Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World Cup Report Match 34: India v Ireland

Today's match brought some semblance of reality back to the World Cup, with the current holders showing a realistic gap between them and the up-and-coming Irish team, and how much improvement is needed in all parts of their cricket if they want to progress to Test status.

Ireland was not bad. They were quite steady. Their batting moved along with some impetus early on, reaching 89 off 15 overs before the loss of their first wicket. In all respects, they should have been able to push on to a total close to 300, and at 3/206 in the 39th over it still appeared realistic. However, the dismissal of Balbirnie triggered a collapse that halted the entire momentum of the innings, so much so that they were dismissed with an over remaining for 259. It was a fair total, one that showed they were still improving. But it was never going to be enough against the Indian batting line up unless they could make significant breakthroughs in their top order.
And that wasn't to be. Sharma and Dhawan feasted upon the capable but pedestrian Irish bowling attack, putting on 173 for the first wicket in just 23 overs. They passed their target just two wickets down and with 13 overs remaining in absolutely comfort. It was a clinical display from the Indian team. Ireland never dropped their heads, and will be all the better for having played the game against excellent opposition, who showed them just how they need to improve their batting and bowling in order to continue their advancement in the game.

India has now assured itself of top spot in Group B, and unless something untoward happens they will play Bangladesh in their quarter final at the M.C.G, followed by Australia in a semi-final at the S.C.G. Ireland now have their final match against Pakistan this Sunday, with the winner gaining a place in the quarter finals, and the loser bowing out. After today, Ireland will be aware of what they will have to produce in order to defeat on of the top ranked nations.

Monday, March 9, 2015

World Cup Report Match 33: Bangladesh v England

There have been a number of feel-good stories in this 2015 World Cup. The advance of Ireland, the impressive displays of the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Scotland, the fall and rise of Pakistan. So many matches have gone down to the wire, producing exciting and amazing cricket to watch. But as an Australian, nothing has given me a more profound sense of joy and happiness as watching England capitulate to Bangladesh in this evening's match in Adelaide, a result that has knocked the England team out of the World Cup before the preliminary matches have even been completed. Now for the backlash to begin, which could be just as enjoyable.

England has only themselves to blame. They waited far too long in this tournament to make a bold change in their team, despite only being able to defeat Scotland up to this point of the World Cup. Their batting has been steady, whereas almost every other team has had moments of explosiveness. Their bowling has been ineffectual and lacking in penetration, and their fielding has been less than exhilarating. Their captain has been hamstrung in his decision making, not to mention his own form with the bat.

To the match at hand, and England threw away the advantage of winning the toss by inviting Bangladesh to bat first. It is tactic that has occurred far too often in this World Cup, and teams keep being burned by it. Just ask South Africa how they felt about chasing 233 against Pakistan the other day. It seems ludicrous, unless the wicket is a raging greentop, that a top flight team believes chasing is a better option than defending. Did Morgan and his allies really believe that they would restrict Bangladesh to a total that would end up being containable to their batting line up? To me it seemed like a risk. And, despite those initial breakthroughs that had Bangladesh reeling at 2/8, the lack of penetration that England's bowling attack has shown through this whole tournament returned just as quickly, as the Bangladesh batsmen consolidated and worked their way through the changes. 86 for the third wicket produced certainty that was then dissolved by a fourth wicket eight balls later. But even then England could not close down their opponents. Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur put on 141 from 144 deliveries with barely a risk, with Mahmudullah scoring his country's first World Cup century, and his keeper finishing with 89 when his own century beckoned.
As a total, 7/275 was not a huge one in the context of this World Cup, but consider the baggage that it carried. England's batting has not been great, and the pressure they now found themselves under was enormous. If they couldn't chase down this total, they were out of the World Cup. Everything hinged on THIS innings. Perhaps they felt against this bowling attack they could do it comfortably, but weighing on the backs of their minds for the entire fifty overs was the fact that it was over if they failed, and the media and supporter backlash if that occurred would be cataclysmic.

In effect it was a calamity. Ridiculous running between the wickets between Bell and Ali cost Ali his wicket, with Bell not responding and then turning his back on his partner. The long overdue recalling of Hales went well until outdone by a Mortaza outswinger. Bell against failed to capitalise on a good start before also edging to the keeper. Skipper Morgan, with five recent ducks, added a sixth by hooking third ball down fine leg's throat. It was second rate stuff, especially with the tournament's future on the line. Bell and Morgan, as the senior players and leaders, had to do better than this when their team needed leaders. Taylor lasted four deliveries, and Root was also undone by another Mortaza beauty, leaving the English team at 6/163, with 113 required of 87 deliveries.

Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, the players who had been the least effected by the battering received by this team in Australia last summer, now put together a smart partnership, seeing off the dangers of Mortaza and Shakib, while taking on the lesser lights of the Bangladesh bowling attack. Their partnership of 75 from 61 balls had put England back into the box seat, needing 38 from 26 deliveries and a short boundary at Adelaide to target. The Buttler tried to be too cute, was caught between two shots, and was caught behind. England's trump was gone. Then, the very next ball, Chris Jordan tried to pinch a single, but was forced to turn back when Woakes didn't move. He dived for the crease, and made it in time as the return hit the stumps. However, in the process, his bat bounced in the air, and it was referred to the third umpire. After a thousand viewings, there really wasn't anyone who could honestly say for sure that the bat was grounded, or the bat was in the air. As a result, it was a 50-50 decision whichever way the umpire went. He went with red. Bangladesh celebrated, England fumed. I cheered the decision, but honestly felt the benefit of the doubt had to go to the batsman.

There is nothing in the Laws of Cricket where it is written that the batsman will get the benefit of the doubt. In the case of recent matches it is obvious that this is being adhered to, as batsmen in recent matches have had no benefit of some very close calls sent to the referring umpire. It is probably time to implement a further ruling to any decision being referred to the third umpire. When referring something to the third umpire, whether it be a run out or stumping or disputed catch, the on-field umpire should have to tell the third umpire whether he believes the batsmen is out or not out. The third umpire should then look over the incident, but if conclusive evidence cannot be found to indicate whether a ruling is out or not out, then the referral is handed back to the on field umpire, whose initial ruling is then taken as the decision. This therefore means that the on-field umpire is still the ruling official, unless it is conclusively proven he is incorrect. Umpire error may/will still occur (and in the case of Jordan's dismissal, we'll never know what the umpire would have said if this was implemented last night) but at least it will be the decision of the on field umpire, rather than belittling the third umpire who has made a big call on something he probably shouldn't have to. 

Broad and Woakes did their best. 22 runs came from the next two overs, and left 16 required from 12 balls. But, as was to be expected, it was too much. Two great deliveries from Rubel Hossain accounted for Broad and then Anderson, and Bangladesh had sealed their spot in the quarter finals, and committed England to also rans. For Bangladesh, it is a day of celebration. A quarter final against India at the M.C.G is a fitting reward for their efforts, and what a huge day it will be for the players and their supporters playing in that stadium.

