It’s going off!
The Cricket World Cup has settled into a bit of a rhythm now. Most teams have played twice. There has been some spectacular catching, whacking and some very good fast bouncy bowling. Patterns are starting to emerge and none that are much of a surprise when you look at past performances, reputations and expectations.
Pakistan have conspired, in a way only they can manage, to produce performances so diametrically opposed to one another it takes a squint to confirm they were the same side playing in both games. In their first match, they were demolished by a swashbuckling bumper fest from the West Indies. Jason Holder, Andre Russell and Oshane Thomas dismissing them for 105. Chris Gayle (The Universe Boss), who needs little invitation to avoid running at all costs, smited a boundary laden half-century to lead the Windies to a victory in just over 13 overs. The Windies are going to cause everyone trouble.
Their following game saw Pakistan approach England in a slightly different manner. Their opponents, fresh from an easy victory over an increasingly poor South African side, don’t seem to change much. Win the toss, elect to field on a pitch that looks ripe for a massive total and then wait and see. Pakistan, aided by some butter fingers, confused field placing and some dodgy bowling at times amassed a total over 300% larger than their previous effort a couple of days earlier. Only Pakistan…
Pressure? What pressure?
Nevertheless, England came out to bat with the express intention of knocking off the highest ever run chase in CWC history without breaking sweat. Well they reckoned without a new Pakistan attack and the additional pressures that come with batting second in a World Cup game, as opposed to a dead rubber on a sunny afternoon in Bristol. Maybe a rethink? Doubtful, one would imagine.
On the face of it England did ok. They got within 14 of the huge total and thus passed the record total – albeit in a losing cause – and two of their men, Buttler and Root scored centuries. It is a measure of how far England have come as a side when there are questions about form when they fall slightly short in pursuit of 348. Pakistan were excellent but England probably gave them 20-30 runs in the field. If you were very harsh both their centurions probably got out a little too easily.
Without getting all analytical about it the mistakes were obvious and everyone has an off day in the field. If this is the only hiccup England have on their way to the knockout stages then we have done well. In reality, we all know this is unlikely. England teams of all sports enjoy an implosion of form to keep their supporters on their toes.
The best (and the worst) of the rest
Meanwhile India are going about their business effectively and warming up nicely. Watch out the rest. Virat Kohli hasn’t scored a century yet. He will and everyone else will be hiding behind their sunglasses when he does. Even after one game, they’re a sure bet for the semis. New Zealand seem to be just about winning their games and sit neatly at the top of the table. They’ll be in the semis too.
Sri Lanka look like they’ll be taking on South Africa in the tier one competition of who can be the England (of the last CWC) of 2019. Afghanistan will surprise some for periods of their games but it is unlikely to be sustained for the full 100 overs. Their recent game against Sri Lanka may have been their best bet for a victory but they stumbled chasing a measly Sri Lankan total. Duckworth Lewis probably didn’t help either.
We mustn’t forget Bangladesh – like the opposition are prone to do – who are proving that they are a force to be reckoned with. Somehow, they seem to slip slightly under the radar. It must be the misplaced belief they represent a challenge only at home. However, South Africa found that this is not the case anymore when they were set 331 to win and managed only to scrape by 300. They could quite easily have beaten New Zealand too.
The Baggy Greens
All of which brings us neatly onto to our friends in the green and the gold. They are up to something under Justin Langer. Whilst their chase in their first game against Afghanistan was glacially slow, David Warner is showing signs he means business. He came into the tournament in good form post IPL and he’ll be very keen to shove the boo boys and their noise where the sign don’t shine. Probably at Lord’s on 26th June.
The backbone of their side is not that different to the one who triumphed down under in 2015. Finch and Warner at the top, Smith at no. 4 with Glenn Maxwell waiting in the wings to do something ridiculous. Good or bad. Their fast bowling pair of Starc and Cummings is as good as any. If we were to be mean then it’s the other players that aren’t quite as good as those who have moved on. A semi-final perhaps beckons? Maybe. A tournament victory perhaps not. Err, please NOOOOOOOOOOO!!
Don’t Cry For Me
All participants of Aussie Sport Watch were dismayed to hear Justin Langer withdraw permission for opposing fans to boo their talismen, David Warner & Steve Smith. Dressing up in sandpaper and asking their players to sign rolls of the stuff on the boundary was absolutely off limits. There is to be no shrieks of ‘Cheat’ from the stands. No chorus of booing whenever Stevie touches his box. What to do for the average barmy army fan then?
Simply, if we are to believe that all great players – and like it or not both Warner and Smith are that – respond best to being abused then might it be suggested we do the opposite. A raucous cheer when they come out to bat, some soft Lord’s applause when they poke one up the hill for a quick single. Perhaps even a song entitled ‘Don’t Cry For Me Davey Warner’. Or go one further, when they come out to bat, just walk out to the bar and pretend they are indeed, as Justin Langer pointed out, ‘only human’ and have suffered enough for their past indiscretions. After all mere mortals are not worthy of such attention.
Ha!! What nonsense Justin. We are going to boo, tease and barrack and probably keep on doing so til September. We love a boo here. Panto booing at all times. Besides, they can take it, those Aussies are good like that. Strong tough types who haven’t got the time for a cry when things go wrong. Just ask their old coach Boof.
We all love an anniversary. On this very day (6th June) 25 years ago can you think where you were? I was toying with the idea of reaching mediocrity in my A levels and then probably having a game of cricket. Possibly a light fun poking too of master in charge of moustaches, rugby and economics and all round good man, Mike Pyrgos. Other than that not much.
Brian Charles Lara had slightly loftier plans for his day. He was to walk out to bat that morning and complete a magnificent 501 at Edgbaston. Just think 501 runs. All on his own. Forget he was bowled on 12 to a no ball and dropped on 18 by the Durham wicket keeper, Chris Scott. Even stranger was that match was interrupted for a Sunday league game where BC Lara scored only 6! Fancy pausing a game to play another (same) game and then coming back to carry on batting in another (same) game. Those were the days when cricket was easy to understand.
Warwickshire, who won a treble that year, finished the game on an absurd 810-4. Having beaten Hanif Mohammed’s 499 of 1959 that day, Lara had another record under his belt to go with the 375 he had scored against England that winter in Antigua.
Rumour had it you didn’t sledge Brian when he came out to bat. It would make him bat a bit better. I wonder what the Durham players said to him out there when he arrived out to bat a few days earlier. Perhaps he just wanted to get away from captain Dermot Reeve or, better still, show Roger Twose the NZ opener at Warwickshire a thing or two. Dear Roger gave him a letter on arrival in Birmingham welcoming him as the second best left handed batsman at the club.
And finally, finally…
All bets are off. As this goes to press The Windies have those chaps from Down Under 54-4 from 12 overs. Maxwell has got a duck, Davey was out for 3. Steve Smith is still there. Booooo!!! Go the #meninmarroon.