The league stage of the World Cup 2019 is now done and dusted. It began with the eventual top four teams threatening to run away with the semi-final spots but an unexpected loss of England at the hands of Sri Lanka threw open the league for the other teams (Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh) to try and have a shot at the semis.
There were some expected high performers who relished the big stage opportunity and made merry on the World Cup stage while there were disappointments also from some players expected to make it big in the biggest cricketing arena.
Here, we take a look at some unexpected hits and misses from the league stage of the World Cup 2019:
1. Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
Bangladesh hit a masterstroke with their tactical move of promoting Shakib Al Hasan to the No 3 spot as the all-rounder grabbed the opportunity with both hands to belt 606 runs at a mind-blowing average of 86.57 runs per innings along with scalping 11 dismissals in the league stage.
He struck five half-centuries and two hundreds en route the best all-round performance in the history of the tournament. Bangladesh’s solid batting performance, in almost every match, was based on the foundation of Shakib’s brilliance with the willow while his guiles and tricks with the ball served as further icing on the cake.
2. Alex Carey (Australia)
Alex Carey, the wicket-keeper batsman from South Australia, was slotted in at No 7 in the Australian batting line up, a spot which many felt was too low for the talent he possesses with the bat. Carey was quick to prove this viewpoint right as he made it count on almost every occasion he trudged out to bat. The wicket-keeper batsman registered the second-best batting average among the Australians after the league stage with an average of 65.80 for his 329 runs which included three brilliant half-centuries. The highlight of his batting came against Trans Tasman rivals New Zealand when his 71-run-effort took his team to a match-winning total of 243 after they were in a spot of bother at 92/5.
3. Mohammad Amir (Pakistan)
After a troublesome 2018 which saw him average 100+ with the ball, many eyebrows were raised when his name suddenly popped up into Pakistan’s final 15 for the World Cup, but the left-arm pacer was quick to prove his detractors wrong with a solid show of his artistry with the ball. In the first half of the tournament, his performance served as the lone silver lining amidst a gloomy campaign. An important feature of his bowling in this World Cup was his frugal economy rate of 4.90 runs per over — an indication that not only he picked up wickets but also made it really difficult for the batsmen to make merry. He finished with a final tally of 17 wickets from eight games at an impressive average of 21.05 apiece, easily making 2019 the best year since his return into the international cricketing fold.
4. Nicholas Pooran (West Indies)
Pooran had given glimpses of his imperious talent in the IPL before the mega event, where he shone in patches during the unsuccessful campaign of Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). A hundred and two half-centuries meant he notched-up the highest West Indian tally of 367 runs at 52.42 runs per inning. His performance offers a peek into the bright West Indian future which is based on the elegant and flamboyant axis of Hope-Hetmyer-Pooran. The highlight of his batting was his strike-rate of 100.27 which reflects his ability to play long while maintaining the ever urgent ask of the scoreboard pressure. He surely is one for the long race in the West Indian cricketing circuit.
5. Mohammed Shami (India)
He was not in the Indian starting eleven before Bhuvneshwar Kumar pulled his hamstring in the high-octane clash against Pakistan. Shami’s arrival on the World Cup stage came with a bang as he bagged what was only the second hat-trick by an Indian in the World Cups. That hat-trick, along with some brilliant bowling from Bumrah, helped India avoid an ignominious defeat at the hands of Afghanistan. Another four-wicket haul ensued in the clash against West Indies which was backed up by a five-wicket haul against England making him the bowler (minimum 5 wickets) with the best strike-rate in the competition. Though it’s highly unlikely that he can overhaul Mitchell Starc’s tally (26 wickets) with his 14 wickets from four games, he can surely break into the top-3 wicket-takers’ list for the tournament.
1. Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
Probably the biggest disappointment of the tournament so far, Kagiso Rabada’s performance of 11 wickets from 8 innings weighed quite heavily on South Africa’s overall fortunes at the World Cup 2019. His average of 36.09 runs per wicket and a strike-rate of 42.5 were both worst among the six frontline bowlers in the South African line-up. If the leader of the bowling pack is in such bad form, the team is bound to struggle and this fact manifested into an ignominious defeat at the hands of Bangladesh which first threw the league games wide open for a cut-throat competition for semi-final berths.
2. Jos Buttler (England)
253 runs at an average of just under 32 runs per inning from 8 innings is somewhat low than what is expected from the most dangerous finisher going around in the cricketing world. There have only been two noteworthy contributions from Buttler in this tourney — a hundred and a fifty. Even his hundred against Pakistan came in a losing cause while his failures against Sri Lanka (10) and Australia (25) contributed heavily in England’s firefighting efforts in the last two league games against India and New Zealand to secure a semi-final berth. England will surely be praying for their finisher’s return to form during the business end of the tournament if they harbor the precious hopes of finishing on a high in their home World Cup.
3. Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
A bowling average of just under 70 to go with an economy of almost 5.8 runs per over and a strike-rate of almost 72. A look at such figures will surely bring a thought that these must be the bowling figures of a pretty ordinary bowler.
But what if I tell you that these figures are of a champion bowler who has impressed all and sundry around the cricketing circuit and whose bag of tricks is still a hard nut to crack for many of the batsmen. Amazed? Well, everyone will be; because these stats reflect how Rashid Khan has fared in the league games of the World Cup 2019 for his six wickets from eight innings. Surely, such stats don’t go well with his stature in the world cricket. Had he been in his usual mojo, who knows Afghanistan may well have scripted a historic win in the World Cup arena.
4. Shai Hope (West Indies)
Hope was in the form of his life before the tournament, averaging 65 and striking at 93.90 for his 585 runs from 10 games played this year before the World Cup began. He was primed to be in the top-scorers’ list for the tournament but such high expectations went for slow but steady evaporation as the tournament progressed. A below-par tally of 274 runs from eight innings resulted from his willow at an average of nearly 35 while striking at a strike rate of 70.43. This wasn’t the Hope on whose shoulders West Indies had primed their batting hopes, and as a result of such a poor performance, West Indian batting never really arrived. West Indies will now hope that he comes out quickly from the rut and lays the foundation of a better batting future for West Indies.
5. Glenn Maxwell (Australia)
Time and again, Australia looked up to him to give them the mid-inning impetus throughout the league stage, but he failed to live up to the expectations on most of the occasions. His tally of 155 runs with a high score of 46* in nine innings resulted in an average of a lowly 22.14 was especially shocking given the form he displayed in the five-match ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE. There, he scored 258 runs from four innings at an average of 64.50. He was, at times, promoted ahead of the capable batsmen like Steve Smith but failed to translate those opportunities into substantial returns. With Alex Carey in superb form, there is a developing case for him batting ahead of Maxwell in the batting order — a development which Maxwell will surely want to avoid. He, and Australia, will be hoping for a better showing in the semis against a well-oiled English unit if Australia want to lift the trophy for a record sixth time.