The Rock is “Rocking “

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MARC POZZO

We come to the business end of the cricket World Cup this week, with one semi-final to go today. Well, two actually; as I write Tuesday’s match has gone into the reserve day due to the rain in Manchester. The game will pick up with New Zealand trying to at least get to 250 against India, which could be a tall order.

That would mean a pretty easy run chase for the spice boys and I am sure it will be them at Lords on Sunday. However NZ have them on the ropes at  81/5 chasing 240. The Black Caps are on top at this stage.

India finished top of the group standings after overtaking Australia with victory over Sri Lanka.

The semi-finals will see India take on New Zealand before England face Australia today.

After seven weeks, 45 matches and plenty of standout performances with both the bat and ball, the four semi-finalists for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 have been confirmed.

On the face of it, the top four sides are as expected-with India, Australia England and New Zealand going into the tournament ranked the best four ODI teams in the world. But as hosts England can attest to, the journey to reach the knockout stage has not been plain sailing for all of the sides that remain in contention to be crowned champions.

Australia will now continue the defence of their 2015 crown against England at Edgbaston, while India face New Zealand at Old Trafford in the other semi-final showdown. And as the race to reach the tournament’s showpiece at Lord’s on 14 July draws to a close, here’s a look at the World Cup records of the four teams who are still in contention for silverware.

India first the tag of being one of the favourites can weigh heavily on some , but the country has shown no signs of being burdened by the pressure as they topped the standings after the round-robin stage. India won seven of their nine games to finish at the summit, with their defeat to tournament hosts England the only blot on their record following a complete washout against New Zealand.

A seventh World Cup semi-final is the reward for their consistency and they will fancy their chances with the likes of skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah at their disposal. You only have to go back to 2015 for the last time India were in the final four, before falling at the penultimate hurdle that year as they were knocked out by eventual champions Australia. They also exited the tournament at the same stage in 1987 and     1996 – losing to England and Sri Lanka, respectively — in between their World Cup victories in 1983 and 2011. Of the three finals they have contested, though, India have only finished as runners-up once. They will also hope the omens are good, having also won their first World Cup on English soil.

Despite the Aussies arriving in England as the defending champions, Aaron Finch and his men found themselves in the unfamiliar position of not being considered frontrunners for the title. With much of the pre-tournament hype focused around hosts England and India, Australia were still seen by many as a side still in transition as they slipped under the radar. But if the history of the World Cup has taught us anything, it’s that Australia are serial winners and they were the first team to secure their qualification for the knockout stages in the 2019 edition.

Australia will contest the semi-finals for the eighth time and will do so safe in the knowledge that when they have reached the last four in the past, they have never missed out on the final. And with five World Cup wins from 11 played, including a hat-trick of victories between 1999 and 2007, they unquestionably have the best pedigree of the sides left in the competition.

Finch now has the opportunity to join the illustrious names of Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke by leading Australia to World Cup glory. Don’t bet against it!

England in contrast came into the tournament as hosts and the No.1 ODI side in the world, England have had to deal with high expectations in their bid to win their first-ever men’s World Cup.

The first objective of reaching the semi-final stages for first time since 1992 has been achieved, though, even if there were a few nerve-shredding moments along the way. Eoin Morgan’s troops prevailed in their final two games against India and New Zealand to book their last four place, taking their overall group stage tally to six wins from nine games.

And while it has been 27 years since they last contested a World Cup semi-final, England do have plenty of experience of reaching this stage from when the competition was in its infancy. England progressed to the semi-final stages in the first five editions of the tournament, only to see their challenge go no further in 1975 and 1983 – both times when they were the hosts. But when they have reached the final — in 1979, 1987 and 1992 – England have finished runners-up to West Indies, Australia and Pakistan.  This time the hosts will be hoping its fourth time lucky.

Finally New Zealand. The round-robin stage could almost be separated into two sections for New Zealand, who ultimately qualified for the knockout stages with five wins from their nine matches. But that only tells part of the story. The Black Caps were unbeaten after their opening six matches, with an abandoned game against India at Trent Bridge they only dropped a point. Three defeats from their final three games then left their semi-final place briefly in doubt, only for net run rate to rescue Kane Williamson’s side with Pakistan breathing down their neck.

Like England, New Zealand have never won the World Cup, although they have certainly had their fair share of missed opportunities having previously contested seven semi-finals. However, of those seven appearances in the final four, the Black Caps have only gone on to reach the competition’s showpiece once — in 2015 when they were beaten by co-hosts Australia.

With the disappointment from that defeat four years ago still fresh in the memory, New Zealand will feel the time has come for them to finally shake off that ‘nearly men’ label once and for all.

This last weekend, my wife and I were up in the Vumba at Leopard Rock for a friends 50th birthday, and I must say we were suitably impressed. It’s been a long time since I frequented the Vumba and I can truly say I will be back. The hotel is looking good, the food of a good standard and for me the golf course is what makes the place. Certainly one of the hardest and toughest courses in the country! The greens were in good shape although being winter, the fairways need some well-deserved rain and fertilizer. Thereafter its back to its best.

I must commend all up there, in these trying times we are in and with tourism at such a low. Keeping things going and maintaining the standards is no mean task! Well done Leopard Rock. You are on my radar for another visit soon.

I feel I must still whinge about this power story. I don’t really think I have ever experienced such bad power cuts and supposed load shedding like this before. When do they say enough is enough!!!

I do want to know or ask ZESA (is that their name). So when my appliances get damaged from switching on and off will you replace them? I have always wondered. Does the guy in the control room, slouch in his chair probably so well paid too, and flick the switch with his toe as he is far too lazy or important to remove himself from the comfort of his heated room with power each morning and evening. There is defiantly no roster or consistency with this that’s for sure.

I know areas that have NO CUTS . How does that work? As I am in manufacturing I can say it’s industry that’s in dire need and the power cuts we are having is just testimony to the downfall or going to be the closure of some businesses. But hey, no one really cares, as long as some have power and access to fuel then all is well I guess.

Wimbledon comes down to business end this weekend . The ladies final on Saturday, and the men’s final on Sunday afternoon . Serena Williams looks like she is on course for her 8th title at SW19, and first grand slam title since January 2017 . She has had her ups and downs with temper tantrums and a knee injury to contend with but with all of the tops seed all out it looks like hers for taking .

In the men’s draw Federer ,Nadal and Djokovic are still in . However if both Federer and Nadal get through their quarter final matches ,they are scheduled to meet in what will be a mouthwatering semi-final.

My weekend is then sorted; tennis finals and a cricket world cup final.

Keep warm all.