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How the contenders are shaping up at the back-end

We’re a little over the halfway mark of this World Cup and while it hasn’t been of the standard that one would expect, Sri Lanka’s recent surge against England seems to have created a certain wave of hope for others.

ICC World Cup Cricket Team 2019
Image Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/rf/image_size_960x540/HT/p2/2019/05/24/Pictures/_4d519da8-7dd5-11e9-98c6-ecfd32845dee.JPG

The door has been opened for teams like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Let’s have a look at how the contenders are shaping up:

1.New Zealand:
Most people had New Zealand in the ‘dark horse’ category prior to the World Cup. One can argue that they’ve been bailed out by some individual performances, but it’s only a matter of time till they get their mojo back as a unit. New Zealand’s strength has always been to punch above their weight; they’ve done that and a lot more this World Cup.

New-Zealand-Squad-Cricket-World-Cup-2019
New Zealand Cricket World Cup Team 2019

Williamson and Ferguson have been the consistent standouts with supporting acts from Taylor, Henry, Boult and Santner. The big positive is that each of them has stood up at various clutch moments. The opening combination is, without a doubt, their Achilles heel. Colin Munro just doesn’t look like he belongs there.

It would be surprising if Henry Nicholls doesn’t play ahead of Munro, going ahead. Guptill has looked in decent touch, but failed to convert those starts. Taylor and Williamson cannot get New Zealand out of jail every time. Boult and Henry have been good, but Ferguson has been the wrecker-in-chief.

With such express pace, it’s amazing how accurate his is. His setup delivery to Faf Du Plessis is a prime example of the importance of aiding pace with shrewd tactics. To add variety, it would be a good move to introduce Ish Sodhi. Having secured 11 points in the bag, expect Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi to be given some game-time.

New Zealand are yet to play England and Australia; it wouldn’t be a bad time to test their bench strength and give some of the bowlers a break. New Zealand still haven’t hit their peak. They’re one complete team performance away from that and with tougher opponents in the way, there isn’t a better time to execute.

2. Australia:
In sport, early momentum is worth its weight in gold. Australia has gained that momentum and just carried it through. They seem to be finding themselves in tough situations, with experience taking over.

Australia Cricket World Cup Team 2019
Australia Cricket World Cup Team 2019
Image Source: https://www.thenews.com.pk/assets/uploads/updates/2019-05-24/l_472088_085357_updates.jpg

Be it Starc, Finch, Warner, Smith, Maxwell, Khawaja or Cummins, this team has experience and X-Factor written all over it. Beating them in knockout games will be some task! The one area that’s been problematic is that of the third seamer.

They can’t seem to decide between Nathan Coulter Nile, Kane Richardson and Jason Behrendorff. It’s evident that they didn’t plan for the absence of Jhye Richardson. To fix that crack, Australia has looked everywhere, while the answer is right there; Nathan Lyon. Expected him to be a sure starter after having performed in the warmup match.

Against India, on a wicket with extra bounce, it was a shocker of a decision to overlook him. There is a certain reluctance, for some odd reason. With the number of left handers that England possess, it would be a wise move to include Lyon on Tuesday.

3. India
Expectations were high, and boy, have they delivered! India has been head and shoulders above the others, so far.

team india cricket world cup 2019

Afghanistan did expose a few known chinks in their armor, but India wouldn’t mind that sort of a game. It gives them an opportunity to further work on that middle order. Following that game, teams must look to open with a spinner against Rohit Sharma.

The last thing India would want is a repeat of the 2017 Champions Trophy Final. Surely, the team management would be itching to give Rishabh Pant an opportunity. The fact that Vijay Shankar can bowl is what’s keeping Pant out.

India would have been sweating over Bhuvneshwar’s injury and Shami provided them with gush of cold wind. There was nothing cold about his bowling though, as he casually went about with his searing pace.

His first spell in the game against Afghanistan is precisely why he should have been starting from game one. For a change, it’s a good problem for Virat Kohli to have, picking between two quality bowlers.

