The ongoing T20 World Cup has reached the semifinal stage as four teams out of the 12 in contention battle it out to claim the ultimate title in the shortest format of the game. With the elimination of pre-tournament favourites India in the knockout rounds, the contest is now wide open for the semifinalists to secure a berth in the finals and secure their legacy as the champions in the format. With England taking on dark horses New Zealand and Australia facing a formidable Pakistani side, the outcomes of the game are very hard to predict as all the teams are equally matched in their strengths and weaknesses.
With the semifinal leg of the T20 World Cup set to start tonight, here are the likely teams to forge ahead to the finals:
A shock loss to South Africa in the final match of the Super 12s might have derailed their perfect streak in the group stages of the tournament, but England remain a side to reckon with. The world’s top-ranked T20 side are a top-class team, led by a charismatic Eoin Morgan. England Cricket Board’s focus on white-ball cricket might have come at the cost of their traditional dominance in Tests, but it is delivering results where the board needs them the most. England have already won the Cricket World Cup in 2019 against the same team that they will face in the semis – winning in spectacular fashion in the finals. It will be the third successive semifinal that England have reached under the captaincy of Eoin Morgan – and the English captain would like to secure his legacy as one of their best captains by winning the cup.
While England’s starting XI is superior to New Zealand’s when statistics are compared, a spate of injuries haunt them going into the semifinals. The absence of opener Jason Roy will hurt them the most as most of England’s wins have come from his batting proficiency. His absence would mean the entry of an all-rounder in the fixture to make the team more balanced – something the team desperately needed against South Africa.
But it won’t be an easy path for England, especially as they go into the fixture with expectations. New Zealand, on the other hand, have been and remain the perennial underdog of world cricket – delivering results but staying out of the limelight until their time arrives. Kane Williamson’s men have been meticulous and calm throughout the Super 12 stage – barring a loss to Pakistan, they never looked like a side in trouble. With the strong English batting lineup coming up against an equally strong Kiwi bowling attack, there is still a very good chance for the Men in Black to surprise everyone as they did in the World Test Championship.
Whatever the outcome, the fixture is set to be a closely contested one – and of the two semifinals, the more enjoyable.
Australia barely managed to scrape through to the semifinals by securing a decisive victory over West Indies in their last game courtesy of a blitzkrieg from David Warner. But the hopes of Australians to reclaim their lost glory by winning the T20 World Cup might have to wait as they face an unexpected roadblock – the Pakistanis. Pakistan entered the tournament with scant expectations, overshadowed by the likes of India and England. But they have surprised everyone with the grit and determination they have shown in the Super 12 stages. A last-minute cancellation of tours by both New Zealand and England has hurt their pride deeply, and the Pakistanis are keen to answer their critics on the field.
Babar Azam’s men are the only team undefeated in the World Cup so far, and they have achieved the feat through a combination of individual brilliance and solid teamwork. Led from the front by their captain – who tallied together a whopping 264 runs in the tournament so far – their batsmen have been able to secure easy victories while chasing and posting formidable targets while batting first. Pakistan’s middle-order is yet to be tested thoroughly, and they have to navigate the spin of Adam Zampa in the middle overs.
Aaron Finch’s men possess one quality that Pakistan are yet to master – the ability to shine at the right moment under pressure. With the return to form of David Warner, their top-order looks top-class. With the presence of experienced Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell in the middle order, Australia have enough batting depth to counter the Pakistani bowlers. It is the Australian bowlers who have turned around the matches for Australia in the Super 12 fixtures, with the likes of Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc having the potential to cause a batting collapse.
There are only two outcomes from this fixture – either Pakistan continue their phenomenal form to claim a decisive victory, or they collapse under the pressure of Australian bowlers in the knockout rounds, as has been the case numerous times before.