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The final four

Patriot takes a look at the four semifinalists of the ICC World Cup, and who is most likely to lift the trophy on July 14 at Lords

The ICC Cricket World Cup is nearing its final stages as the league stage gets over on July 6 and the knockout stages commence on July 9.

By now, we have an idea of who the top four teams are going to be with Australia, India and England already qualified, and New Zealand almost confirming the fourth place. Pakistan can get through still, but they have to beat an effervescent Bangladesh by 300 runs – a task that is seemingly impossible.

So, here we take a look at the four teams, how they have performed in the tournament so far, and who is most likely to hold the trophy at Lords on July 14.

India

Virat Kohli’s men in blue have no doubt been one of the teams of the tournament so far having won six of their eight matches so far. While one match against New Zealand was washed out due to rain, India suffered their sole loss against England at Edgbaston. The team now has 13 points, and if they win their last game vs Sri Lanka, they go up to 15.

If South Africa manage to beat Australia, then the Aussies will slip down to the number two spot, with India securing the top spot. In this scenario, India will play New Zealand at Old Trafford on July 9. Otherwise the men in blue finish second and face England at Edgbaston, the same venue where they were defeated by the hosts.

Strengths:  India have been the most balanced side in the World Cup so far. The top order of the batting line up has stolen the show in every game, with Rohit Sharma being the star of the show, scoring four centuries and a fifth in eight matches. Virat Kohli too has been consistent at number three, scoring five half centuries on the trot, even though a hundred still eludes him.

But India’s main strength has been their bowling. With Jasprit Bumrah leading the attack, he can deliver goods and take wickets at any time of the innings, be it the start, middle or end. Mohammed Shami has taken a mammoth 14 wickets despite playing just four matches. Bhuvnshwar Kumar has been brilliant in all the four matches he played. In the middle overs, the spin duo Chahal and Kuldeep have been phenomenal, chipping in with wickets. Even Hardik Pandya has been amongst the wickets.

Weaknesses: The middle order batting has been quite under par. In all the matches, they have failed to capitalise on the big starts, and ended up scoring almost 30-40 runs short in every match. MS Dhoni especially has looked out of touch, with him losing the ability to hit the ball at a consistent pace. There has been too much chopping and changing and while Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni look set, the other position is a shuffle between either Dinesh Karthik or Kedar Jadhav.

Prediction:  India look the most likely to lift the cup, but if they face England in the semis, that will be quite a fight to look forward to.

Australia

Apart from a loss against India, the men in yellow led by Aaron Finch, have occupied the spot at the top of the table as they have won all their remaining seven matches. Coming into the tournament as a team out of form, the five time champions have proved why one should never leave Australia out of contention.

Australia have two situations in front of them. If they lose to South Africa in their last game, they play third-placed England at Edgbaston on June 10, and if they win that match, they will go on to play fourth-placed New Zealand at Old Trafford.

Strengths: Australia’s bowling has been sensational especially Mitchell Starc, who is leading the wicket charts in the tournament with 24 scalp. With his raw pace and ability to bowl Yorkers at will, he has terrorised the batsmen. He has been ably supported by likes of Pat Cummins and Jason Behrendorff.

The openers have fired all cylinders with both Aaron Finch and David Warner scoring in excess of 500 runs in the tournament, and have helped them a lot in posting big scores.  Alex Carey, the wicketkeeper has been a revelation with his crucial innings coming in at no. 7

Weaknesses: The Aussie middle order looks a bit weak, once Steve Smith gets out. The other batsmen have failed to score big runs, and the position of a batsman like Usman Khawaja who likes to knock the ball around, down the order too has been a bad decision. The spin attack too seems to fizzle out a bit when compared to the strong pace battery

Prediction: No matter who they face, Australia look like sure shot finalists, and if India do not manage to qualify for the finals, then the cup is for the Aussies to lose.

England

The World Cup has been a topsy turvy ride for the hosts. Losing matches to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia, the team which were considered resounding favourites would crash out of the tournament had they lost their one more match.

Thankfully, they managed to win their remaining matches vs India and New Zealand now occupy the third place. Based on other results the hosts are likely to face either Australia or India at Edgbaston on July 11.

Strengths: England’s top order has been sensational, with Roy, Bairstow and especially Root in splendid form. Even the middle and lower order have chipped in with crucial innings, with Morgan, Stokes and Buttler smashing sixes and fours in all parts of the park. If England wins the toss and opt to bat, then rest assured that they will post a mammoth total which the opposition will fail to chase.

In their bowling department, Jofra Archer has been a revelation troubling batsmen with his awkward bounce and express pace.

Weaknesses: England have been a very unpredictable side. On one day, they will score runs in excess of 350, while on another day, they will collapse chasing 220. England have been atrocious as chasing targets, having lost all the matches where they batted second.

Apart from Jofra Archer, the bowling lacks sting. They have dropped the second most number of catches in the tournament after Pakistan, and have looked lethargic on the field.

Prediction: England, because of their unpredictability, does not look to go past the semifinals, considering they face a much stronger side in either India or Australia. But with momentum on their side after the last two victories, they may just sneak past and win their first ever World Cup on home soil.

New Zealand

New Zealand started the tournament on a strong note but somehow lost the plot towards the end of the tournament having been defeated by Australia, Pakistan and England. They will occupy the fourth spot and will face wither India or Australia at Old Trafford on July 9.

Strengths: The Kiwis have a strong pace attack, with Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt henry troubling the opposition throughout the tournament with their speed and accuracy. Mitchell Santner too has been quite impressive and most likely has been one of the best spinners in the tournament. Their captain Kane Williamson provides solidity to the middle order and has been sensational with the bat. Their pair of all rounder in Jimmy Neesham and Colin De Grandhomme have proved extremely handy for them in crucial situation with both bat and ball.

Weaknesses: The openers have failed to fire, and apart from Williamson the batting doesn’t look stable. Even the bowlers, who are usually strong, lose the plot in the middle or death overs.

Prediction: New Zealand look the least likely to qualify for the finals, but it is the World Cup, so who knows they might just beat everyone and win their first ever trophy on July 14