The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup has reached its business end with four teams moving on to the semi-finals. The tournament so far has seen some inspired performances from all teams. Teams who weren't in the running for the semi-finals based on their initial performances, bounced back to good effect in their final matches of the group stage, fine examples being Sri Lanka's victory over hosts and tournament favourites England, and Pakistan's logic-defying run of four straight wins. All of that was too little too late for there can be only four semi-finalists and England sealed their spot with a clinical win over India, quashing the hopes of those yearning for an India vs Pakistan match in the knockout stages.
This World Cup is being played in largely batting-friendly conditions. Teams have chosen to bat first, registering imposing totals which rendered their opposition defeated even before the second innings could start. While the big names such as David Warner, Rohit Sharma and Shakib Al Hasan among others feature on the top scorers' list, there are others who've demonstrated their batting potential for the first time, that too at the big stage. Here we look at the Top 10 batting performances this World Cup.
Nathan Coulter-Nile (92) vs West Indies
The Australian has been a regular in the numerous T20 leagues played around the world and put his skills as a finisher in the T20s to good use when he walked in with his side reeling at 147 for six wickets. The West Indies had run through the Australian middle-order by bowling short. That strategy proved moot with Coulter-Nile who went about playing the hook shot and targeting the square leg region. When he wasn't playing the hook shot, Coulter-Nile was flicking the deliveries straying on the leg side until the lower full toss arrived with the Australian heaving it over long-on. Coulter-Nile dragged his team out of the mess, scoring 92 off just 60 balls, the highest score by a number eight batsman in a World Cup match. Australia managed to put up a decent 288, ultimately winning the match by 15 runs.
Shakib Al Hasan (124*) vs West Indies
Shakib's name is bound to feature in any list which collates the best batting or bowling performances in this World Cup. He has gone about proving just how vital he is to his team's fortunes with Bangladesh's performances pivoting around his all-round effort. Against the West Indies, Bangladesh pulled off a heist, their highest chase in an ODI with more than eight overs remaining. All of that was chiefly down to Shakib's exploits in the middle order, the all-rounder using the express pace of the West Indian fast bowlers, nudging the ball in the choicest of gaps on way to 124 off just 99 balls. The overwhelmingly full-pitched bowling meant that Shakib was never required to take undue risks and loft the ball. His luscious drives, through the covers doing the job when the pull shot wasn't there.
Carlos Brathwaite (101) vs New Zealand
Chasing 292, the West Indies started promisingly, only to find half their side back in the hut by the 26th over. In came the burly Brathwaite. When he wasn't heaving the ball over long-off, Brathwaite was playing baseball, swatting Matt Henry's deliveries for huge sixes. Unlike most, Brathwaite, when cramped for room by rising deliveries, could stand and deliver, pulling the ball in the little room there was to manoeuvre. However, the pressure of losing partners at the other end proved too much. With just six runs needed to overhaul the target, Brathwaite, cramped for room by a short ball which angled in, played a similar half-pull shot off his chest which was caught by Trent Boult at long-on. What could have been a win for the ages ended in a heartbreak which will haunt Brathwaite for long.
Rohit Sharma (122) vs South Africa
Rohit Sharma applied himself to the task at hand when forced to bat against his grain. However, that was only after he played a lazy pull shot off a rising Kagiso Rabada delivery which angled across. The Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis lunged forward from second slip but failed to hold on as a relieved Sharma batted on in the face of a rampaging Rabada. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli fell soon after, prompting Sharma to weed out the high-risk shots and wait out the power-play. That bore fruit as he found his touch soon, swivelling on the back foot to guide a short of length Rabada delivery for six over fine leg. The spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Imran Tahir never threatened him and Sharma kept the scoreboard moving, square cuts and the odd six over long-on. Nothing unusual. India went on to scale the target of 228 comfortably with Sharma finishing at 122 off 144 balls!
Jonny Bairstow (111) vs India
The England opener nullified the threat of the Indian spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, not waiting for the ball to spin its course before he sent it rows back, over deep midwicket. When the spinner dropped it short, Bairstow danced down the wicket with the utmost confidence for the pitch wasn’t offering much for the spinners, pulling out a flat hit for six. Bairstow scored 111 at a brisk rate, helping England to 337 which proved to be a winning total as India fell short by 31 runs.
Nicholas Pooran (118) vs Sri Lanka
Nicholas Pooran, aiming to pull off a heist after West Indies found themselves in a similar position as in the match against New Zealand, struck his first century in ODIs to pull his team close. He pulled the Sri Lankan spinners for sixes over mid-wicket when they dropped the ball short. That was until Angelo Mathews bowled the ball of the tournament to dismiss Pooran. A length delivery outside off, angling further had Pooran swinging wildly, only to edge it to the keeper. He was beaten by the slower pace from Mathews who was bowling his first delivery in international cricket since December 2017. Pooran's 118 ended in West Indies' defeat by 23 runs.
Babar Azam (101*) vs New Zealand
In Pakistan's late flourish this World Cup, Babar Azam's prodigious genius shone through like no other. Against New Zealand, Babar's immaculate cover drives had him level-headed and upright as KL Rahul or Virat Kohli. The pull shots were fierce, bludgeoning the short balls to the mid-wicket fence. For a team which had shown its propensity for batting collapses, Babar Azam made sure to guard one end like a rock, notching up his hundred off 124 balls and guiding Pakistan to a comfortable six-wicket win over the Blackcaps.
Kane Williamson (106*) vs South Africa
That New Zealand will be playing in the semi-finals is down to Kane Williamson's heroics, with the captain often salvaging his side's batting when all seems lost and guiding them to the finish line. That he didn't walk against the Proteas when he had obviously edged the ball to the keeper is something that can be debated and discussed. What's undebatable is that Williamson seems the most technically adept batsman at the crease, finding angles in the field, between fielders, which few knew ever existed. That doesn't take away though from his sixes which never leave his body looking unbalanced. Against South Africa, he waited for a slower ball to mature and pitch at full length when he bent down on one knee and skied it over the mid-wicket fence for six runs, bringing up his century and putting his side just one run short of the target. New Zealand won that match by four wickets with three balls remaining.
Faf du Plessis (100) vs Australia
Wrapping up a dismal campaign with a win over Australia wouldn't have seemed probable considering South Africa's form this World Cup. However, the old adage of nothing to lose, all to gain reaped wonders for the Proteas as their batsmen struck gold, converting their starts into something more helpful for their team. Their skipper Faf du Plessis was on the charge and looked in sublime touch, middling the ball and dictating its length by walking down the track or rocking back at will. Not fazed by Pat Cummins, he walked down the track and hit a flat six back over his head for the shot of the day. South Africa posted 325 and won the match by 10 runs to grab a much-needed consolation win.
David Warner (166) vs Bangladesh
If Australia Captain Aaron Finch felt that David Warner had been batting cautiously against Afghanistan and India, there were no such signs visible against Bangladesh where he was back to being his old self. The pull shot spared no spinners as Warner would fall on one knew and send the ball rows back. When unsure and dazed by the rising deliveries, Warner didn't hold back, playing the hook shot to good effect. He went on to score 166 as Australia scored a mammoth 381, going on the win the match by 48 runs.