For England, it looks like a repeat showing of the blood and carnage of twelve months ago awaits them. No doubt for England the Ashes will be their first and most pertinent problem, and they somehow have to prepare themselves for that very quickly. In regards to the one day game though, surely they must almost immediately start looking four years down the track. The next World Cup is held in their country in 2019, which means anyone who is not likely to be of an age or performance in four years time should immediately be shown the door. It is hard to believe that any of the coaching staff will keep their jobs. Surely the time has come to take a punt on someone who has the experience and is as highly regarded as Michael Vaughan to come into that coaching and mentoring role. Players such as Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell would be on the cusp of finishing their careers by 2019, and surely not a part of that planning. All the 22 and 23 years old Englishmen playing County cricket this northern summer (if there are any amongst the South Africans, Pakistani's and Australians) should be being brought along with a view to four years time, immediately. I highly doubt it will occur, it is not in the English make up to admit errors and make bold decisions in regards to their future. Let's instead just sit back and listen to what their media and supporters have to say for the next few days. It should be more entertaining than their cricket has been, unless you love watching them getting beaten.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

World Cup Report Match 30: Zimbabwe v Ireland

The Associate teams have done it again, putting on a terrific game of cricket that managed to wind its way down to the 100th over before a result could be ascertained, and along with the kind of intrigue and controversy that matches of the highest calibre can produce. There didn't deserve to be a loser in the Ireland vs. Zimbabwe match in Hobart, and by the conclusion one team was happy, and other probably thought it may have been robbed. Such is the result of high class cricket.

Ireland benefitted from Zimbabwe winning the toss and sending them in to bat, and batted almost perfectly in reaching their highest ODI total of 8/331. Ed Joyce again enjoyed some good fortune early in his innings, but he was able to fight through to score an invaluable 112 from 103 balls, and able assisted by Andrew Balbirnie who was run out in the final over for 97 off 79 balls. 110 runs came from the final 11 overs as Balbirnie was helped along by Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson. Where it appeared as though 300 would be a good total for Ireland, their final total put them in a position of comfort, if not complete ascendancy.
Zimbabwe's reply stuttered and faltered at 4/74, until a ripping partnership of 149 from Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams got them back in the match. Taylor was superb with 121 from 91, but his wicket did restore the balance of the chance. Then Williams took over, and had reaped 96 from 82 balls when he crashed another leg side swat out to the long deep square leg boundary, where he was caught by John Mooney right on the boundary... literally? Moments of confusion reigned, as replay after replay tried to determine whether or not he had been standing on the soft boundary edge, or just inside. Opinions differed in the commentary box, and no one could agree on either verdict. In the end, Williams left the ground of his own accord, and the match resumed with Zimbabwe needing 32 off 19 balls. Mark Nicholas was adamant that the boundary moved when Mooney lifted his foot after accepting the catch. To me, it was only his shadow on the soft raised boundary advertising. In the long run, the decision was made by the despondent batsman, in a way fitting of sportsmanship in taking the fieldsman's word for it. If only it happened more often. Despite this, it got close. Mupariwa smashed 19 runs from the 49th over bowled by Kevin O'Brien, leaving 7 required from 6 balls. The cool and level headed Cusack responded with two wickets in four balls to end the innings and chase at 326, and a wonderful match was concluded.

Zimbabwe has now gotten close in many of their matches without being able to force a victory. They have one match remaining in which to do so. Ireland has done what it had to do in its continuing chase for a quarter final spot. Pakistan's victory over South Africa may have made that a little murkier than they would have liked, but it sets up their final two matches as terrific contests.

World Cup Report Match 29: Pakistan v South Africa

Oh dear oh dear. Cue the "chokers" tag again. Start up the printing presses that exclaim "South Africa fold under pressure again!" It has come to that time of the World Cup when those outside of the team - and very possibly those within the team - will start to question the theoretical favouritism this team has carried with it for so long, and whether we are about to see yet another spectacular implosion at a international cricket event.

Twice in this World Cup South Africa has been asked to bat second - this time of their own volition - and both times they have been found out. Spectacularly so too. Pakistan played steadily and less spectacularly. Their batsmen were kept under reasonable control for the majority of the innings. Their run rate was just over 5 for most of the innings up until the 35th over, with five wickets already back in the shed. Skipper Misbah once again played the steadying influence, with yet another ODI half century. The rain break came at a very inopportune moment for them, just as Misbah and Afridi had started the acceleration. When they returned to the field, all momentum had been lost, and the final wickets fell, such that Pakistan was bowled out for 222 in their final over, which had been reset back to 47 overs a side after the time lost. Duckworth-Lewis revised this total up to 231, leaving South Africa the rather comfortable total of 232 required from 47 overs.
But the batsmen fell to the pressure - and it must be said excellent bowling from Pakistan. Quinton de Kock failed again, and one wonders how much longer South Africa can continue to leave him in the opening position, or perhaps even in the team itself. Amla and du Plessis recovered, only to fall within four balls of each other, and then quickly followed by Rossouw and Miller. South Africa had lost 4/10 in 33 balls, and when Duminy went at 102, only a superman could have gotten them home. In his mild mannered guise as AB de Villiers, 'Superman' did his utmost, and helped by Steyn, Abbot and Morkel he managed to get the score to within sight of victory at 200 before he was finally dismissed for another remarkable innings of 77 off 58 balls.

Pakistan's pace attack was fantastic, exploiting the conditions brilliantly, and attacking at all times, knowing they had to bowl their opponents out to win the game. They left nothing in the bag, and fully deserved their win. It also puts them back into a finals position in Group B, where a loss could have been fatal. South Africa now have to find another way to recover. They have lost to India and Pakistan, and while they were tough matches, it was expected that they would win both of them. perhaps a month of playing the lacklustre West Indies team has not been the best preparation for this tournament after all. There will a lot of soul searching in the coming days, in an attempt to eradicate any sense of foreboding, or the mention of the word "chokers".

Friday, March 6, 2015

World Cup Report Match 28: India v West Indies

Sometimes you have to wonder how the West Indies are still in this tournament. It isn't as though their fall down the international tree hasn't been well documented, or the troubles they have between players and board, as well as drawing from different nations in order to put a team together. However, even when everything goes wrong, there still seems to be that glimmer of opportunity in every match they play where if they just did one thing right at that time, they could win the game. And even in a match where they were pretty soundly defeated, there is cause for hope. Except that this isn't being followed through with any positive changes or initiatives.

