Kohli’s men, Kane’s Kiwis contend for a spot in the Final

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 semi-finals are upon us. India, first in the CWC ’19 standings, and fourth-placed New Zealand will face each other for the first time in the tournament. The league stage game between these two sides had been abandoned due to rains.

The match that was to be played in Nottingham was anticipated to be a top-draw fixture as the quality Indian batting would face the blazing Kiwi bowling force. While that was in the nascent stages of the tournament, the teams are now in better rhythm with tried and tested permutations and combinations to field their best eleven for the knock-out match.

What India and New Zealand have in common is that both nations had played the semi-finals in the last World Cup in 2015. Although only the Kiwis had progressed to the finale, the two countries know what it takes to play on a stage of this magnitude. The calibre that each team possesses – India with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah, and for the Blackcaps in the form of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Trent Boult – is worthy of an enthralling semi-final.

Old Trafford Cricket Ground has hosted five matches at CWC ’19. The Men in Blue have played two games at the venue, against Pakistan and the West Indies, and won both comprehensively. Williamson and Co. too having played and won the nail-biting Windies game know the venue well. In all of the five games played in Manchester so far, the team batting first has emerged victorious. The batting-friendly track has seen targets of 250+ being set on each of the five occasions, and 300+ on three.

Team form:

Saying Team India’s Rohit Sharma is in top form would be an understatement. With 647 runs to his name, the Hitman has scored five centuries in this edition of the World Cup alone, a feat unprecedented until now. KL Rahul, after scoring his first World Cup hundred against the Lankans, will be a player beaming with confidence. The story of India’s batting in the tournament has been that the top-order has had majority of the contribution to the team’s runs. However, when the time comes, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni, too, have played crucial knocks.

While the Hitman has been the run-machine for Team India, Bumrah has been the go-to bowler for skipper Kohli. Legendary Windies pacer Ian Bishop was all praise of the bowler as he said, “Bumrah's ability to bowl the new ball effectively, do the same in the middle and be so good at the death is incredible." The pace attack in particular has come good for most of the tournament.

The Kiwis, after the initial flourish in the tournament, have faced a series of losses leading into the semi-final. Batting has been a concern for them. However, with Williamson and Taylor being their front-runners, and James Neesham chipping in too, there is stability in the middle-order. Opener Martin Guptill – with 166 runs comprising of only one fifty – has had a mediocre campaign so far.

Their bowling unit, on the other hand, can be menacing on any given day. With searing pace and swing, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson, provided that he is fully fit from his hamstring injury, could dent the Indian batting.

Key battle:

Rohit Sharma vs Trent Boult

The Hitman who has certainly lived up to his name in England is in the middle of a phenomenal spell of runs. But it has been seen that Rohit departing early can leave the Indian batting stranded. The face-off of these two was impeded by the rains, but now at this stage of the tournament where Rohit has more centuries and Boult more wickets, it will be an even better contest.

The winner of this semi-final will meet the winner from the England-Australia match to play for the Cup. The match will start tomorrow at 3 PM IST in Manchester.