The league stage of the 2019 World Cup was a thriller as the fight to qualify for the knockouts went down to the wire. While India and Australia booked their tickets to the semi-finals well in advance, the others had to fight harder to book their berths for the knockouts.
In the last week of the league phase, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh were all in contention for the last two spots. Bangladesh was eliminated from the tournament after a defeat against India. England won their last two matches to qualify for the knockouts and they effectively eliminated Pakistan in the process.
Even in the last day of the league phase, the final placings were left to be decided. India registered a convincing win over Sri Lanka, to finish at the top of the standings, while Australia's loss against South Africa placed them at second place. Now let us look at the chances of the four semi-finalists of winning the World Cup.
#4 New Zealand
The Kiwis were fortunate to get some easy fixtures early in the tournament. The Black Caps won five of their first six games, while their match against India was abandoned due to rain. New Zealand seemed certain to qualify for the knockouts as they had collected 11 points in the first six matches.
Then Kane Williamson's men lost three matches in a row against Pakistan, Australia, and England to find themselves in trouble. Eventually, they were able to qualify to knockouts, thanks to their superior net run rate over Pakistan. The 2015 runners-up seemed to have lost both form and momentum ahead of the semi-finals which can hurt their chances of winning the tournament.
They finished fourth in the group stage, which means that they would have to face in-form India now. The odds are heavily stacked against Kiwis but they do have some match-winners in the form of Williamson and Trent Boult, who can make the difference on any given day.
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After a slow start to the tournament, the defending champions improved as the tournament went on. The five-time world champions looked certain to top the league stage and seemed to be the favourites to win the tournament. Just when the Aussies looked unstoppable, their campaign hit a roadblock as they were hit with injuries.
Shaun Marsh was ruled out of the tournament and Peter Handscomb was called as a replacement for the left-hander. Australian coach Justin Langer confirmed yet another injury blow as Usman Khawaja has been ruled out of the tournament as well.
Marcus Stoinis also suffered a side strain which puts the participation of the all-rounder in doubt. Australia lost their final league match against South Africa, which meant they have to face England instead of New Zealand. Having said that, the form of Mitchell Starc and the openers make Australia a huge threat for any opposition. Australia can also derive confidence from their win over England in the group stages.
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England is world No.1 ranked ODI side, so it was regarded as the pre-tournament favourite. The hosts got off to a great start as they accumulated eight points in the first five matches of the tournament. Two consecutive defeats in a row made it difficult for them to even qualify for the semi-finals, let alone win the World Cup.
The comeback of Jason Roy has restored the balance to the English batting line up. The opening pair of Roy and Jonny Bairstow played a big role in England's wins against India and New Zealand. England won the last two matches to qualify for the knockouts and book themselves a fixture with Australia on 11th July.
After a bit of a stutter in the middle of the tournament, England have regained momentum ahead of the semi-finals by beating India and New Zealand. The hosts have arguably got the best batting line up in the World Cup, which earns them this position in our rankings.
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India seems to be the most balanced team in the tournament as they are blessed with a great batting and bowling line up. The two-time world champions always looked certain to qualify for the semi-finals, not losing a game in the first six matches.
The Men in Blue hit their first roadblock when suffered a defeat against England in the seventh match of the league stage. However, Virat Kohli's men got back to the winning ways by registering convincing wins in the last two matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Rohit Sharma was the star of the league stage as the right-handed batsman scored five centuries. The form of top-order and the bowling line-up has made India the team to beat in the tournament. Kohli's men do have a chink in the armour in the form of the unsettled middle-order, and the other teams must try to exploit this weakness.
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