohinder Amarnath; 2366 runs, 10 hundred stands)

64. 108: Catches in Test Cricket

65. 66.66: Highest Average against any Country (Sri Lanka)

66. 16: Number of Test Hundreds in India

67. 18: Number of Test Hundreds Away

68. 79: Maximum Number of 50-plus scores in Test History till retirement (17th March, 1987)

69. 221: Third-Highest Individual Score in 4th Innings in Test History – at The Oval (Chasing 438, India ended at 429 for 8)

70. 25308+: Minutes Batted for India in Test Cricket (only Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman have batted for a longer duration)

India vs New Zealand | Over-cautious Kiwi Bats…

New Zealand ended play at 211 for 5 in 46.1 overs on a rain-hit day in their semi-final clash against India in Manchester with the match to resume on Wednesday (10th July).

While it was cold and the conditions overcast with the pitch turning and slowing down as their innings progressed, there was a lack of aggressive intent from the New Zealand batsmen. They were a bit too cautious and left the acceleration for a bit too late in the innings.

Although Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were exceptional in the first powerplay bowling a tight line and length, to play out as many as 44 dot deliveries (almost 7 and a half overs) when the fielding restrictions were in place suggests that the New Zealand batsmen were a bit too conservative up front.

Martin Guptill’s nightmare of a World Cup continued as he was removed by Bumrah for 1 off 14 deliveries in the 4th over – this was Guptill’s sixth single-digit score in the tournament. Barring his unbeaten 73 in New Zealand’s tournament opener against Sri Lanka, Guptill has been in terrible form in the World Cup aggregating just 94 runs in the remaining 8 innings at an average of 11.75!

Overall, his average of 20.87 is the third-lowest for a top-order (1-5) batsman in the tournament (min. 100 runs) – that is how poorly he has fared in the competition.

35, 0, 12, 0, 5, 29, 2, 1: These have been the opening-wicket partnerships for New Zealand after their thumping 10-wicket win against Sri Lanka (partnership of 137). That is an aggregate of 84 runs in 8 innings and a partnership average of 10.5 per match!

Overall, the New Zealand openers, have combined to average 20.50 – the lowest in the tournament – lower than even Afghanistan – with just two individual fifties (both in the opening fixture).

Henry Nicholls and Kane Williamson resurrected the innings with a solid 68-run stand in 89 deliveries (run-rate of 4.58) laying a platform for the Williamson-Ross Taylor partnership – New Zealand’s two world-class batsmen – to accelerate the innings – but the impetus never came!

The pair added just 65 runs in 17 overs at a run-rate of just 3.82. Taylor faced as many as 33 dot balls and was unbeaten on 25 off 52 deliveries when Williamson was dismissed. A total of just 5 boundaries were hit in the 17 overs of the partnership – the majority overs during which were bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya. Not only were the duo unable to hit the big shots – in fact they did not even attempt to – they also were stuck at the crease unable to rotate the strike.

Post Williamson’s wicket, New Zealand scored 77 runs in just 65 deliveries at a run-rate of 7.11 before rain stopped play for the day.

Overall, New Zealand played out as many as 153 dot balls in their innings – ie in effect 25 and a half overs weren’t scored off of a total of 46.1 they batted – as much as the slowness of the wicket it also shows the mindset of the New Zealand batsmen. They wanted to preserve wickets to have a crack in the last 10.

Their lack of initiative is further highlighted by this staggering statistic – New Zealand’s run-rate crossed 4 per over for the first time in the innings only after 41.3 overs!

New Zealand’s overall strike rate in the tournament is just 78.35 – second-lowest after Afghanistan.

Barring Afghanistan, they are the only team in the tournament to not register a single 300-plus total.

Although New Zealand have accelerated well in the last 5 overs of their innings, their tentativeness in the first powerplay and the cautious approach of the Taylor-Williamson partnership may well prove to be costly for them on Wednesday.

India vs Sri Lanka: Legend Malinga Set for Wor…

Lasith Malinga has been Sri Lanka’s most prolific wicket-taker in the 2019 World Cup. He has picked 12 wickets in 6 matches at an average of 24.25, strike rate of 25.8 and economy of 5.63.

