Mohammed Shami felt a palpable sense of pressure around him as he stood to bowl the second delivery. Despite Afghanistan being heavy underdogs, Mohammed Nabi had smashed the first ball of the final over for a boundary, with 12 runs to score in 5 balls. The match could have gone in anyone’s favour.
However, it was Shami’s day. The next ball went flying in the air, only to be comfortably caught by Hardik Pandya. What indeed left the crowd awestruck was the next two deliveries, perfectly aligned close to the stumps. Tail-enders Aftab Alam and Mujbeer Ur Rahman stood no chance playing those deliveries, which made Shami only the second Indian to take a hattrick in a World Cup match. The moment will perennially be remembered by fans and experts alike as one of the best moments for the Indian team in the history of the competition.
The Game’s Format
A significant change in the format of the tournament was the absence of teams being distributed in different pools altogether. The round-robin league format made a comeback after the 1992 edition, which meant that each team faced the other once, which accounted for a total of 45 matches to be played. The top four teams at the end of the group stage qualified for the knockout phase. This comparatively lessened the burden on the teams, for they could afford to lose some matches and still make it to the semi-finals. Earlier, a smaller pool of teams meant that each team played a lesser number of games, which meant that they had to get the maximum out of each game if they were to progress.
Nevertheless, a different format could not stop the drama that prevailed on the last day. Australia’s surprising defeat to the already eliminated South Africa meant that the group stage concluded with India at the top, which led to their ill-fated encounter with New Zealand, who themselves progressed only because had an unconquerable Net Run Rate (NRR). To maintain an impressive NRR, it was imperative for all teams to perform consistently well. Hence, while Pakistan and New Zealand were level on the points table, it was virtually impossible for Pakistan to eclipse the latter’s NRR.
Rain: The Villain of the Tournament
The incessant England weather has played a spoilsport in many of the matches throughout the World Cup—with four of them being completely abandoned. The highly anticipated India-New Zealand game was called off without even a ball bowled. The other three matches washed out were— Sri Lanka-Pakistan, West Indies-South Africa, and Bangladesh-Sri Lanka. The weather was persistent enough to impact many other games, including the first semi-final between India and New Zealand. This tryst with England’s weather had made this tournament history’s “Wettest World Cup” and raised plenty of questions.
This is the fifth time that the British soil has hosted the World Cup tournament. Apart from this, it has also hosted 2009 Twenty20 cricket World Cup, and two ICC Champions Trophy tournaments in 2013 and 2017. All these were held in the month of June, which only had light showers, with no game abandoned. But the recent decade has seen a wide range of matches in different tournaments resulting in a draw or requiring the Duckworth-Lewis (DLS) method. The reactions to the washed-out events have drawn heavy criticisms of the International Cricket Council (ICC) for holding the tournament in England despite the unpleasant weather conditions.
“Four matches have been rained off; eight teams are affected; if a team gets affected twice, then it puts a lot of pressure on them,”
Ehsan Mani (Former ICC chairman)
The ICC had been accused of being “greedy” and acting on their lucrative interests with the scheduling procedures. The ICC had also scrapped out the reserve day policy, which allowed the re-scheduling of the matches affected by poor weather. This decision also faced a lot of criticism, as almost all the teams were marred by the rains, with each getting a single point from the game. The ICC defended the no-reserve-day decision and blamed the disruptions on “extremely unseasonable weather” and the long length of the tournament. Nonetheless, the cricket lovers and personalities came out with heavy disapprovals towards the organisers.
“ We put men on the moon, so why can’t we have a reserve day, when actually this tournament is a long tournament?”
Steve Rhodes (Bangladesh Coach)
The Rise of the Underdogs
To be among the ten teams playing in the ICC World Cup is a feat in its own. An underdog is a team which has a bleak chance of winning any match, let alone qualifying for semifinals. With the least experience, Afghanistan has been long held as the underdogs of the tournament. Though they never made it to the semi-finals, they have shown a significant stance against the big names like Australia, India, England, South Africa, and many more.
Rising from the refugee camps, Afghanistan has been through a long journey of hardships to make a name for themselves in the cricketing world. Despite losing all of its matches, the team had put up a robust and commendable fight. An example could be seen in the game against India, where they brought down the opposition to a meagre score, falling only 11 runs short. They have shown their bowling prowess in many matches, and are sure to exceed from here.
