MANCHESTER: After weeks of close encounters and edge of the seat thrillers, India will take on New Zealand in the first semi-final of the World Cup at Old Trafford in Manchester today.
Today’s contest will be a repeat of the semi-finals of the 2008 ICC Under-19 World Cup in which a Virat Kohli-led India defeated a Kane Williamson-captained New Zealand in Kuala Lumpur.
India, whose group match against 2015 runners-up New Zealand was washed out, have suffered just one defeat at this World Cup so far, against England, and ended on top of the 10-team group stage, making them strong favourites to beat the Black Caps.
The Kiwis who were deemed favourites at the start of the tournament kicked off their World Cup campaign on a high, but suffered defeats and only qualified for the semi-finals in fourth place on the basis of net run-rate. They lost their last three games — against Pakistan, holders Australia and England.
For New Zealand, skipper Williamson has been in fine form, making match-winning hundreds against South Africa and the West Indies.
But the rest of the top order have had a largely forgettable World Cup, with the Black Caps losing 13 wickets in the powerplay at just 23.38 each — the worst record in the competition.
Williamson’s 481 tournament runs represent nearly 29 per cent of New Zealand’s total at this World Cup.
On the other hand, India’s success at this World Cup has been built on the heavy scoring of a Rohit Sharma-led batting top order.
Sharma became the first batsman to score five centuries in a single World Cup when he made 103 in a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka at Headingley on Saturday, while fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been the spearhead of a well-balanced bowling attack.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli is also renowned for relishing the big occasion.
But if New Zealand, whose attack is set to feature experienced left-arm quick Trent Boult and fit-again fast bowler Lockie Ferguson — can find a way through India’s top three, they could expose a lengthy tail.
The match between India and New Zealand will start at 2:30pm Pakistan Standard Time.