Batting first, the Windies had to put on a big score. But even a novice can tell you where the problems lie in the Windies batting line up. Dwayne Smith, simply not up to this level. How he has played 104 ODI's shows how poor the back up players are going. Chris Gayle, either stationary or at 200kph. He is incapable of building an innings and playing for the team. If he is meek he prods out meekly. If he is swinging, he eventually just sings his way out. he did both here today, was dropped twice and then slapped a couple over the fence before predictably swiping to deep mid wicket to be dismissed. How did he think this helped his team's cause? All of the baloney and smoke blown up his arse for his 216 against Zimbabwe is again shown for what it is - a bully against the lightweights, no heart to try and survive for his team against the heavyweights. He also left Samuels for dead in running him out in a childish display of non-running. It's time commentators called him out for his constant poor showings rather than dribbling over his (very) occasional big shot innings.
India's pace men feasted on the bouncy wicket, and probably should have had the Windies out for under 150. However, beleaguered skipper Jason Holder, who must wonder what his future holds let alone his team's future, again showed some heart and guts to score 57, and the last three wickets scored more than the first seven to reach 182.
In reply the Windies fast bowlers gave their all, running in hard and using the wicket as best they could. India's own problems at the top order announced themselves again, while Russell cleverly outthought Kohli in having him hook down square leg's throat, and Rahane and Raina were outdone again. At 5/107, the game was still within the Windies grasp, but here Holder's inexperienced showed, and he went for spin when he really needed to unload his pace arsenal at the lower order in the hope of bowling India out, their only realistic chance of winning the game. Dhoni and Ashwin steadied the ship, and eventually passed the total 6 wickets down with more than 10 overs remaining.

India will have appreciated the solid workout ahead of their playoff games, and despite a couple of hiccups they appear to have their best XI firing at the right time. The West Indies, apart from few exceptions, are not only on the brink of being eliminated from the tournament, they are still a chance of finishing 3rd in Group B. It is an anomaly of the relative difference between the top four teams in this tournament and the rest. Logic suggests that even if they make the quarter finals, they cannot progress any further. The great magic of the game of cricket of course suggests that once you make the knockout stages... anything can still happen...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

World Cup Report Match 27: Bangladesh v Scotland

Bangladesh are within another washout of reaching the quarter finals of this World Cup, while Scotland continue to chase a maiden World Cup victory after once again doing most things right without being able to close the deal. This whole World Cup, and especially the matches staged in New Zealand, seem to be an effort to get your opposition first, let them score as many as they can, and then run it down with overs to spare. In the majority of cases this appears to be a 300+ total (except from the New Zealand v Australia match, where two superior bowling line ups faced each other), which up until this tournament should have been an impregnable score. Not so anymore. 

No doubt Bangladesh thought they could restrict Scotland to a total of around 200, preferably less, and be home in time for an afternoon swim. Scotland's batsmen were not aware of this, and took the advantage of batting first on the benign strip to rack up their highest score in a World Cup match. Opener Kyle Coetzer played wonderfully well, with his innings of 156 off 134 deliveries the rock around which the innings was built. He weathered the initial onslaught, took his time, but kept the score rolling over. The middle order all batted well in support, accelerating when required, and the final total of 8/318 was more than Scotland would have expected at the 35 over mark. It also still appeared a little short, unless the Scotland bowling attack could really find its teeth.
Once again though, this failed to occur. As with most of the bowling attacks in this tournament, there is a real lack of penetrability in the bowling, especially considering that two new balls are used in each innings. For the most part, an early breakthrough occurs (in this case Sarkar was the victim for 2) and then the innings builds on a huge second or third wicket partnership until the 35 over mark, at which time a batting explosion occurs. Despite the best efforts from all of the Scotland bowlers, there didn't appear at any stage during the run chase the possibility of Bangladesh losing this match. Their bowling is serviceable, but on the roads that are being dished up for this tournament, they don't have enough in their favour to get wickets unless the batsmen do something untoward. Cruising to 4/322 of 48 overs, it was almost like a training run. Scotland's coaching staff will know they have to find bowlers with a bit more pace, and who turn the ball a bit more, than the ones they have. Their bowling is not a lost cause, but for the flat-track bullies on these pitches, they don't stand a chance.

Bangladesh now play England in Adelaide on Monday, with the winner to go through to play a quarter final against India, and the loser to miss out. If, heaven forbid, the match was to be washed out, Bangladesh would go through as England would be three points behind them with only one match to play. Scotland now play Sri Lanka and Australia, both in Hobart to complete their tournament, where they will be hoping to be competitive and to learn from their vastly more experienced opponents.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

World Cup Report Match 25: Pakistan v United Arab Emirates

I'm not sure whether the recent trend for Associate teams who win the toss to send in their most experienced opponents to bat first has a reason. Perhaps they believe it is the best chance for their less penetrative bowling attacks to utilise the fresh wicket to attempt to make early breakthroughs. May be they are resigned to their fate, and believe the best way to get the most out of the match is to have their fifty overs at their opponents, before (hopefully) being able to bat out their own fifty overs. Or is it a directive from the ICC? That the Associates must allow the big teams to bat first in order to have the match stretch out to its full limit? Whatever the reasoning may be, here was another match where the experienced team (Pakistan) was able to have first use of a very good batting wicket, and work their way to a 300+ score without too many problems, before then giving their peripheral bowlers a crack at their opponents, with the match extending to the 100th over without the result ever being in danger.

That's not to say there were not good performances. Misbah-ul-Haq continued his excellent tournament, racking up another half century. Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail scored their own fifties, and got some good batting into them before the bigger games ahead. Manjula Guruge, who is without a doubt the U.A.E's best and most effective bowler, took four wickets, yet bowled only 8 overs. Pakistan's total of 6/339 came at a rate that barely changed through the whole innings, there was no acceleration nor deceleration. In the U.A.E's innings Shaiman Anwar impressed against in top scoring with 62, while former captain and the team's other most stable batsman Khurram Khan made 43. Pakistan moved through their peripheral bowlers, and the result was certainly never in question as the Emirates totalled 8/210.

Both sides would have been satisfied with the game, despite the ease of the result. Pakistan got some good time for their batsmen and their bowlers. The U.A.E got the maximum benefit fro their match against one of the world's best team's and can only improve and benefit from such fixtures. While their World Cup will not progress beyond this stage of the tournament, Pakistan have put themselves back in the frame for a quarter final position, and the results of the final matches of Group B will be fascinating for this reason.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

World Cup Report Match 24: South Africa v Ireland

Any doubts about the gap between the up and coming young guns of International cricket and the team at the very top of the tree were laid to rest here today, as the South African juggernaut increased speed towards finally laying its World Cup hoodoo to rest in obliterating the Ireland team in Canberra.

South Africa smashed any remnants of doubt about their attacking ability, firstly dominating with the bat with a minimum of fuss before blowing away their opponents with speed and bounce with the ball. Having swept aside the West Indies last week in a similarly devastating way, they became the first team in International ODI history to post back-to-back totals of 400+. Despite the early loss of the dreadfully out of touch de Kock, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis toyed with the Irish bowlers, calmly potting them around wherever they felt necessary in a partnership that reaped 247 runs at better than a run a ball. Then, when it was time to up the ante (yeah, from better than a run a ball...) wickets were sacrificed, giving batsmen such as de Villiers (24 off 9), Rossouw (61* off 30) and Miller (46* off 23) the chance to finish off the slaughter. With the ball, the South African pace attack made their statement as well. Perhaps having lacked the fire they should in previous games, they brought it in spades here. Interestingly though, Dale Steyn only really fired up after he was hit to the boundary. His gentleness so far in the tournament has been unusual. Whether that will change after tonight will be interesting, but his first spell tonight brought two wickets with unplayable deliveries to Stirling and Joyce. Kyle Abbot put his hand up for a permanent place in the team with his excellent spell, while Morne Morkel was again threatening. Such was the ferocity of his pace attack, and the enormous figure his opponents had to chase, de Villiers even deemed to give his part-timers a couple of overs each, perhaps with a view for the games ahead should they be required. Rossouw, du Plessis and even de Villiers himself rolled their arm over, with AB once again picking up a wicket as a part of the bargain. The fact that this stretched the game beyond what it could have been was no doubt appreciated by spectators and TV networks alike. A final total of 210 flattered the Irish in a record loss.

South Africa appear to be circling their wagons at the right time, with the only problem for them being they do not have a good team to work out against before the quarter finals arrive, a match that will now be against either Sri Lanka or Australia. Ireland meanwhile still have their future in their own hands, and victories against both Zimbabwe and Pakistan will see them make the next round. Losses in either may mean they have to watch from the sidelines. They will be hoping to regroup and put this match behind them.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

World Cup Report Match 23: Pakistan v Zimbabwe

It started off disastrously for Pakistan, but the benefit of cool heads prevailed in a fascinating match at the Gabba, with Zimbabwe unable to wrest control over a match that they appeared to be in front in for the majority of the evening.

The fact that Pakistan was 2/4 after four overs, and then crawled along at a pace that snails would have been comfortable with in order to re-establish the innings, should have given Zimbabwe the confidence to try and ram home an advantage. No doubt at the end of the 50 overs, they had to feel as though they had performed the first half of their job with aplomb. They didn't bowl Pakistan out, but wickets came at regular intervals, enough to keep the run rate down to a minimum. Picking up Shahid Afridi for a second ball duck, just before the start of the Powerplay, was an added bonus. Their only failing was in allowing Wahab Riaz the ability to fling his bat towards the end of the innings. His 54 not out from 46 balls, after the skipper Misbah had again anchored the recovery effort with a brilliant 73bably allowed 20-30 runs more than they should have. No doubt both sides would have felt comfortable with the final score of 7/235 - Zimbabwe because of the reachable target, and Pakistan because it was more than they looked like scoring.
Zimbabwe's batting line up couldn't push home the advantage. The Richard Karl of the cricket world, Mohammed Irfan, bowled quick, straight and from about 9 feet in height, and took out the top three in two fine spells. Much like the Pakistan innings, Zimbabwe was just unable to get going and put together a match winning stand. At 4/150 after 33 overs they should have been in a winning position, but the loss of Williams, Ervine and Mire for 18 runs in 7 overs spelled trouble, and despite an injured and slogging Chigumbura trying his utmost, the damage had been done in the middle order, and Zimbabwe was dismissed for 215 in the final over, still 21 runs short of a winning total.

It was a great chance for Zimbabwe to show that they were a team on the improve, by not only beating a team of Pakistan's ilk but by controlling the game from the outset. This loss will be a tough one to swallow. It pins them to the bottom of the Full Member teams again, with little to show again after 23 years. Pakistan escaped calamity thanks to their ageless skipper, who again rescued the middle order to enable his team to at least post a competitive total, which on this occasion was enough for victory. They are still in a fight with the West Indies and Ireland for quarter final positions, which will likely not be resolved until the final day of the preliminary rounds.

World Cup Report Match 22: England v Sri Lanka

England's inevitable fall from competitiveness in the latest World Cup has almost reached its conclusion, after failing to even remotely defend 309, losing to a Sri Lankan team that lost only one wicket in the chase with 16 deliveries still to face. Rather than heighten any regard to Sri Lanka's chances in this tournament, this match continued to highlight the ineffectiveness of England's squad and their selection process, and their inability to perform in this version of the game.

Their batsmen, for the most part, did a reasonable job, without ever really showing the explosiveness that other teams have been producing, and appears to be a highlight of this tournament. Ali went early, Ballance again failed, Bell got the team off to a start before fall with the job only half done. Morgan hung around while Root did the majority of the work, but never looked likely to get going. His tournament is fast receding into nightmare. Taylor and Buttler helped along at the end, and a final score of 6/309 from their 50 overs appeared a reasonable tally and return for the after noon's work. However, England's real problems surfaced. Their much-heralded opening attack of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad again appeared toothless, incapable of troubling the batsmen or finding a way to penetrate their defences. These two were supposed to be England's huge bargaining chip, able to break open the top order of teams and fire into the middle order. Against Sri Lanka, it was imperative. It is generally regarded that if Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene are dismissed, then so is Sri Lanka. As a result, early wickets were a necessity. Sadly for England, it was not to be. In the fourth over, Thirimanne edged to the left of keeper Buttler, who went for, then pulled out of, the catch. The result was that it baulked Joe Root at first slip so much that he put the chance down, the chance that was most certainly the keeper's catch. Thirimanne was on 7. Sri Lanka's first wicket fell at 100, but it was Dilshan who went. Thirimanne was still there at the end on 139 when Sri Lanka won the game by 9 wickets, with Sangakkara on 117. It was a pasting, a thrashing.

For Sri Lanka it has confirmed their position in the quarter finals, their opponent to be decided by the outcome of their match against Australia. Their bowling attack still appears to lack potency, though they will probably enjoy Australian wickets more than the New Zealand ones. It was always imperative that their batsmen fired if they were to progress in this tournament, something they have done so far. Whether they are able to escape the lacklustre performances from their series against New Zealand and reach higher in this World Cup may well be answered next Sunday.
England are a rabble, and on the precipice of being knocked out of the tournament. If they lose to Bangladesh that is exactly what will happen. There is a compelling case for all three squad members who have not yet been offered a game - Alex Hales, Chris Jordan and James Tredwell - to play the next match, most likely in place of Ballance, Woakes and Steve Finn. Whether the current coach and selectors can get past their blinkered viewing is another matter entirely. If they wish to remain in this tournament, there is little other choice. Even that may not achieve that aim.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

World Cup Report Match 21: India v United Arab Emirates

It was only a matter of time that one of the minnows of world cricket would cop an absolute caning from one of the major nations, and the first real instance of this occurred today, with India defeating the U.A.E by nine wickets with a million overs still remaining in their clash in Perth.
The U.A.E bravely won the toss and batted, hoping to post a defendable total rather than chasing an unobtainable one. They were uprooted by an Indian bowling attack who enjoyed the extra pace and bounce of the W.A.C.A. wicket, perhaps surprisingly since the BCCI had refused to play against Australia here this summer. While the faster bowlers enjoyed themselves, it was the spin of Ashwin (4/25) and Jadeja (2/23) that reaped the rewards. Shaiman Anwar again showcased his batting skills, and aided in putting 31 runs on for the final wicket, lifting the final total to 102. He was the last wicket to fall for 35, and again lifted his profile to those that were watching. Another impressive effort.
India wasted little time in their chase, taking a little over 18 overs to pass the required total in losing only Dhawan, improving their net run rate in the bargain. Guruge again bowled well for the U.A.E but with little true support their quest was in vain.

India face the West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe in their final three games - none of which are likely to be walkovers, but on current form nor should they be defeated by any of them. The top of Group B now beckons for the reigning champions, and a possible quarter final match up with England seemingly closer. The U.A.E still are to face Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies, where they will face tough tasks in order to be competitive.

Friday, February 27, 2015

World Cup Report Match 19: South Africa v West Indies

If the West Indies don't play against South Africa for the next decade, they will still have nightmares about AB de Villiers and his destructive intent. After receiving their fair share of thrashings in South Africa a month ago, it was more of the same on the world stage today in Sydney. Whether or not this reveals any more for the latter stages of the tournament however is still up in the air.

For a start, the Windies bowled well. Only 31 runs came from the first 10 overs, and even at the halfway mark, the score was 1/112. The lack of wickets was a concern, but the Windies must have thought that 300 would be a maximum chase, given Sydney was at best a 280 wicket historically. Then they struck gold in the 30th over, dismissing both set batsmen du Plessis and Amla. at 3/147 after 30, one more wicket had the Windies in a terrific position.

Explosion. And Implosion.

Lightning does apparently strike twice, as de Villiers made a mess of the Windies bowling attack again. He was assisted admirably by Rilee Rossouw, who set the scene with his innings of 61 off 39 deliveries, which allowed AB to ease into his innings. By the time Rossouw departed AB was on his way, willing the Windies bowlers to bowl where he wanted the to, and just destroying them. Skipper Jason Holder had started with five overs for just nine runs. His final two overs alone, the 48th (34) and 50th (30) went for 64 runs, and in all 95 runs came from his final five overs. de Villiers finished with 162 runs off 66 deliveries. South Africa scored 261 runs from the final 20 overs, 150 from the last ten overs. Their total of 5/408 was another uniquely familiar number on the S.C.G. from recent months.

It was brutal. Was it avoidable? Again the bowling appeared rather plan-less, but such is the regularity that de Villiers plays this type of innings you can only wonder. The fact his two most recent efforts have been against a waning West Indies attack may have something to do with it, and his ability to do so against more potent attacks will be monitored. It was spectacular viewing for those in attendance or watching on TV.

The Windies reply was predictable. Having been praised and feted for the days since their record partnership against the heavyweights of Zimbabwe, Gayle and Samuels both fell in the first three overs, Gayle backing away and exposing all stumps for 3, and Samuels edging behind for a duck. No building an innings here, and swinging the bat late. This task was too tough, and a good one to get away from early. A much better evaluation of those batsmen than the plaudits they received against an inferior bowling attack. Simmons, Sammy and Russell, the sloggers who have so far come off for the Windies late in the innings, contributed five runs between them, all victims of Imran Tahir, who finished with 5/45 from ten overs. Their final total of 151 flattered their batting efforts, and the record defeat of 257 runs again better illustrated where they currently sit in the scheme of world cricket than their previous game had.

With four points from four games, the Windies are still walking a finals tightrope. They have games against India next Friday and U.A.E the following week to force their way into a finals spot. It is not yet assured that they will be there. South Africa have games against Ireland, Pakistan and U.A.E to complete their initial rounds, which should see them finish either first or second in Group B depending on whether India can hold their unbeaten streak together.

An Open Letter to the Australian Cricket Selection Panel: Why the F%&k Do You Love Shane Watson?!

The National Selection Panel
Cricket Australia
60 Jolimont Street
Jolimont  VIC  3002

Dear Sirs,

I have felt the need to contact you personally on this matter on a vast number of occasions over the past few years in regards to this situation - a situation that has been brought on by successive National Selection Panels, and not just you fine members of the current Panel. Finally, following the decision made in selecting the team for this current match, I realise I have wavered too long, and I am now rectifying this by addressing this correspondence to you.

As you will be well aware, the Australian cricketer Shane Watson has long been the debate of selection amongst both the media and the long time supporters of the game of cricket in our country. Despite a promising start to his career, his constant injury battles caused him to miss possible selection on a number of occasions, though when doctors pronounced him available again, he almost always moved straight back into the fold. Then, in recent years, as his performance on the field has failed to deliver the expected riches that his many chances should surely have cultivated, he seems to have received favourable treatment at the selection table, often at the expense of someone who may not have set the world on fire in regards to runs or wickets, but has certainly performed better than, or at least the equal, of Watson himself.

Now, I completely understand that your combined experience both on and off the field at the highest level of representation is a bit higher than the 30-odd years at country club level with half a dozen representative caps at junior level that I can offer as my expertise on the subject of National Selection. I know that every one of you has represented our country in Test cricket, and are more qualified in that regard compared to myself.
However - and you may dispute this if you wish - I don't believe any of you fine gentlemen has watched as much international cricket over the past 40 years as I have. I have spent my days and nights glued to the television and at various grounds around Australia, through the Centenary Test, through World Series Cricket, through countless Ashes tours, tours of the sub-continent, World Cups of various descriptions, and now almost every Test match, one day international and Twenty20 match that takes place around the globe. I have lived and breathed cricket like few others have since the age of five, to the annoyance, amusement and ridicule of friends and family alike. And the reason I have now felt the need to correspond with you is this:

In bringing Michael Clarke back into the ODI team for the World Cup match against New Zealand, your decision to drop captain George Bailey and retain Shane Watson in the final XI is the last in a long line of selection decisions involving Watson that goes against every logical method used in the selection of a team. It is perhaps the most damning proof that selection in the Australian cricket team no longer hinges on the evidence of form and statistics, or even potential, but instead is based on an old boys club where the people who use the media to their best advantage are the ones who get selected, while those that don't whinge or complain but just try to get on and perform their best on the field get the raw end of the prawn.

It is a ludicrous position that, despite a batting average that has seen countless numbers of other similarly-qualified batsmen being demoted from national teams, and a bowling average and wicket rate that wouldn't sustain any bowlers place in the squad, Watson's position in the team never seems to be in question. In fact, has Shane Watson ever actually been dropped from a national team? Is it possible that, since he was wedged into the Test team in England in 2009 at the expense of Phillip Hughes, he has never actually been dropped from the national team, and that he has only ever missed out due to his constant barrage of injuries - and that the second he is "fit" again, he waltzes straight back into the side? I have a terrible feeling this is completely accurate. For goodness sakes - you left out Steve Smith to fit Watson in for the first ODI of the summer last November. Don't you recall what a blunder THAT turned out to be?! How different would the summer have been if Michael Clarke had not been injured in that same ODI, opening up a place for Smith in the following game? You dodged a bullet there, no question.

I have no real brief for George Bailey. But he is a man you have entrusted the ODI captaincy to in Michael Clarke's absence over the past two seasons - and that has turned out to be a job that he has filled a LOT. And what has he done for you as a result? Averaged over 40 with that bat at a strike rate over 80. Won the majority of ODI games for Australia that he has been in charge of. And how have you chosen to repay that achievement? Good bye George, take a seat on the bench, Shane "Superman" Watson is back.

Since January 1, 2014, Watson has played 10 ODI's. He was "rested" for one of the England ODI's in January. He was injured before the tour of Zimbabwe, meaning he missed 5 ODI's there, and also missed the tour of Pakistan in the U.A.E, missing another 3 ODI's. He was also injured in the recent tri-series with India and England, and played only two of a possible five matches. So that is 10 of a possible 22 matches Watson has played. Not a good start.
In those 10 matches, he scored 222 runs at an average of 22.20, and took 2 wickets at an average of 135.50. Bloody hell!!! Quick!!! Get him in my team!!!
Are George's figures better? Well, Bailey played every single one of those 22 ODI's, captaining Australia in 15 of those games. He has scored 478 runs at 23.90. In case you missed that, his batting average is better than Watson's, over more games. And also, HE HAS BEEN CAPTAIN OF OUR COUNTRY!! And captain of a winning team as well! So where should your loyalty lie? To a man who, as of last Saturday, is the captain of our team, or a man whose form with bat and ball does not entitle him to play as either a batsman or a bowler?
Oh, you judge Watson as an all-rounder?! Really? Well, let's stack him up against the current crop. Does he deserve his spot in front of Glenn Maxwell, who is scoring double the number of runs, stops everything in the field, and bowls his odd number of off spin overs? Does he deserve his spot in front of Mitch Marsh, who is scoring more runs, taking more wickets (two and half times just last match than Watson has taken in a year) and is a far better fieldsman? Does he deserve his spot in front of James Faulkner, who has won matches on his bat alone and whose bowling economy rate is better than Watson's?

You know what? I know you know all this. You are the National Selection Panel. You have the stats, you've seen the matches, you know the score. And yet you continue to choose this bumbling almost-34 year old, because you plainly believe he is a match-winner, a game-breaker, a player too invaluable to ever leave out of any team. This despite the facts and stats to the contrary, that his fielding is close to abysmal (old age does that), and that he rarely influences a game positively with either bat and ball anymore. His younger all round counterparts have gone past him, and made him obsolete. And yet, you continue to choose him. When does it become enough? Does he ever become accountable for his form? How many more chances do you give him? 5? 10? 50?? Is scoring 20 a pass mark, enough to say he's safe? It seems to have been so for the past five years.

Watson may score a century in this match. He may take a five wicket haul. It will be seen as a genius call by the selectors, and this letter will appear bitter and biased and irrelevant. So be it, if it comes to pass. These are pent up feelings from five years of torment as an Australian cricket supporter, watching as so many players have had their careers stymied or halted for performing better than one player who just continues to be the golden child, chosen on selective talent rather than solid performance. And to be honest, I couldn't sit by one moment longer without venting these frustrations to the four men who currently have the power in their hands to do the right thing, but have chosen not to.


Bill Peters
Cricket Tragic & Frustrated Australian Supporter.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

World Cup Report Match 18: Sri Lanka v Bangladesh

As far back as January, it was fairly obvious that Sri Lanka's only chance of winning the World Cup - or any game in the World Cup for that matter - was for their Big Three (Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene) to score 300+ runs on their own, and then for their popgun bowling attack to hold their opponents to less than that. Today, that was executed to perfection against an opponent that once again showed its own limitations.

Bangladesh probably needed to bat first to exert any influence on their opponents. They certainly needed to do better than give Thirimanne so many lives. He was dropped fourth ball of the innings (a sitter to first slip), edged to the right of gully, then between the keeper and first slip, and again to gully, all in the first ten overs. Then a simple stumping chance was missed when he was on 44. Five real chances in all, in an innings of 52. He was not dismissed until the 25th over and the score on 122. If he had been picked up earlier, the whole match may have changed.
Why? Because Sangakkara would have entered to a completely different match. Instead, with Dilshan blazing on 63 not out... Sangakkara simply took over. On 25, he was dropped in a caught and bowled chance to Taskin. Oh dear, how costly. Even then, the game could have been saved if the simple chance he gave to Mominul at point when he was on 60 had been taken. But no. In the same over Dilshan raised his century. By the end of the innings he had crashed his way to 161 off 146, with Sangakkara scoring 106 off 76 deliveries. 115 came from the last ten overs. It was the most costly way to show the importance of taking all of your chances. With 1/332 in the bank, the game was over.
To complete this debacle, Tamim Iqbal was bowled by Malinga second ball of the innings, in such a way that it lifted the whole team. The innings never recovered, and though they eventually reached a total of 240 through some solid innings from Al Hasan, Rahim and Rahman, there was never a time that it looked as though they could push for victory.

Sri Lanka now take on England this Sunday in a game that could push them to 2nd in Group A depending on the result of the Australia vs New Zealand match on Saturday, while Bangladesh will be thankful for their drawn match against Australia last Saturday, going into their match with Scotland next Thursday which they must win if they want to still be in with a chance of reaching the quarter final stage.

World Cup Report Match 17: Scotland v Afghanistan

This World Cup is starting to do my head in. You have to wonder how the same things seem to keep happening again and again and again. It makes for fascinating viewing, and the respect for the fighting qualities of all of the Associate nations here increases with every day. The joy of victory, and heartbreak of defeat, will not be felt more in the eventual final of this tournament, as it was felt in yesterday's match between Ireland and U.A.E, or in this match today, where both teams were battling for their first ever victory in a World Cup match.

Afghanistan won the toss, and as appears epidemic in this Cup, decided to send Scotland in to bat. Four times during this match the positivity or negativity of this decision changed 180 degrees. The Afghani's bowling attack looks more impressive each time they play, with Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan bowling quite superbly, with good pace at times, and for the most part a great line and length. Their accuracy continued to knock over Scottish batsmen at key moments. Coetzer, Mommsen, Machan and Berrington all made starts, but once again failed to go on with it and make a big score. It has been Scotland's problem, never having totalled over 186 in a World Cup game. And, at 8/144 after 37 overs, it wasn't going to happen here either.
But of course, that is where this World Cup is so different. Scotland's ninth wicket pair of Haq and Evans didn't throw their wickets away, and batted sensibly, getting runs where they could. Suddenly, the pitch went from a minefield to a belter, and the bowlers just couldn't break through. Their excellent partnership of 62 runs off 75 balls defied the efforts of their more established higher order, and showed that determination can succeed in any situation. Haq made 31, and Evans was dismissed from the final ball of the 50th over for 28, and remarkably Scotland has made 210, their highest total in a World Cup game, and at least something for their bowlers to defend (given two of them had made most of the runs).

Afghanistan started the chase like a shot, with Javed Ahmadi looking like he has somewhere else to be. After racing to 0/40 off 7 overs, two wickets in four balls halted that momentum. Ahmadi and Samiullah Shenwari steadied the ship, with Ahmadi bringing up a very classy 50, until a calamitous six overs saw Afghanistan lose 5/12, and thus the match. At 7/97 off 24 overs, though the rate required was reasonably comfortable still, there was no way the Afghani's could manoeuvre their way to a winning score. Even an 8th wicket partnership of 35, to take the score to 8/132, was not enough to raise hopes.
And yet... somehow... a second 9th wicket partnership for the match produced a nail biter. Shenwari looked impenetrable, unperturbed, invincible. He managed the strike, happy not to take long singles unless necessary. In support he had the impressive Hamid Hassan - obviously not a batsman at all, but a damn good fighter who doesn't like to give up. He blocked, he left, and let his senior partner decide which balls to hit, and which to take a single from. It was tense stuff, for both teams. Just when one seemed to be taking control, the other fought back.
Four overs to go, and Afghanistan needed 38 runs off 24 balls. The off spinner Haq bowling to Shenwari, and this was the over where it had to happen. And it did - for both sides!

From Cricinfo:

Haq to Samiullah Shenwari, SIX, it's flat and it sits up for a magnificent mow over cow corner. Shenwari has skipped down the track and is playing the innings of his life

Haq to Samiullah Shenwari, 1 wide, runs down the track and Haq drifts it down the leg side. The sweep misses, but he gets the wide

Haq to Samiullah Shenwari, SIX, another length ball sliding down leg and Shenwari has hammered another six. Nabi roars in the dressing room, Shenwari points at the bottom of the bat and indicates he has mistimed it. That's the fifty partnership for the ninth wicket!

Haq to Samiullah Shenwari, no run, fired into the block hole and its been blocked

Haq to Samiullah Shenwari, SIX, flighted into the slot and Shenwari has launched it over the square leg boundary and sinks onto his knees again. He's 96 not out and he's got every scenario rolling in his head. Will the pressure be too much? Its only 19 off 20

Haq to Samiullah Shenwari, OUT, length ball on middle and Shenwari has picked out deep midwicket! Haq goes mad, Shenwari is on his knees in despair! What an innings! What a performance! What passion! And spare a thought for Davey on the boundary, who kept calm and pouched a good, pressure catch. But wait... the third umpire is asking him to wait. He's checking if Scotland have adhered to the field restrictions. You're allowed four outside the circle. How many did Scotland have? They had the right people and Shenwari has to walk and he does so while counting the men on the deep in his mind 
Samiullah Shenwari c Davey b Haq 96 (176m 147b 7x4 5x6) SR: 65.30

So now the last pair is at the crease, and they need 19 runs off 19 balls. Surely... SURELY... Scotland can hold on. Well, as the record shows, this wonderful match went to the final over, and a boundary from Shapoor Zadran off the fourth last delivery sealed the victory for Afghanistan. It was a terrific match again, as have all of the matches between the lesser lights of the competition.

Afghanistan will now wait until Wednesday, when they have a date with Australia at the W.A.C.A, a match that will no doubt excite their bowlers, but perhaps not their batsmen. Scotland will now have to try and pick themselves up for their match with Bangladesh next Thursday, in the hope they can break their World Cup duck.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

World Cup Report Match 16: Ireland v United Arab Emirates

In what was arguably the most entertaining match of the World Cup so far, the Luck of the Irish shone in the favourites direction at the right moments and allowed Ireland to sneak away with a victory that was vital for their future chances. It was also a heartbreaking loss for the U.A.E who fought magnificently throughout the match.
Ireland's captain was almost left to rue his decision to send the U.A.E in to bat upon winning the toss - again, a very strange decision given the conditions. However, Ireland bowled well, surprisingly best served by off spinner Paul Stirling, who bowled 10 overs straight for his 2/27. U.A.E had lost 6/131 after 35 overs, and for all intents and purposes, 200 looked a long way off. Early on, opening batsman Amjad Ali had impressed with some good stroke play, before being bogged down later in his innings. he had 29 runs off 31 deliveries, before only adding a further 16 runs off his next 40 deliveries. Still, he had looked good in execution.
When the innings could have spluttered for U.A.E, it instead blossomed. The very impressive Shaiman Anwar was partnered by the determined Amjad Javed, and together put on 107 for the seventh wicket - what turned out to be the highest 7th wicket partnership in World Cup history! - from just 71 deliveries. Javed made an excellent 42, but it was the innings on Anwar that was the gem. He played shots all around the ground, worked the strike when he needed to, wasn't afraid to wait for the right ball, moved around his crease before balls were delivered, and generally worried the Irish bowlers into changing the way they had been bowling, thus opening up the floodgates. He brought up his century in the 48th over, in which the U.A.E pair took 19 runs off, and it was fantastic to watch. It was just as fascinating to watch as Gayle's had been the previous day. As a result of this, the U.A.E scored 147 runs from the final 15 overs, and reached 9/278 off their 50 overs. And, no doubt the Irish were suddenly shaking in their boots.

Ireland's innings was travelling a similar path to the U.A.E by the halfway mark. Starts from Porterfield and Joyce had not been followed up. Joyce had indeed received an incredible piece of luck, when during his innings a ball clipped his off-stump. dislodging the zinger bails which duly lit up, before falling back into place and extinguishing their light, and Joyce remained at the crease. Unbelievable. He wasn't so fortunately soon after, edging to the keeper for 37.

A solid recovery from Balbirnie and Gary Wilson saw Ireland moving in the right direction, but they were still a long way behind the eight ball. Balbirnie's dismissal came at the right time for Ireland, as it allowed the entrance of giant killer Kevin O'Brien to enter, requiring 108 runs off 68 balls. He and Wilson combined well, and had brought the asking rate down to 72 runs off 48 balls, when the turning point of the match came.

Amjad Javed to KJ O'Brien, FOUR, dropped! slower ball on middle stump, and Kev goes for the big heave down the ground and skies it high in the air. Nasir Aziz, the substitute fielder, moves to his left at long-on and was pretty much under it, a few feet in front of the boundary. Got into a poor position to catch it, leaning backwards with his hands in the air, and ended up palming it towards the boundary.

