The league stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 ended on Saturday, with a double-header between India and Sri Lanka, and Australia and South Africa. The four semi-finalists who will be seen in action in a few days are India, Australia, New Zealand and England. Every player from these four teams worked enormously hard over the past month.
But some players stood apart from the crowd owing to their unmatched performances. Even from the eliminated teams, there were many exceptional performers who might get the Man of the Series award, though their team had a horrid outing. Let us have a look at one best player from each team in the league stage:
1. Afghanistan – Mohammad Nabi
Though not many expected Afghanistan to make it to the semis, an upset or two was expected from Gulbadin Naib’s men. However, that was not the case to be as many reputed players who are prized assets for their T20 franchises, like Rashid Khan and Hazratullah Zazai, failed to perform. But veteran all-rounder Mohammad Nabi is an exception.
In 9 matches, Nabi has picked up 10 wickets, which made the highest wicket-taker for Afghanistan in this World Cup. The 34-year-old also has the second-best economy rate amongst his teammates, as he conceded less than 5 runs per over.
2. Australia – Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc is one of the few bowlers who are candidates for the Man of the Series trophy. Australia’s pace unit is not having a great time in England. While Pat Cummins is still doing a satisfactory job with 13 wickets from 9 games, Marcus Stoinis, Kane Richardson and Nathan Coulter-Nile failed to impress. In such a situation, Starc has become the saviour for the Aussies.
He has picked up wickets whenever his skipper Aaron Finch needed him to. In 9 games, the 29-year-old has picked up 26 wickets. He is currently the leading wicket-taker of the tournament, above his nearest competitor Mustafizur Rahman by 6 wickets. He also has an impressive economy rate of just over 5 runs per over.
3. Bangladesh – Shakib Al Hasan
Though his team is out of the World Cup, Bangladeshi all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan is certainly in the running for the man of the series trophy. The 32-year-old veteran was the highest run-scorer for his country with 606 runs in 8 games. The left-handed batsman is certainly enjoying his promoted role in the batting order and maintained a staggering average of over 85.
He is one of the rarer commodities who are equally good in both batting and bowling. The man from Jessore has picked up 11 wickets in this World Cup, becoming the highest wicket-taking spinner for his country. He also maintains a healthy economy rate of a bit over 5 runs per over, second-cheapest amongst his countrymen.
4. England – Jonny Bairstow
2019 has been the year of Jonny Bairstow so far. After a highly impressive Indian Premier League, the English opener is now running riots in the biggest stage of cricket. In 9 games, Bairstow has scored 462 runs at an average of 51. Though Joe Root has scored more runs than him, Bairstow’s runs have come at a crucial time.
With a few unexpected losses, England needed to win both of their last two games. Bairstow batted brilliantly in both the games against India and New Zealand to secure England’s place in the semi-finals. Against the men in blue, Bairstow struck 111 runs, while he amassed 106 runs against the Kiwis.
5. India – Rohit Sharma
While every mention on this list has done exceptionally well in this World Cup, Indian batsman Rohit Sharma is currently a country mile ahead of the rest. The opener has already scored 647 runs at an unimaginable average of 92. He has also maintained an attractive strike rate of nearly 100.
Rohit is currently the highest run-getter in this tournament, ahead of second-placed Shakib Al Hasan by 41 runs. He also has broken numerous records by hitting 5 centuries in a single edition of World Cup. Indian fans would be eager to see the same Rohit Sharma in the knockouts as well.
6. New Zealand – Kane Williamson
Leading his side by example, Kane Williamson is the only captain on this list. Though even New Zealand fans were not much hopeful about their team’s chances this year, Williamson’s spirited performance both as a leader and a captain has sealed their place in the semi-finals.
Williamson has scored 481 runs in 7 innings. In a battle of averages, he has defeated Rohit Sharma with his humongous average of 96. His 154-ball 148 is the fifth-highest individual score of this World Cup. The 28-year-old has also scored an important century against South Africa.
7. Pakistan – Shaheen Afridi
19-year-old youngster Shaheen Afridi was not even a part of Pakistan’s initial playing XI plans. But Hassan Ali’s horrific performances gave the teenager an opportunity, which he utilized to the fullest. The left-arm pacer took 16 wickets from just 5 games to become his country’s second-highest wicket taker.
His 6/35 against Bangladesh was the best bowling figure for Pakistan in this World Cup. Besides that, he was also equally brilliant in the game against New Zealand, where Afridi picked up 3 crucial wickets by conceding just 28 runs. After the league stage, he has finished in the sixth position in the leading wicket-takers’ list.
8. South Africa – Chris Morris
The Proteas never really had a chance to place their hands on the World Cup, but have always been a very competitive unit. But in this edition, they have lacked their usual flair. Their campaign was marred by injuries, but one such injury was a boon in disguise.
Anrich Nortje’s hand injury led to Chris Morris‘ selection, who has been immense for his lacklustre side. In 8 matches, the 32-year-old has picked up 12 wickets to become the leading wicket-taker for his country. He has also maintained a fairly decent economy rate of around 5 runs per over.
9. Sri Lanka – Lasith Malinga
Lasith Malinga‘s illustrious cricket career is now officially over. Even in his last tournament, he was the best player for his team. The man who will be turning 36 this August picked up 12 wickets for his team, the highest by a very long margin.
Sri Lanka’s greatest moment in this World Cup, which their fans will cherish for a long time, is the victory over hosts England. Lasith Malinga’s 4/43 was the main reason behind the collapse of England’s intimidating batting order. His 3-wicket hauls against Afghanistan and West Indies were equally impressive.
10. West Indies – Nicholas Pooran
The West Indian team was filled with many talented and exciting players, but they failed to gel together as a team. Despite that, left-handed batsman Nicholas Pooran executed his role perfectly. The 23-year-old youngster, who is already a known face courtesy his T20 league stints, scored 367 runs for his country at an average of 52.
He is the only player from his team which had the likes of Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer to score over 300 runs. His 103-ball 118 was exquisite. With the Universe Boss now retired, Nicholas Pooran might become West Indies’ most reliable batsman in the coming years.
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