Cricket World Cup semifinals: five players to watch
Aussies have a fired-up David Warner and and speed-king Mitchell Starc
Manchester — Defending champions Australia will take on England while India are gearing up to face New Zealand in the World Cup semifinals.
Here are five players to watch in the last four.
• David Warner has come back even stronger after a ball-tampering ban and has been unfazed by the hostile reception he has received from English crowds along with teammate Steve Smith.
Warner scored an efficient 89 not out in his first international outing after his one-year suspension to lead Australia to an opening World Cup win against Afghanistan.
That was just the launchpad for the left-handed opener’s prolific run-scoring in the league phase as he hit three hundreds, including a dominant 166 against Bangladesh. Warner, buoyed further by the birth of his third child in London, will be a feared man in the knockouts, with his ability to take the game away from opponents in the blink of an eye.
• Mitchell Starc has rattled opposition batsmen with speed and accuracy, taking 26 scalps in nine league matches to lead the bowlers’ chart by some distance. Likened to Pakistan bowling great Wasim Akram, the left-arm quick returned figures of 5/26 in his team’s rout of New Zealand.
His inswinging yorker that bowled England batsman Ben Stokes left many in awe, with fans dubbing it the “ball of the tournament”. Former England captain Graham Gooch hailed him as a “match-winning bowler” after his four wickets in the win against England, which confirmed Australia’s place in the semifinals.
• New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has led from the front, hitting two hundreds for the 2015 World Cup finalists. Williamson’s old-school batting style and elegant strokeplay makes him stand out in an era of muscular big-hitting.
The skipper, who averages more than 47 in 147 ODIs, made his highest ODI score of 148 against West Indies and was labelled a “genius” by former England captain Michael Vaughan.
Williamson has the tough task of lifting the Black Caps after three consecutive defeats but he has the grit and skill to make a difference.
• “He likes a bit of fire in his belly” is how England skipper Eoin Morgan described Jonny Bairstow after the opener struck a crucial match-winning century against India at Edgbaston.
Former captain Michael Vaughan had had dig at Bairstow on social media after the batsman said people were waiting for England to fail at the World Cup following their stumbles. But Bairstow channelled his anger to spectacular effect, adding another ton against New Zealand as England made it safely through.
He looked like a man on mission when he tamed New Zealand pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee and Australia will not feel comfortable until he is out of the way.
• Rohit Sharma has stood out even in an Indian batting top order that features skipper Virat Kohli as the undoubted alpha male.
The opening batsman, known as the “hitman”, has struck five centuries at the World Cup to drive his team’s campaign for their third title. Sharma, whose range of strokes combined with his ability to score quickly makes him so dangerous, tops the World Cup batting chart with 647 runs from eight league games at a startling average of more than 92.
Sharma, the only batsman to have scored three one-day international double centuries, is a man on a mission and he will take some stopping.
Listen to the latest episode of the SportsLIVE PODCAST