Along with this four, 36 runs were taken from 14 deliveries, and when O'Brien was dismissed the game was in a much more winnable position with 36 required from 32 balls. 13 runs then came from the next over, meaning Ireland required 23 from 24 balls, and surely the game was as good as over.
But the U.A.E didn't think so. Two wickets in four balls, including the solid Wilson, who had made an invaluable 80, left 12 required from 15 balls, but now only two wickets in hand. It was tense, fighting cricket from both teams, and wonderful to watch. A few swipes, a little fortunate, meant Ireland got the winning runs with four balls to spare, but they had almost all the luck go their way. The Ed Joyce non-bowling. A vital dropped catch to a substitute who had literally just walked out of the dressing room. The hamstring injury to the U.A.E's best bowler Guruge who couldn't complete his ten overs. An "Umpires Call" LBW decision against Wilson late in the innings that would have saved two boundaries had it been given. It all added up to fall in their favour. The Emirates bowling was... almost... good enough at the death. They just missed their marks by a smidgen, allowing the batsman to get under the deliveries and away to the boundary. At least, unlike so many teams in this tournament, they had a plan to bowl full and straight in those death overs. It was a pleasant change, even if it didn't quite pay off.

Ireland now have 2 wins from 2 games, and now play South Africa next Tuesday in what will be a real eye opener for them in their chase for a finals position. The U.A.E, who have lost two games now by hair's breath, play India on Saturday at the W.A.C.A, which will be eye opening for a whole different reason.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

World Cup Report Match 15: West Indies v Zimbabwe

In a tournament filled with the frustrations of a viewer unable to will his opinions on the cricketers playing in the tournament through his TV, this match brought to a head all of these in a whirlwind of incompetence and fury that makes one ponder the intelligence (or lack thereof) in international cricket. The result and records broken are well known. Chris Gayle scored the first double century in a World Cup. His partnership of 372 with Marlon Samuels is the highest ever in one day cricket. The West Indies won comfortably despite Zimbabwe making 289 with overs to spare.

So why am I so aggravated? Allow me to place it in front of you in note form:
  1. Chris Gayle "up the guts". The world's most overrated batsman Dwayne Smith has been removed second ball. On the fourth ball, Gayle is hit on the pads in front of the stumps. I swear everyone watching around the world immediately said "out - plumb". Steve Davis said no. Zimbabwe refer, and it's green lights all the way, except for hitting the stumps, it is called "Umpire's Call". Gayle stays, and Zimbabwe lose their only review with 49.2 overs remaining. Proponents for this law say it is justified, because the review should only be used for a "howler". Well, this was howler in my eyes, and Zimbabwe was punished for it. Davis just didn't fancy the Windies being 2/0. Piss poor. Of course, after the event, "commentators" are saying imagine what the fans would have missed out on if it had been given out? What crap. With the bowling that followed (see below) they still would have seen as many runs. It probably just would have been Sammy or Simmons or Russell who scored a double century.
  2. Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels struggle to middle the ball. The first 25 overs for both batsmen was painful. Neither looked likely to score runs, and were hit on the pads more than they hit the middle of the bat. Okay, they did well to work their way through this period with their wicket intact, but fortune was on their side a number of times, with balls falling safely into gaps, or inside edges passing the stumps. Do not discount the part luck played in both their innings. Gayle described his innings as his finest. I think he has selective memory.
  3. Poor Zimbabwe fielding and lack of penetration. Honestly, it was schoolboy stuff at times. Apart from that first over, the only time Zimbabwe looked like getting a wicket was if the batsman offered them a chance, not through good bowling. Obviously there is no way to solve that in the short term, but it is a key for the teams to play Zimbabwe. In essence, if you get through the first six overs, you shouldn't lose another wicket.
  4. Disgraceful bowling again in last 15 overs. To this end, I would like to quote myself from a post on social media this evening - "In a World Cup where the ineptitude of bowling and fielding in the final 10-15 overs of an innings has reached incalculable levels, where the lack of bowling and fielding plans has been criminal, where the inability of any bowler to figure out that six yorkers with the correct field will inevitably concede a maximum of six runs in an over, this performance by Zimbabwe (notwithstanding any level of moisture that may be used as an excuse) is without a doubt the worst performance of such I have seen so far. A disgrace to cricket". Enough said.
  5. Commentators. We are plumbing new depths when it comes to commentary at some of these games, and tonight's was by far the worst so far. Okay, I felt for Ian Bishop, whose team has been downtrodden recently, so his enthusiasm for the carnage is justified. But there were some terrible, uninformed comments that were just sound bites for pop culture. "The West Indies are right back in this tournament", "Chris Gayle is in rich form", "The West Indies are the dark horses for the World Cup" - I mean, infantile stuff from guys like Mervyn Pringle and Shane Warne and Pommie Mbangwa in particular. They were massacring Zimbabwe for goodness sakes, not South Africa. Apart from winning and gaining two points for the match, they are no closer to being a chance of winning the World Cup than the Kiama Cavaliers are. And then there was the shemozzle Shane Warne made of the LBW shout in Zimbabwe's innings. As soon as the West Indies reviewed, he pretty much called it the worst review of all time. Having claimed it definitely hit the bat, he continued to insist there was an edge even when slow motion replays and snicko insisted there wasn't. Then he insisted that the ball was definitely going to be going over the top of the stumps, when it was shown it was hitting about two-thirds of the way up. It was ludicrous commentary, and it made Warne look like an idiot. There's no problem with airing an opinion, but at least follow the game as it is progressing. We then had to keep hearing about this dismissal compared with the non-dismissal of Gayle, for the next couple of overs. Get over it, and get on with it!! There are no Richie Benaud's out there at the moment, and more's the pity.
  6. The second innings. It has faded into insignificance given what occurred in the first, but Zimbabwe managed to score 289 off 44.3 overs at 6.5 runs an over. They never appeared likely to win the match, but surely the fact that they appeared to do this so easily had to be a concern to any West Indies supporter or player. Their bowling was almost in the same bracket as Zimbabwe. Oh, the ball was wet? This contributed to the poor bowling? If you want to fool yourself like that, go ahead.
If you hadn't guessed, I was not as enamored of the West Indies performance as most of the media has been. You can't take away from the records created. Gayle obliterated the Zimbabweans, his second hundred coming off just 33 balls as the plan-less, clueless bowlers kept firing in half-volley and length balls at his leg stump. Samuels just fed him the strike before bringing up his own century. They are big numbers which don't show the level of incompetence in the bowling and fielding (Gayle was caught twice in two balls - firstly from a no-ball, and then from the free hit ball). The West Indies own bowling woes were then covered by the fact that they won so comfortably. As a spectacle, casual fans will have received what they wanted to see. As a cricket tragic, I only mourned the insensibility of the cricket and the lack of credibility in the commentary.

Anyway, moving on...

The West Indies back up quickly, taking on a bruised and revenge-seeking South Africa on Friday at the S.C.G which will give a much better indication of their chances of progressing in this World Cup. Zimbabwe play Pakistan in Brisbane on Sunday, in a game likely to eliminate the loser from the competition.