Long gone are the days when India was bereft of fast bowlers. This is a team that is looking primed to take a spot in the top two of the points table.

4. England
Has the ‘favorites’ tag gotten to their minds? Pre-tournament, it was a tactical move by all the captains and coaches to term England as the favorites and now, the pressure seems to be showing.

England World Cup Cricket Team
England World Cup Cricket Team

There was nothing in the pitch against Sri Lanka to justify such a collapse. Simply a case of crumbling under pressure. In their defense, England without Roy is like India without Rohit Sharma.

Their next three games pose as much a mental challenge as one to be played out on the field. England haven’t beaten India, Australia and New Zealand at the World Cup in 27 years! To add to that, these three teams combined have lost just the one game so far.

If there ever was a test of this ODI beast that England has created, it is now. People will very easily forget all that this team has achieved if they do not make the final four of this world cup. Eoin Morgan, the ball is in your court.

5. Sri Lanka
It was expected to be a no-show from Sri Lanka at this World Cup. Credit to them, they’ve turned it around, albeit with a bit of luck from the rain gods. With overcast conditions on offer, they’re not a side that most teams would want to face.

SriLanka Cricket World Cup Team 2019
Image Source: https://newsin.asia/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/ICC.jpg

Sri Lanka relies heavily on Malinga to deliver at the top and back-end of the innings. To begin with, it was nothing short of a blunder to exclude Akila Dhananjaya and Niroshan Dickwella from the squad. At present, with the limited resources that they have in the bowling department, Sri Lanka have done well. In fact, the two frontline spinners (Jeffrey Vandersay and Jeevan Mendis) have been major letdowns.

It is the part-time spin of Dhananjaya De Silva that has proved to be effective. The Sri Lankan batting is a lot better than what the scorecards have shown. Kusal Perera has looked good in patches, Kusal Mendis has gotten starts, Angelo Mathews showed his class on a slightly sluggish wicket against England and Avishka Fernando provided everybody with a breath of fresh air through some exhilarating strokeplay.

With the cushion of a few more runs on the board, Sri Lanka could win their next few games and sneak through to the semi-finals.

6. Bangladesh
The ODI format gives you breathing space to mix youth with plenty of experience. With their batting order, Bangladesh have fond the right formula. Soumya Sarkar and Litton Das are given the license to go all out, while Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah Riyad take the game deep.

Bangladesh World Cup Cricket Team
Bangladesh Cricket World Cup Team 2019
Image Source: https://c.ndtvimg.com/2019-04/o4sq36ng_bangladesh-twitter_625x300_30_April_19.jpg

That’s not to say that they can’t up the ante, but the team’s blueprint is such. It’s the bowling that has been a massive buzzkill in a tournament that otherwise promised so much for Bangladesh. Out of five games, the bowlers have been guilty of conceding four totals in excess of 300.

On a couple of occasions, they have found themselves erring closer to 400, and that has not done their batting any favours.

Mohammed Saifuddin has to be a part of the team. His death bowling was the reason that Bangladesh managed to pull things back against a dangerous looking West Indies.

Two of their last three games are against Pakistan and Afghanistan, so they have every reason to be hopeful of a semi-final spot.

7. Pakistan
It would be unfair to say that Pakistan has been mercurial because they have been mediocre, barring the game against England. Their problems in this World Cup have been well documented in the past; lethargic fielding, poor death bowling, lack of substance in the middle order.

Pakistan Cricket World Cup Team 2019
Pakistan Cricket World Cup Team 2019
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Their top three batsmen have gone alright, considering all the chaos that’s been happening around them. It’s a matter of time before one of them gets a big score.

Going into their last few group games, Pakistan has to choose between Hafeez and Malik and move on. They’re both players with very similar attributes and limitations as batsmen. Haris Sohail looked good against England in the ODI series, without really scoring too many.

If you look at it, they don’t have too many options from the squad. Hassan Ali has to be dropped, for he has averaged over 80 in his last 15 ODI’s.

Pakistan have been pushed to a corner following the drubbing against India and there’s only one way up from there.

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