Five match-ups that could prove to be decisive in the World Cup final
It's the biggest stage of all and two of the best teams in the competition are going up against each other with the World Cup up for grabs. We discuss five potential match-ups that could swing the final in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Josh Hazlewood v Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli, fresh off a record 50th One Day International ton, has a massive negative match-up to counter in the World Cup final in Ahmedabad. In 88 balls against Hazlewood in ODIs, Kohli has been dismissed five times, including once in the league match between these teams at this World Cup.
While Kohli made 85 before a Hazlewood short ball got the better of him, Australia had failed to latch onto another chance Kohli gave off the same bowler in the game. In the 8th over of the run-chase, with Kohli on 12 and India’s score reading 20/3, Mitchell Marsh shelled a diving chance that came after Hazlewood’s short ball had Kohli top-edging.
With the Indian maestro in this kind of form, having reeled off eight fifty-plus scores in 10 innings, it’s vital for the Aussies to break the Kohli barrier to access that strong middle-order early. Hazlewood, whose stunning new-ball spell left South Africa in a mess in the semi-final, could be the key for Australia.
Rohit Sharma vs Mitchell Starc
When Shaheen Afridi trapped Rohit Sharma in front for a golden duck in the first over two years back at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, not many were surprised.
In his ODI career, Rohit has been dismissed 33 times by left-arm pace, and 22 of those have come within the first 10 overs. One of those came this World Cup at the Wankhede when Dilshan Madushanka sneaked one past his bat to shatter the stumps.
Mitchell Starc and the Aussies know the prominent threat Rohit poses in the Powerplay. The Indian skipper has swung matches in the first 10 overs, scoring at a stunning rate of 133.08. If they’re to send Rohit back early, Starc could be the key.
The left-arm quick shed off his poor form in the tournament with an impressive showing in Kolkata in the semi-final, but the exaggerated movement present there may not be available in Ahmedabad. The occasion is huge, but even a questionable history didn’t deter Rohit in the semis against Trent Boult. Who will blink first in what could be a decisive battle?
Glenn Maxwell v Kuldeep Yadav
133/4 was the score when Glenn Maxwell walked in to bat at the Eden Gardens in the semi-final clash against the Proteas.
He was beaten first up by Tabraiz Shamsi with a quicker delivery and lasted only five balls in all, attempting a wild, across-the-line hoick, only to be cleaned up by the South African wrist spinner.
It’s just how Maxwell plays and you may not see him belt spinners on one leg every day, but the dismissal had an eerily familiar tone to it.
On a similar turner against India in Chennai, Maxwell fell in the exact same fashion to Kuldeep Yadav, another left-arm wrist spinner.
If Ahmedabad throws up another two-paced wicket, Maxwell will probably be wary of the massive turn Kuldeep gets and the threat it poses. Overall, the dismissal in Chennai was the third against Kuldeep for Maxwell, but he has also scored at a rate of 143.5 against the Indian spinner in ODIs.
Steve Smith v Ravindra Jadeja
One of the highlights of the riveting Border-Gavaskar Trophy series at home earlier in the year was the battle between Jadeja and Smith.
In a pivotal moment in the first Test in Nagpur, Jadeja deceived Smith completely, forcing him to play outside the line and making a mess of his stumps. Jadeja would go on to dismiss Smith two more times in the series and once more in the ICC World Test Championship final in England.
Overall, Jadeja has dismissed Smith five times in 2023 alone across formats. The last of them, and arguably the best, came in the league stage game in Chennai, when the left-arm spinner ripped one past Smith to bowl him.
Smith’s ODI record against Jadeja is, however, stupendous. He scores at a rate of over 100 against him and has only been dismissed twice in over 200 balls. But that’ll count for little if the ball is throwing up puffs of dust in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Mohammed Shami v David Warner
Is there a way to stop Mohammed Shami this World Cup?
Well, if there is, it will have to be conjured up by the Aussies in the biggest stage of all – the World Cup final, at a venue that has become very familiar over two IPL seasons with what Shami can do in short-ball formats.
Against left-handers, in particular, Shami is a massive threat. In 52 balls this tournament, Shami has dismissed left-handers eight times, averaging a mind-blowing 4.00 against them.
Every seventh ball on an average that Shami balls to a left-hander this World Cup has been a wicket.
If there’s one player who’ll not be bogged down by such numbers, it is David Warner. The Aussie has countered right-arm pacers with fire this tournament, but it has also brought about five dismissals against them.
The Aussies have their only two left-handers in the top seven, Warner and Travis Head, batting at the top two positions. As good as Siraj himself is against left-handers, would Shami’s exceptional numbers tempt India into bowling him with the new ball?