Our first semi-final sees an Indian side who weren’t expecting to finish top of the table against a New Zealand side who were very lucky to make the semi-finals at all. Both teams on a downer compared to their best form earlier in the tournament, when both were unbeaten.
New Zealand fans will point out that the two teams have faced each other, albeit in the form of a warm-up match. The result of which was a triumphant New Zealand victory by six wickets with 77 balls remaining, after bowling India out for just 179 runs with Trent Boult the main destroyer. If New Zealand can repeat that effort from the 25th of May then they may just win. The fact that New Zealand have lost three in a row yet still qualified could arguably be them saving themselves for the semi-finals.
India, nonetheless, will be happy to be facing New Zealand, instead of the much more in-form England side, who beat them handily only a few days ago in a proper World Cup fixture. The one Indian fans will remember best as when MS Dhoni did a go slow rather than go for the target. They will argue that, had Dhoni played properly, they would have won, and hence they would have won either way. Just the same, there can be little doubt that New Zealand are the better opponent.
New Zealand, for their part, might be that little bit happier to face India, who haven’t beaten them, than Australia, who have. While it is a hard prospect either way, at least they beat India in the warm-up match and haven’t lost to them in the tournament proper.
In spite of winning all but one match, India haven’t had it all their own way, as they nearly lost to lowly Afghanistan, and they had trouble beating Bangladesh too. Indeed, they have had some of the least impressive victories of any team in the tournament, looking like they were saving themselves for something, and yet, as at the semi-final stage, they are yet to show what they could really do. The question is whether they are going to burst, come the semi-finals, or whether this is all that they are capable of.
New Zealand have had an incredible run, with more close wins than any other team, catching Carlos Brathwaite on the boundary in what would have been the winning runs, as well as having close wins over South Africa and Bangladesh. They certainly know how to win the close ones. The question is whether this one will be close.
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Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) Kane Williamson will fire
He’s a cut above anyone on India’s side, with apologies to Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and, after a couple of matches where he wasn’t quite at his best, it is time for him to come good again, and to be impossible to dislodge.
(2) Jasprit Bumrah will fire
India’s best bowler by a very long way, Bumrah has finally started to cash in on his great form by taking some wickets in the tail end of the tournament, which looks set to continue.
(3) Rohit Sharma was fail
He’s been the world’s biggest bully this tournament, even more than normal, which means that if New Zealand are weak then he will capitalise, but the problem is that New Zealand are not weak and that means he will fail.
(4) Virat Kohli will come good
We’ve been waiting for Kohli to show his very best form, and the semi-finals is the perfect time for him to come good.
(5) India will win
I’d love to see New Zealand win and they may well manage it, but I see India getting home in a thriller.