Bangladesh has steadily risen the ladder of professional cricket in past years. They have defeated all the teams in test cricket, a rather difficult feat to achieve. This Asian side has beaten many teams in the World Cup and fought bravely against the bigger ones. Though the team may not have performed their best in this tournament, they will continue to grow and emerge as one of the leading cricket teams in the future.
New Zealand beats all odds
The first semi-final was played between India and New Zealand at the Old Trafford turf—with the latter emerging as winners. The match was inevitably interrupted by rain, and hence the second half was postponed to the day later. The Kiwis defended their below-par score of 239 runs, with Matt Henry and Trent Boult dismissing the top 3 of the Indian batting line-up with only five runs on board. With the top three gone, the other batsmen struggled to battle the odds. Ravindra Jadeja was phenomenal with his 77 runs innings, and along with MS Dhoni, who scored a half-century, both made an extraordinary partnership of 100+ runs. But this fell short, as the batsmen succumbed to the brilliant bowling and fielding by the Kiwis. New Zealand is now set to face England in the finals on 14 July. The team is looking forward to beating all the odds and will try to lift the cup for the first time.
England: 27 years later, still a step away from glory
Eoin Morgan has led his team to touching distance of winning the most prestigious prize in cricket. This certainly is a complete overhaul from 2015, which had to be one of the worst performances England delivered on the centre stage. Not only were they eliminated in the group stage, but they only managed to secure two wins.
They were successfully able to silence their critics, even at a point where they were on the brink of being eliminated, but have bounced back with some scintillating performances on the pitch. England possesses some of the most destructive batsmen in white-ball cricket. (most teams could virtually do anything to have Johnny Bairstow and Jos Buttler in the same team, let alone them playing with Jason Roy and Ben Stokes)
But even their balling attack has done wonders for them. The speed and bounce with which 22-year-old Joffrey Archer delivers always take them by surprise. (When a ball can go for a six after hitting the stumps, one can imagine the pace cranked by Archer) The destructive speed of Archer is complimented by spinner Adil Rashid, and by Liam Plunkett, who can pull strings in the middle overs. Morgan has the chance of christening himself into history books, for being the only English captain to lift the trophy at the legendary Lord’s Cricket Ground, which is regarded by many players and analysts alike as the home of cricket.
India: Brilliant, but just not enough
India was hot favourites to become only the second nation after Australia, to win the World Cup for the third time. Led by Virat Kohli, one of the greatest batsmen to ever grace the pitch, India had a once-in-a-generation lineup. The destructive Jasprit Bumrah was the jewel of the crown, with his consistent yorkers demolished the best of batsmen. With Bumrah, India’s pace attack was accentuated by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, with the latter becoming the second Indian bowler to take a hattrick in a World Cup match. Except for the outing against England, the Indian spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, made their presence known.
But perhaps, the face of the Indian team in the 2019 Cricket World Cup has to be Rohit Sharma; whose five centuries has outshone the presence of Virat Kohli. It was this hitherto impenetrable top order that New Zealand was to dismantle, which led the vulnerable middle-order exposed to a lot more pressure than they anticipated in a match where they needed 240 runs to win. India played with a batting order which went down to the tail, and the performances of young guns such as Rishabh Pant and all-rounder Hardik Pandya showed that the future looks bright for the team, especially after rumours surfacing the retirement of wicketkeeper and master finisher M.S. Dhoni.
India had everything that a World Cup winning side needed, but they couldn’t make up for the collapse of its top-order and the increasing run-rate against a New Zealand side which went into the game losing its previous three matches.
This year’s World Cup has seen a lot of faces—the inclement weather, the triumph of the weaker teams, and some record-breaking batting and bowling performances. We also saw how the bottom two qualified nations bet the top two and emerged as finalists, a rather rare feat in the history of the championship. This time we will witness a new face of the World Cup titleholders since both of the finalists have never won this prestigious tournament.
Nonetheless, all the teams have shown an immaculate essence of the sporting spirit and hard work, which is the ethos of the game.
We give all our best wishes to the two finalists and may the showers don’t spoil the game and the best team triumphs.
— Written by Alankriti Singh and Rishi Kant for MTTN
— Featured Image by Shraddha Jathan
—Images Source: Google Images