Cricket World Cup Semi-Finals Betting: Five things to look out for

Liam Plunkett
Liam Plunkett is as effective as he is under-rated

A wicket-keeper batsman getting better and better by the game, England's crucial under-the-radar bowler and injury problems in the Australian camp make Jamie Pacheco's list of things to look out for in the semis...

"With Usman Khawaja struggling with a hamstring injury and Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis (himself struggling with injury) short of runs, it would be no surprise to see Carey come in one or two places higher than usual on Thursday. You’ll see far worse bets than the 10/1 about him top scoring for Australia against England when the semis come about."

Glove man could be Australia's dangerman

It hasn't been great tournament for wicket-keeper batsmen from the point of view of runs. Quinton de Kock did ok but his performances were a far cry from the prolific run-getter of the last few years, Jos Buttler looks strangely out of form and low on confidence and the great MS Dhoni has made more headlines for his slow, conservative and unadventurous innings than the swashbuckling ones of old. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar expressed his concern.

So the wicket-keeper batsmen community can at least be proud of the efforts of Alex Carey. His three fifties from nine innings may not seem like something to write home about but they need to be put into context. He's almost always been asked to come in at seven and that's either to perform a rescue act (New Zealand, West Indies), to get them over the line in a tough chase (South Africa) or to score quickly after a good start. Whatever was needed off him, he almost always did it.

With 329 runs he's the team's third highest scorer after David Warner and Aaron Finch. With Usman Khawaja struggling with a hamstring injury and Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis (himself struggling with injury) short of runs, it would be no surprise to see Carey come in one or two places higher than usual on Thursday. You'll see far worse bets than the 10/1 about him top scoring for Australia against England when the semis come about.

Jadeja-come-lately

In a campaign so far jam-packed with off the-cuff selection decisions by the Indian management, it would be no surprise if the latest was that Ravindra Jadeja got a game in the semi-final.

He played for the first time this tournament against Sri Lanka, in place of Yuzvendra Chahal, who had been expensive against England. Jadeja bowled 10 overs for just 40 runs, claimed the big wicket of Kusal Mendis, took a catch to dismiss the well-set HDRL Thrimanne, but wasn't needed to bat.

He could well keep his place in the team now with any one of Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav or Mohammad Shami missing out. There's another reason why the Indian management may stick with him. Or two, rather. Perhaps only Virat Kohli is as good a fielder as him in the side and his presence in the team solves their problem at number eight.

Jadeja's three-dimensional skills may provide India with a sort of safety valve. A contender for man-of-the-match against New Zealand at 16/1? Why not?

Huge contrast in opening partnerships on Tuesday

New Zealand's opening partnership has been a disaster. Colin Munro was so poor he was dropped two games ago and his replacement Henry Nicholls hasn't fared much better. Martin Guptill's career numbers are very impressive but not so at this World Cup: one fifty in eight innings tells its own story.

It's all in stark contrast to India's where both openers got tonnes against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Rohit Sharma has 647 runs, including five centuries. KL Rahul has 360 runs including a century and two fifties and this despite the fact he's only opened in India's last few games.

It goes a long way to explaining why India are so short at 4/11 to win the game when they face New Zealand. And why it's just 8/13 that India have the highest opening partnership.

England's quiet man could make a roar

Liam Plunkett is one of the less fussy and less flashy players who will be playing in the semis but don't underestimate his importance.

Strangely dropped for four matches despite not having done much wrong, he returned to the side when England were drinking in last-chance saloon, taking three wickets against India and one against New Zealand. And look at that economy rate: 5.5 in a high-scoring match against India and just 3.5 against the Kiwis.

In a team full of big personalities, outspoken characters and players full of 'Hollywood' skills, this quiet character who just gets on with it is as important as any of them. He's 7/2 to be England's top bowler against Australia.

Australia's walking wounded

Against South Africa, Khawaja had a hamstring injury that forced him to retire hurt (he came back right at the end), Marcus Stoinis has a side strain and perhaps worst of all, Mitchell Starc didn't look quite right either when bowling.

Khawaja is unlikely to feature in the semis unless there's a miraculous recovery and his natural replacement- Shaun Marsh- has already been ruled out of the tournament as well. Stoinis hasn't admittedly been in great form so is less of a lost at first glance, but he's a big-game player.

As for Starc, even if he's not 100%, he'll certainly play. But how much of a difference could that make in such an even-looking game?

Australia will certainly have to make at the very least one change and possibly field two players who are half-fit. These injury problems couldn't have come at a worst time.

It would be no surprise if when one or more of those players is ruled out, their price of 5/4 against England may drift over the next few days.

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