Over 30 matches have been played and Australia are the only team with a certain spot in the semi-finals. With their noses ahead in the race are India and New Zealand. With England losing their last two matches, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh are in the hunt as well. The World Cup has truly moved into the business end. Our Royals have been in among the runs and wickets regularly. Here’s a recap of how some of them performed in the last fortnight or so. Ben Stokes: 82* vs Sri Lanka & 89 vs Australia Ben Stokes has been the lone lion to put up a staunch fight during England’s last two World Cup matches. They suffered two back-to-back losses, but Stokesy gave them more than a glimmer of hope to win those two games. Against Sri Lanka, Stokes walked in with England on 72/3, chasing a tricky 233 with an in-form Malinga to contend with. After a brief stand with Root, Stokes began losing partners with increasing regularity. England’s lower middle-order, capable of batting pretty neatly fell like a pack of cards. After taking the game deep, Stokes had little choice but to attack from his end and nurture strike as well. He took the aerial route and plundered some gaps with exquisite striking, but ran out of partners eventually. He ended up on an unbeaten 82, with seven 4s and four 6s. In England’s very next game, Stokes was up against some tough bowlers. He walked in with England in trouble yet again, on 28/3. This time around, England were chasing 286 and were staring down the barrel at 53/4. Stokes got together with fellow Rajasthan Royals teammate, Jos Buttler and stitched a handy partnership that prevented an avalanche. However, the stand ended when Khawaja took a very good catch inches within the ropes to get rid of Buttler. From there on, it was another Stokesy show. On a tough surface, Stokes tried to gain momentum by taking the attack to the likes of Lyon and Behrendorff. The lower-order showed some support to Stokes, as Woakes got stuck in. However, when on 89, he got an absolute peach of a delivery from Mitchell Starc. A pin-point, in-swinging Yorker struck his off stump and Ben Stokes dropped his bat in disbelief. Stokesy became the first batsman to score three 80+ scores batting at number 5 or lower, in World Cups. He would’ve loved it more had England won their last two games though. Stokes has proven to be the rock in England’s middle order, even when the other batsmen around him fail to accumulate runs. Jofra Archer: 3-fers against West Indies, Afghanistan & Sri Lanka Jofra Archer is well in the race to become this World Cup’s highest wicket-taker. He has 16 wickets to his name. He is just behind Mitchell Starc and is tied with Mohammad Amir. In this campaign, Archer has claimed five 3-wicket hauls, something no English bowler had done before him in World Cups. In Southampton, Archer bowler a fiery spell against the West Indians and finished on 3/30. Archer then rattled the Afghans with an outing that yielded 3/52. In what was his fourth consecutive 3-fer, Archer claimed 3/52 once again facing the Lankans. Archer will be one of the keys for England as they look to get back to winning ways soon with other teams breathing down their neck. Steve Smith: 73 (59) vs Sri Lanka Steve Smith has been in rollicking form since his return to Australian colours. In the World Cup alone, Smith has collected three 50+ scores. The 100 may have eluded him all this while, but one gets a feeling that he isn’t far away from the three-figure mark with Australia having made it to the semis already. Against Sri Lanka, Smith walked in with Australia in a reasonably good position on 100/2. He joined Finch who was middling almost everything. Smith didn’t waste much time and the duo upped the ante soon enough. They stitched a 173-run stand to take Australia close to 300. Smith toyed with the field with his immaculate placement and smashed 73 runs off 59 balls with seven 4s and a 6. The Rajasthan Royals boys have been on a roll and it is just a matter of time before Buttler gets back in among the runs, while Oshane Thomas will look to steam in and bowl some quick deliveries to trouble batsmen during West Indies’ remaining matches. The World Cup has gotten interesting and a good performance can make all the difference for a team. Keep your eyes out for all the Royals!
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