Finally, after 5 weeks or so of the World Cup, we’ve reached the sharp end of the tournament. I’ll forgive you if you’ve all packed up and gone home by now, but let’s persevere anyway.
Before it all began I posted my thoughts on how the teams may fare, and the semi-finalists are as I expected.
First up will be co-hosts New Zealand against South Africa. This is a potential mouth-watering tie. Both teams are similar in many ways, starting with a hard-hitting opening batsman to bludgeon early boundaries (McCullum, De Kock) partnered with a more serene, classic cover drive style batsman (Guptill, Amla). Guptill’s 237* in the quarter final against the West Indies was a remarkable innings of great quality, with shots to all parts of the ground, mostly orthodox pulls and drives. Much like the other double centurion of the World Cup Chris Gayle, Guptill was dropped in the first over, and how he punished them for it.
Both have power in the middle order too. We all know what AB De Villiers can do but Anderson and Ronchi for NZ are no slouches in the hitting department either.
The bowling attacks of both sides stack up pretty well too. Southee and Boult are up there with the best of them for fast swing bowling, and the wily craft of Daniel Vettori’s off spin has stymied many a fast start. South Africa of course have the world’s premier fast bowler in Dale Steyn who is well backed up by Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott.
A very difficult one to pick but I’m going for New Zealand, particularly if they bat first and pose a challenging total. Home advantage counts for a lot at this stage and I fancy them to come through in a tight encounter.
Australia vs India is also a tricky one to call. India have been the surprise package for me. Their class is undoubtable but they came into the World Cup on the back of some pretty poor defeats in the Tri-Series (England beat them twice so it must have been bad!). Since then they have been brilliant, notably in the bowling department. They have taken 70 wickets out of 70 so far which is unmatched by any other team. I saw their bowling attack in the Test matches over the winter and wasn’t that impressed. But they have hit their straps now – with Shami, Yadav and Ashwin all taking at least 12 wickets so far.
Batting wise they can match most sides – Sharma, Dhawan, Kohli is a pretty formidable top 3 and with Dhoni to come, that line-up will cause most teams problems.
However Australia have to be the best all-round team in the tournament. Mitchell Starc has been a revelation with ball in hand – his left-arm swingers have been deadly all tournament and his death ball yorkers are almost unplayable at times. They bat incredibly deep too, having Haddin come in at 8 is a luxury no other team can afford. All their batsman have had important innings so far and Glenn Maxwell has to be seen to be believed. I couldn’t even begin to describe his put-away shot against Pakistan in the quarter-final. Impossible to bowl to and supremely difficult to execute.
So all in all I’d have to go for the Aussies. Even if you get them 4 or 5 down they still have so much power to come that any total looks chaseable. India would have to score 350+ to have any chance.
So I’m sticking with an AUS vs NZ final as I predicted beforehand, with NZ sneaking home. We shall see…
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