After a group stage packed with boundaries, wickets, upsets and thrilling finishes, the T20 Cricket World Cup enters the semifinal stage on Wednesday. We take a look at the four remaining sides.
Despite the unpredictable nature of cricket’s shortest format and a tournament that has seen its fair share of shocks (Afghanistan’s momentous win over West Indies) and crazy games (Bangladesh’s late capitulation against India) the 2016 T20 World Cup semifinals will be contested by four of the top five ranked nations.
New Zealand play England on Wednesday then India play the West Indies on Thursday. Here’s what you need to know about all four.
The only unbeaten side in a competition that has never seen an unbeaten champion, the Black Caps looked to have started the tournament poorly, limping to 126-7 in their opener against the hosts. But a stunning bowling performance led by Mitchell Santner (4-11) blitzed India for 79 and set the tone for further wins over Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Although they have good short-form pedigree, New Zealand are the only one of the remaining teams that haven’t lifted the T20 World Cup. Despite strong performances from opener Martin Guptil and the class of captain Kane Williamson, their main strength is with the ball. Santner and Mitchell McClenaghan have been excellent so far and their adaptability in playing three spinners in some games has been a pleasant surprise.
Key Man: Santner will have a say and spinner Ish Sodhi will trouble an England side still somewhat suspicious of slow bowling, but Kane Williamson is the side’s best player and remains crucial to their chances.
The 2010 champions were on the brink after a game and a half of this tournament. A defeat to a Chris Gayle-inspired West Indies side was followed by a shabby bowling performance in the second game as South Africa scored 229-4. A few hours later, some brutal Jason Roy hitting and a beautifully timed 83 from Joe Root carried England to a last over win and crucially gained them the momentum that took them to wins over Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
In Root, Roy, Alex Hales and Joss Buttler, England have a hugely powerful and deep batting line-up but concerns still exist over their bowling department. David Willey, Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes have improved in the tournament after a shaky start, while the introduction of Liam Plunkett came just in time. But Sri Lanka’s destruction of spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali will have worried more than a few England fans.
Key man: Root is an exceptional player in all formats but Joss Buttler is the man who can really take games away from England’s opponents.
In the glow of Virat Kohli’s match-winning 82 against Australia in the do-or-die group game between the sides on Sunday it was easy to briefly forget how close India came to exiting their own competition just four days earlier. Bangladesh, needing just two from the last three balls, contrived to lose three wickets and the match.
Despite the excellent demonstration of death bowling from Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya in the final two overs of that match, there are still question marks over the Indian attack. Pandya has gone at 10 an over in this tournament and star man Ravi Ashwin hasn’t been at his best. With or without injury doubt Yuvraj Singh, this is a side with great experience, momentum, a home crowd and an exceptional batting line-up. They’ll take some stopping.
Key man: Despite Bumrah’s yorkers and Dhoni’s calmness under pressure, there’s no looking past Virat Kohli. Recently re-installed as the world’s top ranked T20 batsman, his 184 tournament runs are more than double the next Indian players’ total (Dhoni, 74).
At the other end of the momentum scale are the West Indies. The 2012 winners started in spectacular fashion, with Chris Gayle’s unbeaten 100 taking them to victory over England, before they cruised past Sri Lanka and edged past South Africa. But a shock loss to Afghanistan in Nagpur on Sunday may have taken the wind out of their sails. Although they still won Group 1, captain Darren Sammy wasn’t happy about his side losing their 100 percent record.
Gayle aside, this isn’t a team of superstars. The experience and talent of players like Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and spinners Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn does make the West Indies a tough nut to crack, though.
Key man: It has to be Chris Gayle. The big opener can be a controversial figure at times and has fallen foul of his own country’s cricket board in the past, but the fact he’s the only man to score a century in the Super 10 stages of the tournament tells its own story.