The semi-final line-up for the 2023 ICC ODI World Cup was virtually decided when New Zealand beat Sri Lanka in their last league game to join India, South Africa, and Australia in the final four. On paper, Afghanistan and Pakistan still had a chance but it was a chance that bordered on the realm of fantasy.
For the Kiwis, it was a reward for playing consistent cricket. On the face of it, they have lost to India, Australia, South Africa, and Pakistan on the way to the semis. But they made sure to avoid upsets against less-ranked teams. Except for the game against South Africa, this has been a professional effort; one that gives them a chance of making three ODI World Cup finals in a row. New Zealand’s opponent in the final will be India, a side riding high on a winning streak. Rohit Sharma’s team have ticked all the boxes on their way to a semi-final spot — the batting has clicked, and the bowlers have been brilliant. But India’s biggest test, as the previous two editions of the World Cups have shown, lies ahead of them. The knockout rounds haven’t been kind to them and their winning streak in the previous two tournaments ended at the semi-final stage.
This time, in front of their adoring fans, they will want to change that. India isn’t the only team on a winning streak though. Australia started their tournament with two losses but has since turned a corner and started looking like a team that could trouble India. The knockout rounds are not a problem for Australia, they never have been. But the opposite of that is true for South Africa. Over the years, they have acquired a reputation for being a team that fails with the finish line in sight. They stumbled against the Netherlands earlier in the tournament but have gathered themselves well after that.
Most of all, though, fans will hope the semi-finals serve up the one thing that this tournament has lacked the most – tight contests.
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