MANCHESTER: Two-time champions India face 2015 runners-up New Zealand today in the first World Cup semi-final in Manchester. India topped the group stage with seven wins from nine matches, while New Zealand limped into the last four after three successive defeats. Here, AFP Sport looks at three key battles in the knockout match at Old Trafford:
Kohli v Williamson – Lead thy way
There will be a sense of deja vu for India’s Virat Kohli and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, who were captains of their sides when India and New Zealand met in the 2008 Under-19 World Cup semi-finals. Kohli’s India won the game and went on to clinch the title at Kuala Lumpur and Williamson would dearly love to avenge that loss when they meet again for much higher stakes today. Kohli has led India into the last four with five half-centuries and is two wins away from what could be his first World Cup triumph as captain of the senior side. Williamson has also been inspirational for New Zealand, with two masterclass centuries and a fifty as his team return to the semi-finals four years after losing the title match against Australia. His elegant batting and shrewd brain make for a deadly combination for the Kiwis, who are bidding to cause an upset against India at Old Trafford.
Sharma v Guptill – opening charge
Rohit Sharma is in the form of his life after hitting a record five centuries in a single edition of the World Cup to lead the tournament’s batting charts with 647 runs. Sharma comes in to the semi-finals fuelled by three successive centuries – 102, 104, 103 – and two opening stands with KL Rahul of over 180. But can he continue his blazing run on the big stage? Martin Guptill’s form has been in sharp contrast with that of Sharma as the Kiwi opener managed just 166 runs from his eight outings. The Black Caps will be hoping for a change of fortune for Guptill, who was in smashing form in the last World Cup when he hit the tournament’s best ever individual score of 237 not out against West Indies.
Bumrah v Boult – Pace wars
Yorker king Jasprit Bumrah has led the Indian pace attack with speed and accuracy and remains key to the team’s chances against New Zealand. Bumrah has claimed 17 wickets in eight matches and has stifled the flow of runs for opposition batsmen with his ability to consistently bowl yorkers in the death overs. He is ably supported by fellow fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But New Zealand can also boast significant firepower in their pace attack with left-arm quick Trent Boult leading the way. With his ability to move the ball both ways, Boult is a threat to India’s famed batting line-up and claimed 15 wickets from eight group-stage games. His 4-30 against West Indies on June 22 at Old Trafford was one of the best spells of fast bowling in this edition of the World Cup, while he also claimed a hat-trick against Australia.- AFP