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ICC Cricket World Cup 2023: Five things we learned in the group stage

The group stage at the 2023 Cricket World Cup has concluded and we know the four semifinalists that will compete for the trophy in India.

Hosts India – alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – will now battle for the crown of world champions.

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The tournament started on October 5 with the two previous finalists going head-to-head and New Zealand exacting swift revenge on England for the defeat in the 2019 final.

Here are five key takeaways from the last six weeks.

1. India are clear favourites

India stormed the group stage of the 2023 World Cup, and a perfect record of nine wins in nine matches has been just reward for their performances.

The hosts have set the standard for which the three other semifinalists must aspire if anyone is to stop Rohit Sharma from lifting the trophy.

The highlight with the ball was bowling out Sri Lanka for 55 – the lowest total by a Test nation at a World Cup. Mohammed Shami took five wickets in the 302-run win in Mumbai.

To pick a highlight with the bat would be akin to choosing your favourite child.

Perhaps it was against Australia, and all odds, when India were three down with two runs on the board while in pursuit of 200.

Sharma was one of the three to go, but the two left in the middle, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, were calm and composed – and in the end magnificent.

It was this six-wicket win in Chennai that said: the rest are in trouble.

2. Kohli is king

Individually, there was one particular standout moment when Kohli equalled Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 one-day international hundreds.

It came in the 243-run victory against South Africa, and the right-hander described it in the post-match ceremony as “the stuff of dreams”.

The fact it was achieved on his birthday was the crowning glory in front of 70,000 fans at Eden Gardens.

Kohli and Tendulkar were teammates in 2011 when India last won the World Cup.

As well as standing on the verge of a second crown, Kohli equalled Tendulkar in 277 innings while Tendulkar took more than 450 innings to reach his 49th.

3. England are in the Champions Trophy – but only just

India’s greatest threat was supposed to be the defending champions, England.

But Jos Buttler’s side were effectively already out of the race to qualify for the semifinals while everyone else was still finding their feet.

The New Zealanders exacted a swift revenge, following their 2019 defeat in the final at Lord’s, with a resounding nine-wicket win in the opening match.

A victory against Bangladesh for England was followed by a five-match losing streak, which emphatically ended their defence of the trophy.

It also left England facing the ignominy of missing out on qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy.

Buttler’s side had to win their final two games – against Netherlands and Pakistan.

They duly obliged and in doing so ended the latter’s slim chances of reaching the last four.

4. Never write off the Australians

Australia lost their first two matches, including their opening match against India, and seemed like they could be the first team out.

Seven straight wins followed for Pat Cummins’s side, capped by one of, if not the, most incredible moments at a World Cup.

Batting on virtually one leg, Glenn Maxwell made a stunning 201 not out against Afghanistan and guided Australia to a three-wicket win.

It also confirmed the Aussies’ place in the semifinals and the entire innings contained 128 balls with 21 fours and 10 sixes.

Cummins said it was “the greatest one-day innings ever played” and it came with the Australians 91-7, chasing 292.

This all came on the back of Maxwell hitting a 41-run century against the Netherlands – the fastest at a World Cup.

5. South Africa may be turning a corner

South Africa have been the nearly men of Cricket World Cups since their 1999 implosion in the semifinal against Australia at Headingley in Leeds, England.

The unkind and maybe a little unfair nickname of “chokers” has followed them ever since.

They too laid down an early marker at this tournament when Aiden Markram recorded the then-fastest century at a World Cup (since stolen by Maxwell).

It was only the second day of the tournament in India when he brought up the three figures in style against Sri Lanka in Dehli.

His team also entered the record books with the highest-ever tournament total of 428 in a 102-run win.

South Africa could have been considered India’s greatest challengers in the semifinals but for their meeting in the group stage. One of only two defeats for the Proteas saw them humbled by the hosts in a 243-run defeat as they were bowled out for 83 in Kolkata.

Source: Al Jazeera

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