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India vs New Zealand Semifinal | Rampant India Firm Favourites Against Scrappy New Zealand

The World Cup was always a two-match affair for India. Yes, they had to play nine league games, but it was very unlikely that they wouldn't make it to the top four. As expected, they had a smooth journey to the top of the table, slipping only once on the way. Their opponents in the first semifinal on Tuesday (July 9) started smooth before stumbling towards the finish line.

Karthik Lakshmanan |July 9, 2019, 7:55 AM IST
India vs New Zealand Semifinal | Rampant India Firm Favourites Against Scrappy New Zealand

Manchester: The World Cup was always a two-match affair for India. Yes, they had to play nine league games, but it was very unlikely that they wouldn't make it to the top four. As expected, they had a smooth journey to the top of the table, slipping only once on the way.

Their opponents in the first semifinal on Tuesday (July 9) started smooth before stumbling towards the finish line. However, they drove so fast in the initial phase that they eventually made it over the line as the fourth team. The journey until the line matters little as it's a completely fresh start from here.

It might sound over the top, but the league stage for India was about striking form and identifying their best combination for the knockouts. They've had a couple of injuries on the way but still managed to have good options and combinations for all situations. Now, they have to identify the best of the lot for they can't slip any further.

Let's get straight to the point. India are likely to stick to the five-bowler strategy for the semifinal game, although Virat Kohli said on the eve of the game that it's up for discussion. Sanjay Bangar had earlier said the sixth bowler wasn't bowling too many overs anyway, and New Zealand's batting has not been at their best in the World Cup. It's unlikely India will feel the need six bowlers for this game.

Jasprit Bumrah. (ICC) Jasprit Bumrah. (ICC)

The five best bowlers for India, with an eye on batting depth, would be Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is not giving wickets with the new ball, and Shami is likely to get back despite his death bowling being a worry. Kuldeep Yadav too could make way for Yuzvendra Chahal, especially because India, as Kohli said, believe Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are the big threats in the New Zealand batting order.

Kohli joked that he could bring out his 'lethal' bowling if needed. He, after all, got Williamson in the Under-19 World Cup semifinal 11 years back.

Having seven batsmen with Jadeja coming in at No. 8 also gives India's middle order more freedom. That has been one area for concern for India through the tournament.

But India will be boosted by the form of the top order. Should we even talk about Rohit Sharma here? His partner KL Rahul too has been batting close to his best; he started slowly but has begun to convert starts with scores of 77 and 111 in the last two matches. Rohit and Rahul have added 180 and 189 in the previous two matches, giving India the starts they badly need.

New Zealand can challenge, and change that. Their game against India in the league stage was washed out, but New Zealand have exposed India's middle order in each of the last three times they've faced them:

India 92 all out in Hamilton.

India 18/4 in Wellington.

India 179 all out in London (World Cup warm-up).

New Zealand team

New Zealand come into the semifinal on the back of three consecutive losses, but even there it was their batting that let them down. The bowlers did have Australia reeling at 92 for 5 at one stage. They triggered a collapse after England's openers put on a big partnership. They did run into Babar Azam's class against Pakistan, but that game could have been very different had they not dropped him early.

If Trent Boult and Matt Henry can give the early breakthroughs, New Zealand have a fiery weapon in Lockie Ferguson to strike in the middle overs. Between Ferguson and Boult, they have 32 wickets in the tournament.

The problem for New Zealand is their batting, especially the openers. Martin Guptill has struggled for runs - he has only 166 from eight innings. Colin Munro has 125 from six, while the man who replaced him for the last two games Henry Nicholls has eight from two. It's like they've just left it to Williamson to do all the work.

The captain has stood up, with 481 runs from seven innings with a bit of support from Taylor, James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme. But a bit more support from the top won't hurt.

New Zealand have slipped under the radar, as they always do. It's a zone they like to be in. But it would be very wrong to underestimate them.

Pitch and conditions

The Old Trafford has hosted five matches this World Cup. The team that batted first has won each of the five. That must say a lot about the surface, and the importance of toss. The pitch for the semifinal, though, is a fresh one which could make life easier for batsmen throughout the game.

The sun was shining over Manchester in the lead up to the game. Tuesday is expected to be slightly cloudy, with chances of the occasional shower.

Probable XI:

India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (w), Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah

New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls/Colin Munro, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham(w), Colin de Grandhomme, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Trent Boult

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Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 4027 115
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3778 105
5 Australia 2640 98
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Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 India 8099 261
5 Australia 5471 261
see more