Phew, what a week it has been for cricket lovers. The ICC Cricket World Cup has absolutely shown us how unpredictable this game can get by surprising results in almost every other match. And as we reach near the conclusion of week 4 of the tournament, DoJMA is back to cover the highlights from cricket’s biggest spectacle.
So, how have the teams performed so far….
England would nail the spot for the most unpredictable team of the tournament. Having started as favourites, they were looking in great touch but this week changed it all. It found itself losing twice, once to a clinical Sri Lankan team by 20 runs, and again, to an Australian side desperate to clinch its second title in a row, by 64 runs.
Thus, the points table, as before the Thursday (27/06) match between Ind and WI had Australia leading the points table with 12 points, having won 6 out of its 7 matches. New Zealand follows up close with 11 points, having experienced its first loss of the tournament to Pakistan. India is third with 9 points, coming from 5 games, one of which was washed out. It now remains the only team to stand unbeaten till now. Finally, there is England, which has now slipped to the fourth spot from second, with 8 points from 7 games.
Australia is the only team till now that has booked a safe berth in the semi-finals.
Bangladesh and Pakistan stand fifth and sixth respectively, with 7 points from 7 games each, the difference being only in their respective NRRs. They would have to clench victories in both of their remaining games, and would be praying for England to lose its games, for either of them to qualify into the semi-finals. Sri Lanka has 6 points to their credit from the 6 games that it has played, while West Indies has 3 points from 6 of its games. A loss to India in the game on the 27th would push WI out of the tournament along with South Africa and Afghanistan, which do not stand any chance of qualifying to the semi-finals.
Match of the week
This week gave us quite a few matches that led to nail-biting moments, but the match that gave goosebumps to each of us would be the Saturday clash between New Zealand and West Indies. New Zealand was looking dodgy at 7/2, having lost both openers at 0. But Kane Williamson showed his brilliance yet again with a flawless 148, striking a crucial 160-run partnership with old faithful Ross Taylor(69). Neesham and de Grandhomme played quickfire cameos by scoring 28 and 16 respectively, taking New Zealand to a respectable 291-8. Sheldon Cottrell shone for the West Indies, taking 4 scalps, including both the opening batsmen.
West Indies got off to a shaky start as well, finding themselves at 20/2, Hope and Pooran having departed cheaply. However, “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle seemed to be building a solid partnership with Hetmyer, both striking the ball with strike rates well beyond 100. However, Lockie Ferguson struck in the 22nd over, claiming the wicket of Hetmyer,54, bringing the 122 run partnership to an end. Holder was out on the very next ball, without disturbing the scores, and the West Indies innings seemed to be crumbling. That was when a formidable Carlos Brathwaite, made our breaths wait as he started to strike the ball brilliantly, taking the reins of the chase in his hands. But true to the irresponsible West Indian pedigree, wickets kept falling at regular intervals on the other end, with Gayle, Nurse and Lewis departing in quick succession. Roach and Cottrell tried to assist Brathwaite, as he kept pulling the West Indian yacht, as the audience were enjoying this edge-of-the-seat thriller. He pulled and pulled, and brought WI from requiring 40 of 22 deliveries to a meagre 6 of 7, successfully keeping Oshane Thomas off the strike. However, he lost his wicket to a good catch from Boult on the boundary, on a ball that he was looking to clear the rope for a six, out for a valiant 101. New Zealand finished as winners by a narrow margin of 5 runs.
Top performers of the week
Haris Sohail has been consistent with the bat in the last two matches that Pakistan has played, guiding his team to victory in both games. He struck an explosive 89 against South Africa, edging Pakistan past 300. In the nest game against New Zealand, he assisted Babar as the two struck up a partnership of 126 runs, Sohail having contributed 68 of them.
Babar Azam being back in form is great news for Pakistan. The talented No.3 batsman couldn’t convert his 69 against South Africa into a ton, but did so against New Zealand by hitting a patient 101.
David Warner is having a dream run with the bat in this tournament, doing away with all the worries that marked his return to international cricket after a year-long ban for ball tampering. The smiling assassin hit 166 against Bangladesh and 53 against England, even as he was bullied by the crowd in the latter match, making him the highest scorer of the tournament so far with 500 runs to his credit at an average of 83.33! Given his current form, Warner is easily the highest priced wicket of the Australian team.
England losing both of its last two games meant that the knocks of Ben Stokes went in vain, as the all-rounder contributed 82* and 89 to the hosts’ totals in the games against Sri Lanka and Australia respectively. As he raises the war cry for his team and asks them to buck up, India would be looking forward to get him out early in the clash against England on Sunday.
Underperformers for the week
Tom Latham has had a rather disappointing World Cup so far, as the promising New Zealand wicketkeeper failed with the bat against West Indies and Pakistan both.
So have Colin Munro and Martin Guptill. