Factors that could decide semi-final at Wankhede
The 13th edition of the ICC World Cup that has rolled on for more than a month entered its final week, with just three more matches to go. New Zealand, who had handed England a sound nine-wicket thrashing in the tournament opener on 5 October, are among the teams still alive heading into the semi-finals along with hosts India as well as Australia and South Africa.
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The Black Caps have had to brave multiple issues during their World Cup campaign which included a fresh injury to Kane Williamson, which forced their captain and star batter to sit out of several matches with keeper-batter Tom Latham leading in his stead. They had also fallen off the rails after getting off to a dream start with four consecutive wins by losing as many matches to stare at the possibility of an early flight back home.
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It took a clinical victory over Sri Lanka in Bengaluru for them to edge Pakistan out and reach the World Cup semi-finals for the sixth time in the last seven editions.
India, meanwhile, have been miles ahead of other teams in their home World Cup campaign, having ended the league stage with a 9-0 record to finish at the top of the points table.
Among their nine wins in as many outings was a four-wicket victory over New Zealand at Dharamsala’s HPCA Stadium that was their first win against the Black Caps in an ICC event in two decades. What further underlined their credentials as solid favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday was their 243-run thrashing of South Africa on 5 November, the team that had been as clinical as the Indians until then.
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India have been the team to beat so far in this World Cup, but will be well aware of the threat that New Zealand can pose, especially in knockout matches of ICC events. And as Williamson put in in the pre-match press conference, what transpired in Dharamsala between these two teams will have little bearing on how the semi-final plays out, given a World Cup semi-final carries a different sort of pressure.
And there are a number of mini-battles as well as crucial phases that shape Wednesday’s blockbuster contest at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
More on that below:
Rohit’s powerplay onslaught
India skipper Rohit Sharma has been in outstanding form in the tournament so far and currently finds himself at the fourth spot on the run-getters list with 503 runs at an average of 55.88, including an explosive century against Afghanistan.
Rohit’s sparking form has allowed him to get the Indians off to fiery starts match after match, a classic example of which was the manner with which he tore the South African attack apart on a tricky Eden Gardens pitch that helped the Men in Blue race to 91/1 at the end of the powerplay, and eventually post a match-winning total of 300 on the board.
New Zealand and India’s new-ball burst
Both India and New Zealand have enviable new-ball attacks that could be equally destructive in the powerplay, although one would have to lean towards the Indian trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj as the bowlers who have unleashed more mayhem in the first powerplay. The Indian pacers were especially ruthless against England and South Africa, and ended up killing the contest within the first 10 overs itself.
The New Zealand attack has had a mixed run in this tournament when compared to the Indians, but the Indians would be well aware of the events of the 2019 semi-final in Manchester, where Trent Boult and Matt Henry had helped reduce India to 5/3 at Old Trafford. Boult knows the Wankhede too well, having played for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and will back himself to get enough movement to trouble the Indian top-order once again.
India’s death bowling
It’s not just with the new ball that the Indian bowlers have been dominant — they have been just as effective across all phases of an innings, and that includes death bowling. During the match against New Zealand in Dharamsala, the Black Caps had reached 219/4 at the end of the 40th over and were staring at a total well over 300. Instead, the Men in Blue would build pressure by conceding just 26 runs in the next five overs along with Kuldeep Yadav’s dismissal of Glenn Phillips, and the New Zealand innings began to crumble from there. The Kiwis could collect just 28 more runs before folding up for 273.
The Indians haven’t really been tested in the death overs the way they would have wanted to in this World Cup as they’ve managed to maintain a stranglehold on the opposition with regular wickets throughout the innings. They way they fought back against the Dharamsala in the business end of the innings though should hold them in good stead.
Daryl Mitchell in middle overs
That India-New Zealand match in Dharamsala also witnessed all-rounder Daryl Mitchell excel against the Indian attack and bring up his 5th ODI century with a patient 130 off 127 deliveries. Not only was it his maiden World Cup hundred, it also was the first by a Kiwi batter in a World Cup match against India in 48 years!
Mitchell had forged a solid 159-run third-wicket stand with Rachin Ravindra (75), helping the Black Caps recover from a shaky start, and has made decent contributions in the subsequent games as well, including an attacking 31-ball 43 in their successful 172-run chase against Sri Lanka, and will certainly be one to watch out for on Wednesday’s semi-final.
Dew in Mumbai
Let’s not forget the dew factor in Mumbai which is known to make life a living hell for bowlers operating under lights, especially the slower ones. The evening dew had been missing at some of the venues in some of the matches, but at Wankhede it could play a big role on Wednesday. And this is where the in-form Indian spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav Ravindra Jadeja could have an edge over Black Caps’ frontline spinner Mitchell Santner. In either case, toss could end up playing a crucial role at the Wankhede.
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