His standout performance came against England when he returned with 4-43 in his 10 overs and annihilated the top-order of the home team dismissing Jonny Bairstow, James Vince, Joe Root and Jos Buttler – Sri Lanka won that match – the biggest upset of the tournament.

Such performances have defined Malinga’s ODI career and he is unarguably amongst the greatest limited-overs bowlers in history.

He will be playing his last World Cup match against India at Leeds on Saturday, 6th July and may retire after a farewell game at home soon after.

How great was Malinga when compared to his peers? Where does he stand amongst the greatest ODI bowlers of all-time?

How was his record in World Cup cricket?

Leading Wicket-taker Since Debut:

Malinga has picked 334 wickets in 218 innings at an average of 28.86 and strike rate of 32.3 since his ODI debut in July, 2004. He has 11 four-wicket and 8 five-wicket hauls in this period. No bowler in world cricket has picked more wickets in the format in this time-frame.

Malinga is the third-highest wicket taker for Sri Lanka in ODI cricket after Muttiah Muralitharan (523) and Chaminda Vaas (399).

But where he eclipses even these two Sri Lankan greats is his strike rate – which indicates how quickly (in terms of balls bowled) a bowler picks up wickets.

Malinga has the second-best strike rate after Ajantha Mendis (27.3) in Sri Lanka’s ODI cricket history. His wicket-taking prowess can also be gauged from his four-plus wicket hauls – a total of 19 in 218 innings, ie one every 11.47 innings.

Just for perspective the great Muralitharan had 25 in 334 innings, ie one every 13.36 innings. Thus Malinga’s frequency of taking a four-plus haul was even better than Muralitharan’s!

His ability to bowl yorkers at will and his variations with pace coupled with his slingling round-arm action made him a nightmare for the opposition batsmen.

Amongst the 52 fast bowlers who have picked at least 150 wickets in ODI cricket, Malinga’s strike rate places him at Number 10 and ahead of the likes of Umar Gul, Glenn McGrath, Zaheer Khan, Wasim Akram and Craig McDermott to name a few legends of ODI cricket.

World Cup Record:

Malinga is the joint third-highest wicket taker (along with Wasim Akram) in World Cup cricket with 55 wickets over 4 editions (2007, 2011, 2015, 2019) at an average of 21.8.

But what really strikes out, again, is his strike rate! He has picked a wicket every 24.2 balls in World Cup cricket – only 4 bowlers have a better strike rate than Malinga – Mitchell Starc, Mohammed Shami, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait (min. 20 wickets).

He was amongst the five highest wicket-takers in the 2007 World Cup and was instrumental in Sri Lanka finishing as runners-up. Malinga picked 18 wickets in 8 matches at 15.77 apiece at a strike rate of 19.4 and economy of 4.86.

It was during the clash against South Africa at Province that Malinga produced one of the greatest spells of bowling in ODI cricket – 4 wickets in 4 balls and almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against the Proteas.

Needing just 5 runs with 5 wickets in hand and more than 5 overs to spare, Malinga saw the back of Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall off the final two deliveries of the 45th over and then returned to pick the wickets of Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini off the first two deliveries of the 47th!

Not only did Malinga pick a hat-trick but also 4 in 4 – the first bowler to do so in ODI cricket and a feat not repeated in the format till date.

But that is not the only hat-trick Malinga took in World Cup cricket. He picked up another against Kenya in the 2011 edition in Colombo becoming the only bowler to pick two hat-tricks in World Cups.

Malinga was not done. He has a third hat-trick credited to his name – he dismissed Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings and Xavier Doherty in successive deliveries, again in Colombo later in 2011.

He is the only bowler in ODI cricket to pick three hat-tricks.

Some of Malinga’s other memorable ODI performances include 5-28 in 8.2 overs against Australia in Hambantota, 5-34 against Pakistan in Dambulla and 4-49 against Australia in Melbourne.

Malinga’S Best-Period & Sri-Lanka’s Success

Malinga was amongst the leading fast bowlers in ODI cricket between 2006-2007 and again between 2010-2011 – his two most successful periods in the 50-over format.

Between 2006-2007 he picked 63 wickets in 38 innings at 23.01 at a strike rate of 29.5. Sri Lanka had a fairly successful run in this period winning 35 of the 65 ODIs they played including making it to the final of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Malinga’s most prolific period was between 2010 and 2011 where he picked 66 wickets in just 33 innings, ie two wickets in an innings on an average.

