Seddon Park, Hamilton
India remain one of the two unbeaten teams in this World Cup, after winning their first 4 games on the trot—including the three ‘big’ ones against Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies. New Zealand is the other unbeaten team, and both these heavyweights look good to win all their 6 group games and top their respective pools.
India take on Ireland—the dark horses of the tournament—in their first game in New Zealand. Ireland have won 3 out of their 4 games impressively, losing to South Africa, and are yet to face Pakistan. That final match against Pakistan could define their tournament—and could determine whether West Indies stay in it or not.
On a roll. The form book looks good—8 World Cup games on the trot, and a good hard-fought win against West Indies. The defending champs are not rolling over this time, and have sent out a strong message to Australia and New Zealand, the other two favorites expected to reach the final. However, India have played all their games in Australia so far, where they’ve been for 3 months already. The Ireland game will be their first in New Zealand—traditionally conditions that always worry the Indians. There will be bounce, swing and a fair amount of pace, and only New Zealand look unbeatable in these conditions. Rohit Sharma, after 3 failures, will be looking to fire finally. Dhoni came good with the bat finally, and the middle order of Rahane and Raina will be looking to get some time in the middle too. Ireland are no pushovers, and they are arguably a stronger and more spirited ODI team than West Indies, and look good to make it to the next stage if they manage to run both their India and Pakistan games close enough.
Strengths: Who would have thought—the bowlers. Shami looks the best, Yadav is erratic but effective in spurts, and Ashwin looks back to his subcontinental best. Jadeja must pull his weight while batting though. Kohli and Sharma are due for big scores.
Yet another strong World Cup for the ‘minnows’. Ireland defeated West Indies easily in their first game, and have defeated UAE and Zimbabwe too. However, their massive loss against South Africa has affected their NRR, and with West Indies yet to play whipping boys UAW, Ireland must win either this game or their last against Pakistan to be assured of third place. Otherwise, they go out on NRR to an undeserving West Indian team. Talisman Ed Joyce is in hot form, as is Balbirnie—who narrowly missed out on a century against Zimbabwe. Cusack is their best bowler by a mile, and Kevin O’Brein hasn’t exactly set the stage alight with some weak death bowling in most games. Ireland play as a team, and it is hard to single out any one outstanding player.
Strengths: Undying spirit. It is hard to imagine a World Cup without this associate team anymore. In 2007, they defeated Pakistan. In 2011, they defeated England, and now they have the scalp of West Indies to their name. Could they go one better here and prove they really belong? Whether they do or not, they’re showing more experienced teams like Bangladesh and West Indies that you just have to want it more.
Easy win for India, providing they don’t fall prey to their New Zealand pitch fears. Dhawan should be back in form in his favorite conditions.