Cricket World Cup 2023 Semi-Final Preview: Can anyone stop India?
14 November 2023
We have finally reached the semi-final stage of the 2023 cricket World Cup and even for the most ardent of cricket fans it has been a long tournament.
India have been the dominant side throughout this tournament and go into the semi-final stage as the only undefeated team. They take on New Zealand tomorrow in Mumbai, before South Africa play Australia on Thursday morning, all for a place in Sunday’s showpiece final.
India v New Zealand
Wednesday November 15, Wankhede Stadium (Mumbai), 8:30am start
Pressure on the hosts is incredibly high, anything short of lifting the trophy will be considered a failure. Into that pressure, walk a team who have plenty of experience in the semi-finals of major cricket tournaments. Of the last five white-ball (50 over and T20) World Cups India have reached the semi finals on four occasions and not got any further. Despite having an experienced side, only a few of the old guard have ever won a semi-final.
New Zealand are the exact opposite. The Black Caps have been to the last two 50 over World Cup finals, including beating India at the semi-final stage four years ago. That 2019 match was a classic. The rain-affected match in Manchester, needed a reserve day to be completed and was incredibly dramatic. New Zealand batted first setting only 239, but they quickly reduced India to 24/4 with their top three batters contributing a total of 3. The win was then sealed when Martin Guptill ran out Indian legend MS Dhoni with a direct hit with one stump to aim at.
Enough of four years ago, how about this tournament. When the two sides met on October 22nd, India came out on top. New Zealand batted first and set a slightly below par score of 273, thanks largely to 130 from Daryl Mitchell. Indian seamer Mohammed Shami took 5/34 and then Virat Kohli, the tournament’s leading run-scorer, mastered the chase making 95 off 104 balls before falling five short of the target.
I don’t think you can read too much into this, India have basically dominated everyone in this tournament and in the pressure cooker of a semi-final, I think things will be different.
The match is being played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, the spiritual home of Indian cricket. It was on this ground in 2011 that India won their last World Cup. The Wankhede is typically more suited to pace bowling than most Indian grounds and that has been the case so far in this tournament. We have some incredibly high-scoring matches and winning the toss and batting first has been a recipe for success, three of the four games to be played here have been won this way. Batting first has also been a good formula for winning World Cup semi-finals of the last four, three have been won in this way.
Local reporting suggests that the pitch is looking a bit different to the ones prepared for the group games, the ground staff could well be preparing a spinning pitch to suit India.
I can’t see India waltzing into a final, this New Zealand side are experienced campaigners who know how to win big games of cricket. If they win the toss and have a bat I think they have a really good chance. They need to put India under pressure early on. I could easily see the weight of Indian expectations, combined with a team who have fallen at this hurdle so many times really getting to them.
If New Zealand bat first, back them @ 3.7
Australia v South Africa
Thursday November 16, Eden Gardens (Kolkota), 8:30am start
If you thought India’s record in semi-finals was bad then wait until you hear South Africa’s. They have never reached a final of a World Cup despite having some of the best players and teams of all time. They have reached the semi-final stage on six occasions (including T20 World Cups) and have fallen twice to their opponents this time, Australia.
At the 1999 and 2007 editions of the tournament Australia emerged victorious in semi-finals over South Africa and on both occasions went on to win the tournament. The 1999 game was an absolute classic going down to the wire, but 2007 produced a comfortable win for the Aussies.
To draw a comparison to the world of football, Australia are Brazil. They have won the World Cup five times including three in a row from 1999 to 2007. They have also won the T20 World Cup once.
They have only fallen at the semi-final hurdle once, against England four years ago, and they have never lost a final.
Despite all that, the recent form looks less positive for the Aussies. As part of their warm-up for the tournament the two sides played each other in a five match series, South Africa coming out on top 3-2. Add in a group stage thumping and South Africa have won the last four matches against their opponents.
The two sides met very early in the tournament with South Africa posting 311/7 in their first innings, before a brilliant bowling performance saw them bowl the faltering Aussies out for just 177.
Australia have won five games in a row going into this one though with South Africa’s loss to India a couple of games ago being a blemish on their record. The Australian’s are yet to play at Eden Gardens in this tournament, but South Africa’s only visit was for their thrashing by India. Not exactly happy memories for them.
Like the Wankede, batting first has led to three of the four wins at Eden Gardens so far this tournament. But given the match-ups in these games, I wouldn’t read a massive amount into that.
They are both similar teams, so the type of wicket won’t have a massive impact on the game in my opinion. The toss could be crucial though, South Africa haven’t looked anywhere close to the same quality of team when they bat second.
This is a really tough game for me to call. My heart says South Africa, but my head says Australia. I think the Aussie winning DNA will come through when it really matters and deliver yet another final appearance for the Green and Gold.
Back Australia to win @ 1.8
14 November 2023