His bowling average in this period of 19.59 was the second-best only after Ryan Harris. His bowling strike rate of 25.3 was the third-best after Harris and Morne Morkel. Malinga picked as many as 4 five-wicket hauls in this period.

Sri Lanka won 29 of the 50 matches it played in this time-frame for a win-loss ratio of 1.611 – better than Pakistan, England and New Zealand in this period. They again made it to the final of the World Cup losing to India at the Wankhede.

Malinga has been a genuine match-winner for Sri Lanka. He has picked 212 wickets in 106 victorious matches for his team at an average of 20.23 – third-best only after Mendis and Muralitharan and at a strike rate of 24.7 – second only after Mendis. 12 of his 19 four-plus hauls have resulted in wins for Sri Lanka.

A great ODI career will come to an end soon but the legend of Malinga will remain.

Cricket World Cup 2019 | Irrepressible Bhuvnes…

While Jasprit Bumrah continues to make headlines for his brilliant bowling at the death and Mohammed Shami is showered with praise for his wicket-taking prowess, there is a third Indian seamer – Bhuvneshwar Kumar – who quietly goes about his business delivering the goods for India but hardly gets noticed or the same attention as his other two team-mates.

While Bhuvneshwar has not been a prolific wicket-taker for India as the other two in the World Cup, it is his economy and ability to restrict the opposition batsmen which stand out.

Bhuvneshwar has picked 6 wickets from 4 matches in the 2019 World Cup at an economy of 4.83 – the second-best for India only after Bumrah (4.6) and the eighth-best overall amongst all fast bowlers in the tournament.

The average economy rate for all Indian bowlers sans Bhuvneshwar in the tournament has been 5.21 – this means that Bhuvneshwar has conceded 0.38 runs per six balls less than what the other Indian bowlers have in the competition.

Bhuvneshwar went for 44 runs in his 10 overs against South Africa picking two lower-order wickets – second-most restrictive after Bumrah (min. 5 overs), 3-50 against Australia – the most restrictive Indian bowler while picking the wickets of Steven Smith and Marcus Stoinis, had just conceded 8 runs in 2.4 overs against Pakistan before suffering a hamstring injury and held his nerve against Bangladesh at the death after being brilliantly restrictive in the first powerplay.

Bhuvneshwar went for just 18 runs in the five overs even as Bangladesh were chasing 314. He bowled as many as 18 dot balls – ie 60% of the deliveries he bowled in the first powerplay were not scored off. He was hit for just one boundary in this period.

He was brilliant in his final spell at the death too. Shabbir Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin had taken Shami for 11 in the 42nd over and with the required rate just above 9 – very much achievable in contemporary ODI cricket – the pressure was Bhuvneshwar to bowl a relatively quieter over. He varied his length – bowled full and bowled yorkers and mixed his pace slipping in the slower one and gave away just 5 runs of the over – this included two wides.

The pressure created by Bhuvneshwar meant that Sabbir took a wild swing at Bumrah off the first ball of the next over and was castled.

Bhuvneshwar has been exceptional in the first powerplay in the World Cup. He has bowled a total of 106 deliveries and conceded just 58 runs at an economy of just 3.28 – second-best amongst all pacers after Bumrah (2.96).

Bhuvneshwar has been phenomenally restrictive with the new ball in 2019. He has bowled 278 dot balls of a total of 400 balls he has delivered in the first powerplay since January, 2019 – his dot-ball percentage of 69.5% is the sixth-best amongst fast bowers after Pat Cummins, Shami, Jofra Archer, Tim Murtagh and Trent Boult. His economy rate of 3.83 in this phase of play is the second-best only after Shami (3.69).

He has also picked 9 wickets at 28.33 apiece in the first powerplay in 2019.

His economy rate at the death rises to 8.34 (not bad for the slog overs) but he picks a wicket every 17.5 runs and still bowls approximately 32% of dot balls in this period – i.e. one of every three balls he bowls between overs 41-50 since 2019 is a dot ball.

2019 has been Bhuvneshwar’s best year in ODI cricket (min. 5 ODIs a year) in terms of both, bowling average and strike rate. He has picked 25 wickets in 14 matches at an average of 23.12 and strike rate of 27. His economy rate of 5.12 has also been very impressive.

