World Cup Review – Week Two
An English Summer.
They call it the summer game. Nothing quite puts a dampener on things like a damp couple of days in June in England. Hottest February on record they said, global temperatures through the roof, ice caps melting like witches on a spar day. And yet here we are in June in England, that Wimbledonish time of year, and Noah’s rounding up a pair of rare Morris Dancing Muntjac’s and about to pull up anchor. Three games have already been lost (a record for a world cup) to the British Isles typically inclement weather; it would not take many more to turn this thoroughly intriguing group stage into a farce.
Like a Tory leadership election this contest is a pretty shoddy affair, although one that is (despite the rain) undoubtedly less slimy and significantly less repugnant. Australia were lucky to avoid the worst of the weather this week and contested three decentish games. They were thoroughly outplayed by India in one and beat a Pakistan side, who, had they taken their chances with either bat or ball would likely have won, in another. But the game of the week was probably Australia’s umpire assisted victory over the West Indies at Trent Bridge. In serious trouble early on against the West Indies pace and bounce barrage, Australia, through Smith, Carey and an inspired Coulter-Nile somehow made 288 and despite good innings from Hope, Pooran and Holder the West Indies never quite landed the killer blow, and in the end fell short by 15 runs.
Fans gazed longingly around the damp grounds this week hoping that Cliff Richard would turn up and fill the gaping void that the cricket had left, but sadly this was not to be. And so it is to the cricket that we must look for our best moment. Chris Woakes and Shai Hope both took excellent catches this week to raise the pulses. You could have picked any of the drives Babar Azam stroked through the covers against Australia at Taunton, wrapped one neatly with a bow and then sent it as a Valentine’s Day present to anyone who likes beautiful things. But the best moment of the week was sergeant Cottrell’s wonder catch on the boundary against Australia. Smith’s slumped shouldered disbelieving trudge from the crease was simply an added bonus.
Jimmy bloody Neesham eh? 5 for 31 in 10 overs vs Afghanistan was an impressive performance from the batting all-rounder at Taunton. So was Stokes 3 for 23 off 6 overs vs a determined Bangladesh, but without doubt the Spell of the week was Mohammad Amir’s quite brilliant 5 for 30 in a losing cause vs Australia. Amir returned for his second spell with Australia 146/0 off 22 overs. Bowling to two batsman who looked completely comfortable with bat in hand, Amir made it look as if they didn’t know how to hold the thing. He dismissed Finch first ball and then bamboozled Warner with pace bounce and movement. He dismissed the middle order of Marsh, Khawaja and Carey, and generally made anyone batting against him look like clown in a corset wrestling a badger. Despite his chequered past it is good for the game to see Amir playing at the top of his (game) and seemingly enjoying it.
Dhawan’s masterful 117 vs Australia at the Oval set up an ominously impressive victory for India vs Australia. Warner played a valuable and personally satisfying knock vs Pakistan at Taunton and Jason Roy’s bombastic 153 vs Bangladesh was a sensational innings of power and control. But the most important innings of the week was Nathan Coulter-Niles 92 off 60 balls which dragged Australia from 147-6 to a defendable 288 all out against the West Indies at Trent Bridge.
Tournament predictor (Order selected by a magic sheep called Bahh-Bahh Shazam!)
Group Stage Order