Eight down, four to go. With the Super 12 Stage now over in the T20 World Cup, we know our four semi-finalists and who will play who. The semi-final line-up features four of the Top 5 in the pre-tournament betting.
Curiously, the favourites going into the tournament were India, who as we know, were knocked out of the tournament by virtue of losing their first two games.
Group 2 rivals Pakistan won all their games and New Zealand only lost to Pakistan and crucially, beat India. There were no favours from the likes of Afghanistan when it came to robbing either of those two of valuable points.
A bowling attack of Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali is top drawer. It’s why they won their first three games so comfortably and what got them over the line against Sri Lanka in a tight chase. Liam Livingstone, a part-time spinner, can also be dangerous on his day.
The English T20 team is packed with big-hitters. All of their batsmen are hitters rather than accumulators so if they’re struggling to set or chase a big total they’re never out of it, because there’s always one more six-hitter coming in who can turn the game on its head.
They’ve already lost fast bowler Tymal Mills to injury and it’s now looking like they’ll be without Jason Roy for the remainder of the tournament after he picked up a bad injury against South Africa.
The easy choice is to bring in James Vince. He can open himself or they can open with Jonny Bairstow or Dawid Malan and bat Vince at three.
Mark Wood looked extremely rusty after he recovered from injury and came in for Mills. He conceded 47 runs off four overs against South Africa without taking a wicket, although the Proteas batted extremely well against him.
But they may not have a choice but to play Wood.
Key Man: Jos Buttler
The opener and keeper is second on the run-scorer charts with 240 runs, which included a century and a 71.
He’s hit 23 sixes so far, joining-most alongside Sri Lanka’s Assalanka. They’ll need a big contribution from him in the semi (and final, if they make it that far) because the middle-order isn’t in great form.
Pakistan to win the T20 World Cup
BEST ODDS: 3.8 with Betway
In Shaheen Shah Afridi (left arm pace), Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf (right arm pace), Imad Wasim (left-arm spin) and Shadab Khan (right arm spin) Pakistan have not only real class, but real variety.
In Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, they have the most prolific opening partnership of the tournament, while Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali have all played quickfire cameos at one stage or another.
Fielding has improved significantly over the last few years and they look a happy and settled bunch under skipper Babar Azam.
At times Rizwan and Azam have been a bit too slow at the beginning of the innings. Most of the time they accelerate and make up for it but if they’re batting first on a good pitch where they have to set 180+ or are chasing a big score, they can’t afford to be going at just over a run a ball.
No one coming in later than six has had much of a bat so far because the top and middle-order has scored all the runs.
If the likes of Shadab or Wasim need to get some quick runs, they may be a little rusty.
Key Man: Babar Azam
Not the most original choice but the World Cup’s leading run-scorer really is that good.
If he plays one of his sensible innings of getting to 50-odd or more at better than a run-a-ball, they should win their semi-final.
Zampa has taken 11 wickets and is going at just 5.73 an over, Hazlewood has eight and an economy rate of 6.87. By his standards, Mitchell Starc has been a bit expensive (7.89 runs an over), but seven wickets in five games has still been a valuable contribution.
The form of David Warner has been a huge boost to the team. Many thought he shouldn’t even have been in the side after poor form over the last two years but he’s proven everyone (except the Australian selectors) wrong.
He’s hit scores of 65 and 89 to go with a couple of more modest ones and is striking at a hugely impressive 144.
They may be a bit vulnerable when it comes to their fifth bowler. They’ll need to find at least four overs from Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Mitch Marsh. Not only have those three not bowled much, but they haven’t bowled particularly well.
One option is to bring in specialist spinner Ashton Agar, but that would mean sacrificing a batsman for him to come in.
They have a poor record in this tournament with only one final to date. Which they lost. History is against them.
Key Man: Adam Zampa
As wickets get more used, the spinners become even more important.
If Zampa can take say 2-24 from his four overs, they’ll have every chance. Australia will not have made the most of their trump card if the opposition batsmen go after him, smash him around, and win that battle.
New Zealand to win the T20 World Cup
BEST ODDS: 5.0 with Betway
Tim Southee (7), Trent Boult (11) and Ish Sodhi (8) have taken 26 wickets between them. You’re not going to lose many games when your three key bowlers are constantly taking wickets and breaking partnerships.
The following may sound like a small thing, but it’s not.
New Zealand have probably been the best fielding side in the tournament. Saving runs and more importantly, taking almost all your catches…wins matches.
On such things are games won or lost and there’s no-one in the side who’s a poor fielder, while the likes of Williamson, Guptill and Boult are among the best around.
There’s a suspicion that New Zealand are suited to winning low-scoring games but could struggle in high-scoring ones because they lack the sort of big hitters that England have.
If they’re three or four wickets down, they may not find the boundary often enough to get them over the line.
They’ve only used five bowlers a game so far and one of them is Jimmy Neesham. If one of the bowlers has an off-day, Williamson won’t have anyone else to turn to.
Key Man: Trent Boult
A left-arm pace bowler who can dismiss openers and then come back and be economical in the death overs is worth his weight in gold.
That’s what Boult has been doing and a big reason why New Zealand have won four in a row.
His four overs will be crucial to his team’s success.
Verdict: Go with New Zealand @ 5.0 with Betway
The obvious thing to happen is that England and Pakistan meet in the final and if that’s the case, it’s pretty much a coin toss as to who could win that. They have after all been the two best sides in the tournament and by virtue of winning their groups, they avoid each other in the semis.
But sometimes it pays to look beyond the obvious. We’ve discussed New Zealand’s trio of bowlers, the quality of their fielding and to that we can add the exceptional captaincy of Kane Williamson.
They don’t necessarily have the harder of the two semi-finals (against England) because there’s not much to choose between them and Pakistan.
If the toss goes their way and they chase, they’ll almost be favourites right there. As the biggest-priced of the four, you might as well go with them.