Niall O’Brien: Kiwis need batters to fire to set up a 13/2 shock final

It's time for the first World Cup semi-final, and New Zealand will need to get their act together to take down table-topping India.

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New Zealand’s earlier wins papered over the cracks They’re a good side, hard-working, but Lockie Ferguson’s been a huge loss for them. Whether his hamstring will be up to playing on Tuesday remains to be seen.

They look really bereft of confidence at the moment, they don’t look like they’ve any kind of rhythm, and India should be way too strong for them on the day.

At the moment, Kane Williamson is walking out far too early to bat every game. They need a strong opening partnership to set up any kind of result.

One thing they could grasp on to is that two of their key batsmen, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, still haven’t got going in the tournament. If the two of them can suddenly fire on the same day – we know they’re capable of it – they can catapult New Zealand to a second consecutive World Cup final at Old Trafford.

In particular, Guptill’s been a bit unlucky. Some of his dismissals have been more unusual than others. He’s been caught down legside, they haven’t been down to amazing balls or anything.

He ‘s been finding ways to get himself out, as they say, and that’s often down to luck rather than anything he’s doing at the crease. Sometimes you nick one down the legside and it goes past the keeper for four, other times you get caught.

But these two batsmen are two of New Zealand’s greatest-ever players and if it clicks for them they could turn the game in the Kiwis’ favour.

LEEDS, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Virat Kohli of India warms up before the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between Sri Lanka and India at Headingley on July 06, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

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Kohli due a big score

India’s bowling attack is superb. They’ve huge variety. They’ve pace, wrist spin, and a lot of guile, and that helps because their batting hasn’t been up to the same level in the tournament so far.

If you can get to Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma early that really gives you a chance.

Of course, it’s asking a lot to get them out the way they’ve been batting recently. When I say early I mean if you can take their wickets before they get to 30 or 40 you’d probably take that as they can take the game away from you once they get in.

Sharma’s been in such good form throughout the competition. He’s the leading runscorer so far in the World Cup going into this match and has five centuries in the nine group games.

Where he’s been converting his fifties into bigger scores, the captain Kohli’s yet to hit triple figures despite making it past the half-century mark five times. You’d think he can’t keep falling short so I’d look at him rather than Sharma to lead the scoring in this and his country to another final.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 29: Trent Boult of New Zealand celebrates completing his hat trick after dismissing Jason Behrendorff of Australia during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between New Zealand and Australia at Lords on June 29, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Black Cap bowlers can defend a total

If the Black Caps can win the toss and bat first – we’ve seen throughout the competition how important that’s been, with 16 of the last 20 games going in favour of the team that’s won the coin flip – and get somewhere around 300 in Manchester, they’ll be in the game because they’ve got some decent bowlers themselves.

Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, they can pose problems for an Indian batting line-up that’s not the strongest beyond the big two batsmen.

The question is how can they build that total to defend without relying on captain Kane Williamson alone to score half the runs.

They’ll need two of their batters to fire to win here. They’ve relied on Williamson throughout the World Cup, if Guptill or Taylor can put up a score with him to get to 300, they’ll be in with a shout.

And while I’d expect India to win the game, it might be worth having a bet on a repeat of the 2015 World Cup final at the odds, with a New Zealand/Australia coming in at around 13/2.

Niall’s Pick of the Punts: Virat Kohli Top Match Runscorer @ 4/1

New Zealand/Australia Semi-finals double @ 13/2

*All odds correct at time of posting

Fancy a double semi-final upset? Get on the 13/2 double at paddypower.com