CRICKET WORLD CUP: Sunday sees two of the games’ finest face off on the biggest stage and Gerard Browne is here to look ahead to what should be a cracking contest.
Two of the pre-tournament favourites clash at The Oval on Sunday in what promises to be a mouthwatering encounter. Both teams will be happy with their campaigns so far, even if its still only early days. Australia have recorded good wins over Afghanistan and the West Indies. India had only the sole outing so far, which was an impressive six wicket win over out of form South Africa. It is no surprise then that there is very little between these sides on the exchange. India are slight favourites, priced at 1.72, while you can back the Aussies at 2.1.
After 16.1 overs, Australia found themselves 79-5 against the West Indies. Victory didn’t look on the cards at that stage. An addition of 68 runs before the fall of their fourth wicket led the start of their recovery. They ended up being bowled out for 288 with one over remaining. A score they would’ve bitten your hand off for given their terrible start. In my preview to the West Indies game, I said Australia would expect more from Steve Smith and he didn’t disappoint, notching up 73 runs from 103 balls, but it was Nathan Coulter-Nile who turned out to be the hero. The man nicknamed “River” smashed 92 off just 60 balls. It was only in the last few overs of West Indies’ innings when Australia looked on course for victory. It really was in the balance for a long time. Mitchell Starc was a real leader, taking 5-46.
Given it was their first match vs South Africa, India will be very happy with both the result and their performance, and rightly so. They got off to a great start with the early dismissals of key South African players Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis. India were always likely to keep South Africa below 300 after that. A target of 228 was one that they would’ve been confident of reaching. India made hard work of their target however, as Virat Kolhi and MS Dhoni were both dismissed for low scores. India will be grateful Rohit Sharma stood up to the plate in their absence. He showed why he is one of the best around and finished on 122 not out to drive India over the line.
Even though heading into the last over vs West Indies, Australia had the game won, I found it strange that they let West Indies get fours at ease. One would wonder could this come back to haunt them if it comes down to NRR. If Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins (excellent in both games so far) perform like they did vs West Indies, the Aussies have a great chance of making it three from three. However, I can’t see Kolhi and Dhoni both having another quiet day. I think India are the team to bring Australia’s unbeaten run to an end.
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