A World Cup is all about key clashes. The subplots add spice to the contest. Over the years, the teams have developed rivalries, which give the contest an extra edge. The El Clasico between Real Madrid and the Catalan rivals Barcelona, the Old Firm clash between Celtic and Rangers, or the Manchester Derby raises the passion by several notches.
Here’s a look at five interesting clashes between the teams, and the five individual matchups.
Key team clashes in the Cricket World Cup
England vs New Zealand (October 5, Ahmedabad)
After losing the 2019 final at Lord’s by the narrowest of margins, New Zealand will be eager to avenge the loss and set the record straight in the opening clash. In the last four years, both the teams have lost some key players and wear a different look. But the lead protagonists remain the same. England will have the advantage with a better team and the absence of Kane Williamson for the first game will be a big blow for the Black Caps.
India vs Australia (October 8, Chennai)
The clash between hosts India and Australia is in Chennai, a venue that witnessed the second tied Test in the history, when the teams met in 1986. In the Reliance World Cup the following year, Australia scored a one-run win over India. From a seemingly winning position at 206 for two, chasing a target of 271, Indian batting crumbled against Allan Border’s men, who went on to win their maiden World Cup.
India vs Pakistan (October 14, Ahmedabad)
India-Pakistan matches bring the cricketing world to a standstill. The clashes between two highly talented teams raise the heat when patriotic fervour kicks in. Neighbours India and Pakistan play each other rarely, that too only in international events. So expectations are high, making it the most-anticipated match in an event. At the World Cup. it will once again be a test between Pakistan bowling and Indian batting. India have never been defeated by Pakistan in a 50-over World Cup match.
England vs Australia (November 4, Ahmedabad)
The rivalry goes back to the start of the Ashes in the 19th century. A clash between Australia and England almost always produces fireworks irrespective of the format. While Australia ruled the world with a bold brand of cricket, England have adopted a similar approach that has helped them win two World Cup titles. England all-rounders, led by Ben Stokes, give them the edge.
Pakistan vs England (November 11, Kolkata)
After losing to England in the Twenty20 World Cup final, thanks to a brilliant knock by Ben Stokes, Pakistan will be eager to make amends for the loss. The match between England and Pakistan is the penultimate on in the group stage and if there is a semi-final spot at stake, then it could assume a greater importance. Pakistan bowlers have proved that they could contain the rampant England batters and it should once again be a contest between England’s batters and the potent Pakistan bowling.
Individual match-ups for bragging rights
Hasan Ali vs Ben Stokes
The untimely injury to Naseem Shah gives Hasan Ali a place in the Pakistan squad. Ali has the knack of getting Ben Stokes out. The England allrounder has been a deciding factor between a win and a loss in previous games against England. The Pakistan pacer has dismissed Stokes a record five times and the two teams will be playing against each other in their final league games. Ali could cap his comeback with a Stokes dismissal again.
Steve Smith vs Ravichandran Ashwin
The battle of wits between India’s offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and the Australia’s Steve Smith is familiar. Ashwin has dismissed Smith a record eight times in Tests. But he has not been a regular in the Indian whiteball cricket, but the 37-year-old Chennai resident has come in as a late replacement and will be fancying his chances against the Australian. The pitch at Chepauk generally has good bounce and turn, and Ashwin knows the pitch like the back of his palm. So it will an interesting duel.
Virat Kohli vs Trent Boult
New Zealand pacer Trent Boult reserves his best against India’s Virat Kohli. The left-arm pacer has dismissed Kohli four times. Boult has also been India’s nemesis in the last two World Cups. In a dream spell he shredded the Indian batting, that included Kohli’s wicket. In the 2021 Twenty20 World Cup in UAE, he broke the back of Indian batting with another lively burst. Kohli, will be eager to deny Boult at Dharamsala where conditions will suit the New Zealander.
Jos Buttler vs Jasprit Bumrah
England captain Jos Buttler can take the match away from his rivals with breathtaking batting. A compact batter, he could be undone by a late inswinger that goes through the bat-pad gate. Indian pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has exploited this six times. Jasprit Bumrah has dismissed Buttler four times and will be hoping to get the England captain early, in Lucknow on October 29.
Babar Azam vs Rashid Khan
Babar Azam is one of the best players in the world today and leads the One-Day International batting charts. The Pakistan skipper is technically perfect and has the capability to succeed all the three formats. He rarely gives the bowlers a chance, but the wily Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan has dismissed Azam a record six times. That shows the quality of Rashid Khan . The two will meet in Chennai on October 23. That would be a battle of wits and skills.