Sun, 21 Jul 2019

West Indies grasping at elusive semi-final spot

ESPN
17 Jun 2019, 04:52 GMT+10

The big three seem to have already pre ordered their semi-final births. And so many see the rest of the round robin as a chance for one more team to slip into fourth. Most believe New Zealand is the most obvious team for that. New Zealand have won three games, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and their biggest challenge should've been India, but that game was abandoned because of rain. This means New Zealand are unbeaten after four games with seven points.

West Indies have played four games, accruing three points, but they've played Australia and England, had a washout against South Africa, and destroyed Pakistan.

Within the camp, West Indies are looking at their final five games as the easier part of the draw. While many may have written them off after a poor show against England, they still really believe they are a chance for that final semi-final spot.

When asked about this, Jason Holder diplomatically said, "Interesting you said easy teams. I don't feel any of the teams are easy, but we may - at this present time with five games left, I think the ball's in our court, we've just got to be consistent. We've got to play some consistent cricket going into the back half of this tournament."

There is no doubt when you look at the fixtures for the two teams, New Zealand have had a dream run, and West Indies have been unlucky. They ended up playing England on the tournament's biggest playing surface - helping their opposition. Then they lost the toss and batted first when it was the only time that bowlers would get any help. Against South Africa, they had them 29 for 2 when the rain came, and on South Africa's recent form, you'd have expected them to struggle from there. And West Indies bounced out Australia's top order, before allowing Steven Smith to put on a competitive total, and being Mitchell Starc-ed after a good start in their chase.

That West Indies beat England twice at home, and competed with Australia so well in this tournament, it's clear this is a quality team. But at the moment they find themselves four points behind New Zealand, and equal with their opponents for their next game, Bangladesh.

With Bangladesh beating West Indies seven of the last nine meetings, it's not an ideal must-win match. While it's not uncommon for teams to have good records against the West Indies of recent times, this will give a confident Bangladesh more belief. They are also use to playing with them in the BPL, so they won't be star struck by the bigger names, as they've been their team mates. Mashrafe Mortaza talked about the recent record of Bangladesh against West Indies, "So we take it positively that, as we said, the matchup, I think our bowling has been fantastic against them last two, three series we played against them. So I think we have to take this positive stuff and the ground and do our best."

West Indies also have question marks over their most important player, Andre Russell.

They still seem wedded to Russell, who they appear to believe is the key to them winning this tournament. But he's not completed 10 overs in a match and has spent as much time limping from the field as bowling on it. Holder said, "We're keeping him in cotton wool until tomorrow. I saw him yesterday. Saw him this morning as well, and he's progressing quite nicely yes, you know. We'll have a final answer with him tomorrow morning."

But Taunton is a small town, you wonder if there is enough cotton wool to protect Russell's glass knees. He didn't train on Sunday, and he trained extensively before the England game - which he played in.

With or without Russell, West Indies seem one batsman short. And that means batsman, not hitter. Nicholas Pooran's been excellent in this World Cup, but he has never made a professional hundred, and he's batting at four. No other team in this tournament is taking such a risk in their top four. On a green-looking Taunton wicket, the lack of batting smarts that affected them at Southampton might come into play again. The first batsmen in the nets today was Darren Bravo. His experience and skill could be important for this game.

And if they don't beat Bangladesh, their hopes of a semi-final spot are virtually gone.

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