It is the only calendar year in which, both, his average and strike rate have been in the 20s.

Contrast to his numbers in 2018 – just 11 wickets from 14 matches at an average of 48.81 and strike rate of 55 at an economy of 5.31 – it has been a massive turnaround for Bhuvneshwar – his average and strike rate have halved in 2019 – that is how good he has been this year.

Bhuvneshwar has picked two-plus wickets in 9 of the 14 innings in 2019. He has gone for 5 or below runs per over also in as many matches. His average and strike rate, both are better than Bumrah and second only to Shami for India in 2019.

Bhuvneshwar is a vital cog for India as they enter the knockouts of the 2019 World Cup.

How he fares in the first powerplay and at the death will go a long way in determining India’s fortunes in the tournament.

Qualification Scenarios: England Beat New Zeal…

Riding on a splendid hundred by Jonny Bairstow – his second of the tournament –  and a fine performance by the bowling unit, England hammered New Zealand by 119 runs at Chester-le-Street and stormed into the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup.

England scored 305 for 8 and then bowled out New Zealand for 186 in 45 overs.

They are the third team to qualify for the semi-finals after India and Australia.

England end their group stage with 12 points at number 3 on the points table.

New Zealand are currently at number 4 and have ended their group stage campaign at 11 points. They should be the fourth semi-finalist unless Pakistan comes up with a record-breaking win against Bangladesh on Friday.

Let us have a look at the most realistic and an unrealistic scenarios.

The Three Semi-Finalists:

Source: Reuters

With 7 wins from 8 matches, Australia are perched at the top with 14 points having already qualified for the knockouts – which is a great result for a team who had their worst year in 2018 (in terms of win-loss ratio) in ODI cricket.

Australia have now won 15 of their last 16 ODIs and are guaranteed of a top two finish in the group stages.

India overcame Bangladesh by 28 runs and secured a semi-final berth. They now have 6 wins from 8 matches (one washout) and are in a comfortable number two position with 13 points.

With New Zealand’s loss, India too are now guaranteed a top two finish.

England registered a thumping 119-run win over New Zealand at Chester-le-Street to storm into the semi-finals.

They move into third place with 12 points.

England have made it to their first semi-final after 1992. They had made it to the semi-final stage for the first five tournaments – 1975, 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992 but failed to reach the last 4 in the next 6 editions – 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.

Pakistan or New Zealand as 4th Semi-Finalist?

New Zealand are in fourth-place with 5 wins from 8 matches despite losing three matches in a row to Pakistan, Australia and England.

They should qualify for the knockouts unless Pakistan score 350-plus and defeat Bangladesh by 300-plus runs, which is highly improbable.

Pakistan can mathematically still qualify for the semi-finals if they beat Bangladesh by some insanely huge margin but the probability of this happening is extremely low.

Pakistan need to bat first – so winning the toss is their first battle!

They then need to score 400 and dismiss Bangladesh for 84 – ie a victory margin of 316 runs.

If they make 350 they need to bowl out Bangladesh for 39 and win by 311 runs.

However, if Pakistan bat second, it is next to impossible for them for achieve the differential in the net run rate and catch up with New Zealand – thus in this scenario they will be eliminated.

The Bottom Five

The defeat to India ended Bangladesh’s hopes of making the semi-finals.

England’s win ensured that Sri Lanka cannot qualify for the semi-finals and their World Cup campaign had ended.

South Africa got a consolation win against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street on the 28th of June after their horrendous World Cup 2019 campaign came to an end (with their loss to Pakistan). They find themselves languishing at number 8 in the points table with 5 losses from 8 matches. They would hope for another consolation win against Australia.

West Indies have lost 6 of their 8 matches and after promising much after their opening-match win against Pakistan, completely fizzled out and bowed out of the tournament. They are at number 9 on the points table.

Afghanistan have lost 8 out of 8 and are at the bottom of the pack.

PREDICTION:

1. Australia (beat South Africa to end with 16 points)

2. India (beat Sri Lanka to end with 15 points)

3. England (ended with 12 points)

4. New Zealand (ended with 11 points and will in all probability have a higher net run rate than Pakistan even if the latter beat Bangladesh by a huge margin)

This means the following two potential semi-finals:

India vs England & Australia vs New Zealand