The World Cup started on an anticipated note as the dominance of the top-four teams remained unchallenged – until a few unforeseen results and England’s recent failures have kept Pakistan & Bangladesh in the reckoning for a semi-final berth
The 32-year-old left-handed batsman, back in the Australian side after serving a year-long ban in connection with a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year, is the top run-getter so far in the World Cup. With two centuries and three half-centuries, he leads the batting chart with 500 runs – becoming the third Australian to achieve this feat of 500. What's more prominent is the fact that Warner has not been playing his usual attacking game but is rather assessing the conditions to build long innings. Former Australian opener, Michael Slater, said that Warner has become more of a thinking cricketer. Once settled, he goes on to make big daddy hundreds and this new version of Warner is Australia's key to retain cricket's ultimate prize.
SHAKIB AL HASAN
There was no doubt about Shakib's abilities as an international all-rounder but in this World Cup, he has established himself as one of the greatest to play the sport and probably the greatest cricketer from Bangladesh. So far, he has scored 476 runs, 24 runs behind David Warner with one less match. He also has 10 wickets to his credit. Shakib is only the second player in World Cup history to take five wickets and hit a 50 in the same match – the first was accomplished by India's Yuvraj Singh against Ireland in 2011. Shakib Al Hasan's fine form has been one of the major contributors to Bangladesh's impressive performance in this World Cup. The top-ranked all-rounder has become the first player to score 400 runs and pick up 10 wickets in a single edition of the quadrennial cricket tournament. He, along with Mushfiqur Rahim, are the prime factors mathematically driving Bangladesh's semi-final hopes – something that looked improbable even a week ago.
Slinga Malinga became the second Sri Lankan after Muralitharan to pick 50-plus wickets in World Cup history after picking up a 4-fer against England. Defending a paltry total of 232, Malinga gave Sri Lanka a perfect start by removing Jonny Bairstow and James Vince early. Later, the slinger paceman took out the well-set Joe Root and then with the scalp of Jos Buttler. Malinga's heroics ensured that Sri Lankan hopes of a semi-final berth remained alive – until a rejuvenated South Africa produced a clinical performance to knock them out of the title race. Neither Amla nor de Plessis could get on top of him in his second spell, each delivery honing in at them, giving neither player room to free their arms. Malinga missed his length with maybe one attempted yorker but otherwise, his accuracy was relentless. A master was taming a master. Though the scalps would not justify how he bowled, the Lankans failed as a unit.
Jofra Archer was left out of the West Indies squad for the 2014 Under-19 World Cup despite having already shone for the age-group. He wanted to play for West Indies but later, on being excluded, it just became a matter of playing international cricket. Last November, the England Cricket Board reduced the residency rule from seven years to three and Archer suddenly came into contention for the World Cup. Archer was not included in England's preliminary squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Former England cricketer, Andrew Flintoff, said that he would drop "anyone" from the squad to include Archer. Once the favourite, England is now in a state of bother with two must-win games against India and New Zealand, before advancing to the semis. The inconsistency of English batters who have been performing in patches has led to this bitter state. Jofra Archer on the other hand, is a shining star by his own accord. With effortless pace, Archer has skittled his opposition consistently and so far, is the second-highest wicket taker of the tournament with 16 wickets. His pace and line make him lethal both with the new ball as well as in the death overs.
With just one win from six games, the Proteas have been knocked out of the tournament without putting up much of a fight. Their only victory came against minnows, Afghanistan. According to Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada is the best South African fast bowler ever. Around 180 Test wickets at the age of 24 stands as a testimony. Rabada was expected to perform, given his form in the recently concluded Indian premier League. But, he has been one of South Africa's biggest World Cup disappointments. He has taken just six wickets at an average of 50.83. The problem for him could be that he is over-bowled. Had he skipped IPL, he could have had a greater impact on South Africa's fate in the multi-team event. Against Sri Lanka, Rabada was back at the top of his game, but, by then, South Africa was just looking to bow down on a high.
Earlier, there was a lot of discussion on Chris Gayle's prolific run going into the marque tournament. On the contrary, the self-anointed Universe Boss has been looking to score desperately but five outings have accumulated just 113 runs. The swashbuckling left-hander from Jamaica has held the key to how West Indies performs in major tournaments for two reasons. First, his experience is inevitable and second, a brisk start from Gayle would put down the shoulders of any opposition. But nothing as such has happened for him since their opening game with Pakistan when he smashed a half-century off 33 balls. West Indies's fate too has been identical to that of Gayle's – started on a high and since then, it has all been a downward slope. The Caribbean team is on the seventh position with a solitary win in their opening game and have now officially been knocked out of the tournament after a 125-run defeat to India. The big-man is on the verge of becoming the highest run-scorer for West Indies in limited-overs cricket – only a few runs short of the great Brian Lara. A 'Gayle Storm' in the last two games cannot be ruled out.