The first of the Cricket World Cup semifinals takes place at Old Trafford in Manchester on Tuesday.
It should be an intriguing contest too, with the batting firepower of India taking on the wily bowling unit of New Zealand.
But who will come out on top and book their place in Sunday’s final?
With seven wins from their eight completed matches in CWC ’19 so far, you can understand why the bookmakers are so sweet on India here at odds of -325.
New Zealand, meanwhile, will prefer the tag of underdog, and that is reflected in their odds of +260.
Bizarrely, one of the key battles that will help to determine the outcome of this semifinal will take place before a ball has been bowled, as Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson oversee the toss of the coin.
Sixteen of the last 20 games in the World Cup have been won by the team that bats first, while at Old Trafford the average first innings score is 323.40; that comes down significantly to 240.60 in the second innings.
Given how the two teams are batting, you sense that if India wins the toss and bats first, they will become an even heavier favorite than they are already. As for New Zealand, they would need to improve considerably to post a competitive first innings tally should they win the toss.
As is often the case in ODI cricket, the key battles here will take place early on in the respective innings. New Zealand must find a way to see off Jasprit Bumrah, the 17-wicket Indian who is ranked as the best in the business by the ICC. The problem is that the Kiwis’ main opening batsman, Martin Guptill, is hopelessly out of touch, and we don’t even know who will join him at the crease, such is the lack of form in the New Zealand ranks.
An early wicket could see Kane Williamson, their key man, exposed to the new ball too soon.
And then in the India innings, New Zealand must find a way to keep Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul quiet. That’s easier said than done, of course: in their last four combined innings, the pair have scored 395 runs!
If the Kiwis can somehow winkle one of those two out, to the wicket will come Virat Kohli, the best batsman on the planet. There truly is no rest for the wicked.
If New Zealand can win the toss and bat first here, they have an outside chance of posting a winning total – but they will need to improve considerably on their most recent showings, having lost three on the bounce.
India is cool, calm and collected, and why not? They have two of the most in-form opening batsmen in the tournament, Kohli to follow them and in Bumrah the most gifted seamer in the game.
It’s hard to see anything other than an India victory here.
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ICC World Cup News
Odds Shark Staff Thu, Feb 17, 9:14amICC World Cup