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  Sports   Cricket  07 Jul 2019  With upsets midway, CWC19 set for exciting finish

With upsets midway, CWC19 set for exciting finish

THE ASIAN AGE. | AYAZ MEMON
Published : Jul 7, 2019, 7:46 am IST
Updated : Jul 7, 2019, 7:46 am IST

Pakistan, not unsurprisingly for most aficionados, were mercurial and tempestuous – brilliant one day, thoroughly mediocre the next.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 (Photo: cricketworldcup/twitter)
 ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 (Photo: cricketworldcup/twitter)

The World Cup enters its final week, the number of teams in contention has been reduced to four, but excitement has increased manifold from when it started.

Some upsets midway through spiced up the race between teams to make it to the semi-final, and it was only on Friday that the fourth entrant was confirmed, after Pakistan were eliminated in a near-impossible venture.

 

There will be some remorse and regret — of varying degree — in the six teams that have been eliminated. The biggest disappointments were the South Africans, a bundle of blunder and blemish from the start.

Afghanistan too would be unhappy that they couldn’t win a single match, though they ran both India and Pakistan fairly close. Star players Mohamed Nabi and Rashid Khan underperforming was their biggest problem.

While these two sides went out of the reckoning early, the other four – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh – kept their hopes alive with some stirring performances, albeit inconsistently.

Sri Lanka got a late surge through Avishka Fenrnando, who should have played from the start, and evergreen Lasith Malinga who turned back the clock with fiery and skillful bowling that had been his hallmark.

 

West Indies will look back at this tournament as a massive opportunity lost to reclaim lost glory. With some genuinely quick pacers and an clutch of intimidating power-hitters, they looked good to give more fancied teams a run for their money.

Carlos Briathwaite made arguably the most sensational, and unarguably the most poignant century of the tournament. It will be debated long whether he should have taken a single and retained strike for the last over instead of trying to clinch victory with a six against New Zealand.

Bangladesh, in my opinion, were the most plucky and ambitious, playing some dazzling cricket. Shakib-ul-Hasan was easily the best player on view in the league phase. With a stronger bowling attack, the team could have done much better.

 

Pakistan, not unsurprisingly for most aficionados, were mercurial and tempestuous – brilliant one day, thoroughly mediocre the next.

Their first match defeat to West Indies, bowled out for a paltry 105, hurt the Net Run Rate badly and came to haunt them towards the end when they had got into a chance to make it to the semis.

Apart from some strange selection choices (leaving out Haris Sohail and Shaheen Shah Afridi till so late for e.g.), the Pakistanis seemed consumed by the hype and too focused only on the match against India.

This was misplaced. India were simply the stronger team in both talent and experience and Pakistan’s attention and preparation for other teams was hampered. Their biggest problem, however, remains consistency: in thought, selection and performance.

 

This brings me to the four semi-finalists. That England, India, Australia and New Zealand have made the cut is not such a surprise given their ODI rankings and form leading in to the tournament.

All teams suffered a hiccup or two along the way, most agonizingly hot favourites England who were on the verge of being nudged out but came back strongly to win their last two matches.

Of these four teams, New Zealand seem most vulnerable currently. As the tournament progressed, their form has waned, largely in the batting that looks heavily dependent on skipper Kane Williamson.

England, Australia and India, in contrast, have well-rounded sides and with a majority of players in good form, though captain Kohli and coach Shastri would have liked more assured displays from the middle order.

 

Tags: 2019 icc cricket world cup, rohit sharma