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Tactics Board: Where the India v New Zealand semi-final could be won and lost

Rohit Sharma v Trent Boult, the Indian spin options and New Zealand's express pace - what will be the game-changer?

Srinath Sripath and Gaurav Sundararaman
1975. 1979. 1992. 1999. 2007. 2011. That's almost every other ODI World Cup, all editions in which New Zealand have made it to the semi-final and exited the tournament. The 2015 edition was their first time past the last four, and while they were league table-toppers then, they come into this latest one on the back of three successive losses, pipping Pakistan to fourth place only on superior net run-rate.
India have arguably been the most dominant tournament side of this decade, with two trophies, one runners-up finish, and semi-final runs in a World Cup and a Champions Trophy.
The two teams did not face each other in the league stage in 2019 thanks to a washout at Trent Bridge, possibly the point that carried New Zealand to the semis. Trent Boult will argue otherwise, because his incisive new-ball spell powered New Zealand to a victory against the same Indian side in the warm-up game ahead of the World Cup.
Now, the past out of the way, here's a look at the future - where the first semi-final could be won and lost.

Boult v the Rohit run machine

If you've watched him only at this World Cup, you would be forgiven for thinking Rohit Sharma doesn't get out unless he decides to (or is done in by a marginal umpiring decision). He's dominated both pace and spin en route a mammoth 647 runs from eight innings so far, already a contender for the GOAT World Cup performance by a batsman.
Boult is one of those bowlers who has had Rohit's number. Boult has made good on what used to be Rohit's Achilles heel in the past, an early tentativeness against inswinging deliveries from left-arm quicks. Boult is one of the best in the business, and he produced one such peach to Rohit in the warm-up game, one of the rare occasions Rohit has been late to a shot this tournament. Irrespective of whether India bat first or chase, in what is expected to be a wet, windy day in Manchester, this could be a game-changing match-up, whichever way it goes.

Does Lockie hold the key?

Express pace bowlers coming good has been one of the storylines of this World Cup, and Lockie Ferguson has been up there with 17 wickets at 18.58 so far. He's among the few fast bowlers who can breach the 145 kph mark regularly, the point where even the best batsmen start getting rattled. Roughly a fourth of his balls have been in that high-speed zone, and his short deliveries have had the measure of some of the best already.
India, though, have handled express pace rather well at this World Cup, and in recent times. They took on Mitchell Starc, didn't give away a wicket to Jofra Archer, and targeted Mark Wood. Likewise, albeit in different conditions in New Zealand, they attacked Ferguson throughout their ODI series win earlier this year. Express pace remains a rare commodity at the international level, and an in-form Ferguson will be looking to tip the scales back, especially if Boult can rock India early.

Two wristspinners - worth the risk for India?

Ever since the 2017 Champions Trophy, the point where India decided to invest in wristspin, rare has been the occasion when one of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav has been dropped. While Kuldeep has had a tough time in the World Cup, he has largely been an economical option through the middle overs at the very least, picking up key wickets from time to time like he did with that magic ball to Babar Azam.
Against New Zealand, most particularly against Kane Williamson, the two have been lethal. Williamson averages an uncharacteristically low 17.75 against Kuldeep and Chahal, having been pinned down by both two times each. Ravindra Jadeja proved effective on a slowish wicket at Headingley against Sri Lanka, and offers batting insurance lower down the order. Will India take the brave call and unleash their wristspin twins?

Will the Kane train carry New Zealand again?

Williamson is the single biggest reason New Zealand are in the last four - he's made 30% of their runs, and no side has been as dependent on one batter as they have been on him. Whenever Williamson has been dismissed for anything below 50, his side has suffered big defeats, against Pakistan, Australia and England.
Strong bowling attacks have found a way to get the better of him, and luck deserted him when Mark Wood's "smallest hands" deflected one on to the stumps at the non-striker's end. Tom Latham has shown signs of returning to form after a horror run, while Ross Taylor is due a big one. Against one of the better attacks in the game, how Williamson goes and, if he gets out cheaply, whether the rest of that top order carries them, could be the difference between a second consecutive final appearance and another semi-final exit for New Zealand.