The 11 standout players from the fourth week of this year’s Cricket World Cup.*
This was the week that had it all, the week when the World Cup truly burst into life. Pakistan turned it on 1992 style and England contrived to throw it all away, 1999 style. The week began with the belief that the semi-final places were all but sealed by four elite teams. It ended with seven teams in the mix, and a bag full of permutations for the rest of the round-robin.
Some in this XI hadn’t featured in the tournament before this week, and avenged their early omissions with match-winning contributions; others have hit sublime form at the perfect time, and continue to spark brighter as the tournament enters its most critical stage.
1. David Warner (Australia)
Like he did for Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Indian Premier League before this tournament, Warner is leading the run charts here. He has been seemingly more circumspect this tournament, but the greater sense of responsibility has only added to his potency. Warner has struck his runs at 83.33 and has been taken out inside the first Powerplay only once in seven games so far.
It’s a worrying sign for opposing teams, because when Warner bats deep into the innings Australia typically post imposing totals, as was the case against Afghanistan, when his 166 powered Australia to an imposing 381. He followed it up with a strange innings against England, where he rode his luck early but motored on to make a punchy half-century. Impossible to leave out.
2. Aaron Finch (Australia)
The other half of the first opening duo to register five consecutive half-century stands in World Cup matches, the Australia captain is always in control, whether that be while setting smart fields or flaying the ball to the boundary. Australia batted first both times this week, winning on each occasion, and Finch left behind a trail of destruction, with scores of 53 and 100.
His double act with Glenn Maxwell, who snaffled a superb catch by the boundary before relaying the ball to his captain, got rid of Chris Woakes and accelerated Australia’s march towards victory against hosts England.
3. Kane Williamson (C) (New Zealand)
New Zealand’s ice-cool run machine, Williamson was at his very best against West Indies. Unfazed by the departure of both New Zealand openers for golden ducks, Williamson stroked 148, accounting for over half of the Kiwi total of 291-8, in fluent fashion even as West Indies chipped away at the other end.
He went on to compile his second successive century, and the best score of his career, to put his stamp on the tournament. He then made 41 against Pakistan, but fell at a critical juncture of the innings – a ripper from Shadab Khan – before accounting for Mohammad Hafeez during the chase. But the efforts weren’t enough to negate a clinical performance from Pakistan as New Zealand crumbled to their first defeat of the tournament.
4. Babar Azam (Pakistan)
The cover drive is one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots in cricket, but few play it better than Pakistan’s No.3. Watching Babar unfurl the shot makes you tingle, as the ball races towards the rope and Babar holds pose, with high elbow, sweatband-clad arm, glove and bat forming the perfect arc.
After making 69 in a strong Pakistan batting performance as they beat South Africa, he compiled his first World Cup century – the second youngest Pakistan player to achieve one – that underpinned Pakistan’s dominance over a New Zealand side that was unbeaten until then.
5. Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
Quite simply the finest ODI all-rounder in the world. That Bangladesh are still alive in this World Cup is down in no small measure to Shakib leading the way with both bat and ball. If his exploits in the previous weeks had largely come off the bat, this week he took his game up a notch by scoring 51 and returning 5-29 against Afghanistan, joining an elusive club as one of only two players in World Cup history to have achieved the double in the same match.
6. Haris Sohail (Pakistan)
The forgotten man. Parachuted into the Pakistan middle order as a contingency for Mohammad Hafeez’s developing penchant for being dismissed by any variety of part-time spin at crucial moments, Sohail played his part to perfection this week.
First, he propelled Pakistan to an unassailable total against South Africa, by punching a devastating 59-ball 89. Then, he provided the perfect foil for Babar to help Pakistan chase down a 238 on a difficult pitch against New Zealand and keep them alive.
7. Mushfiqur Rahim (wk) (Bangladesh)
After his unbeaten century in a colossal chase against Australia went in vain, Mushfiqur followed it up with a well-compiled 83 against Afghanistan as he anchored the Bangladesh innings. The performance was augmented by two stumpings during the chase, including that of Najibullah Zadran, which gave Shakib his five-for.
Mushfiqur is the leading run-scorer among wicket-keepers in this tournament and is critical to Bangladesh remaining in contention for a semi-final spot.
8. Ben Stokes (England)
England’s pair of defeats this week could’ve been much more emphatic but for Stokes’ stellar efforts. His unbeaten 82 against Sri Lanka took England close, before he was left stranded. He then fought hard with 89 against Australia, more than doubling his previous ODI best at Lord’s in the process, before having his off-stump vanquished by Starc, who arguably produced the ball of the tournament so far. Stokes has quietly had a good tournament, averaging 58.20 with the bat, and lessening the magnitude of England’s defeats.
9. Mohammed Shami (India)
What a way to announce your arrival at the scene? Brought in only after injury struck Buvneshwar Kumar, Shami has produced a fast-bowling clinic in his first two matches in the competition, snaring back-to-back four-wicket hauls. That included a hat-trick to snuff out a spirited Afghanistan response to India’s 224-8 in Southampton, and an absolute ripper, characterised by terrific seam position, to break the stumps of Shai Hope.
10. Mitchell Starc (Australia)
11. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
The man responsible for what was undoubtedly the story of the week, and Sri Lanka’s hero as they stunned hosts England. After a picture of his belly went viral, Malinga showed how trivial all of it was by turning back the clock to produce a performance for the ages.
Spearing in some wicked fuller balls, Malinga ripped out the heart of England’s batting unit, accounting for James Vince, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Jos Buttler to help Sri Lanka come out on top of an unlikely defence of 232. Malinga ended with 4-43 – his second-best figures at the World Cup – and he now has 52 wickets in the competition, putting him fourth on the all-time list and three short of Wasim Akram.
Twelfth man: Virat Kohli (India)
Despite four consecutive half-centuries, India’s captain has been relegated to carrying the drinks for now. Perhaps it will change when the big century arrives.
*Matches spanning from and including those played on June 20-27