The greatest competition in Cricket is on its way to a dream finish, with the World Cup Semi Finals a few days away. When the World Cup was about to start, I am sure the majority of the people predicted Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand as the semi-finalists and it is amazing to see that these teams who were also among the top 4 combining the two groups have reached this far. The one-sided quarter-finals were an indication of the top notch quality that these teams possess. But once they go into the bigger pool, the level of the quality of the contest will go one step higher.
AB de Villiers’ side which has just ended their knockout hurdle are all pumped up and aiming to reach new heights. They were beaten by India and Pakistan in the earlier stages but came back strongly to defeat the consistent Sri Lankans and bid adieu to their knockout jinx that had haunted them since 1992.
Like Martin Crowe, Brendon McCullum has become a man to follow in recent times as his attacking brand of captaincy is responsible for New Zealand’s present position. He has changed the complexion of this side which tended towards being negative in the past. But now they are just a class apart. Their batting was a bit of concern but since the last two matches; they have now become a complete team.
MS Dhoni’s strategic mind coupled with some standout performances from the players has made the team from being the losers to the Invincibles. The players have performed whenever the team needed them the most. The Indian team has been a standout in all departments and looking seriously in a mission to defend their title.
Last but not the least; Michael Clarke’s baggy greens are in search for Australia’s lost glory. They have not been quite the best, but have taken the crucial moments in pressure matches due to which they are into the penultimate stage of the tournament. Australia have got the power hitters and also the bowlers who can exploit the home conditions very well.
After one week, we will be able to know who will lift the coveted trophy but for now let’s have a look at the semi-final clashes and the battles to watch out for.
NEW ZEALAND vs SOUTH AFRICA @ AUCKLAND
Auckland has been the ground for some close finishes in this world cup. Be it the low scoring Pakistan-South Africa encounter or the high scoring clash of India-Zimbabwe, the crowd there have really enjoyed the treat provided by the players. Come 24th March and the two teams will go head to head to win a ticket for the world cup finals for the first time in their history.
AB de Villiers and Brendon McCullum have been rising rapidly in recent times if the department of captaincy is concerned. Both have taken their sides to the top especially the Kiwi captain who has really brought a change in the side. While on the other hand, AB has shown that how his team can rewrite history books by being pumped up on a particular match day.
Battles to watch out for:
Hashim Amla vs Trent Boult: – Hashim Amla will have a job at hand when he faces the red-hot Trent Boult who has been at his very best in the World Cup. McCullum and his bowling team have just one aim, i.e. to take wickets and it will be interesting to see whether Amla will see him off or attack to disrupt the rhythm of the bowler.
AB de Villiers vs Daniel Vettori: – If everything goes well, AB is going to face the veteran Vettori in the middle overs. While Vettori has a point to prove after being attacked by Chris Gayle in the quarter-final, AB has the tendency of always looking for boundaries. While the angle created by the left arm spinner may prove a tad difficult for Mr. 360 degree to play some exquisite shots, it will be a treat to watch when these two faces one another.
Brendon McCullum vs Dale Steyn: – Throughout the world cup, Brendon McCullum has showed what he can do from the word go. If the day is his, he can single-handedly take the opposition out of the competition. While Dale Steyn has not been at his very best in this world cup, the time has come that the hopes of South Africa will hinge upon this bowler. We all know what he can do with the ball and I guess he will be one level one up when he will walk to his bowling run-up, facing the kiwi captain.
AUSTRALIA vs INDIA @ SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND
These two teams played each other throughout the Australian Summer where the hosts enjoyed an upper hand. Indians were not even close to the quality produced by Australia. But as these two arch-rivals meet yet again, this time in a crucial semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground, it will be altogether a different contest as team India are now pumped up and are on a mission of defending their title.
The last time it was India who knocked out Australia in the quarter-final. Now there is a big opportunity for the hosts to return the favour back.
Battles to watch out for:
Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Starc: – This world cup has been a paradise for left arm seamers and Mitchell Starc has been one of those who have always looked dangerous. On the other hand, Rohit Sharma is gradually finding his form after a great century against Bangladesh. So during the beginning of the Indian innings, this battle will be an interesting one to watch.
Virat Kohli vs Mitchell Johnson: – These two great players have got to know each other during the test series very well. But they have also been involved in some fiery battles which will be remembered by the cricket fans for a long long time. Come the semi final and the two will again restart their battle and try to come on top of each other.
Michael Clarke vs Indian Pace Battery: – Time and again in this competition we have seen Dhoni and used the pace trio of Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma to attack the opposition batsmen with short balls. And it has beared fruits for them as they have been successful in picking majority of the wickets in this manner, including the wickets of Younis Khan, Hashim Amla and Chris Gayle. After watching Michael Clarke being bounced out by Wahab Riaz during his career defining spell, the pace battery will attack his ribs and Clarke’s resiliency will be under judgement. He has done once against Morne Morkel, a year back. A similar kind of effort will be needed if he wants to succeed against the Indian attack.
So after the one-sided quarter finals, we are in for a close contest between the semi-finalists. Let’s wait and see who will meet whom at 29th march in the very much awaited Final at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground.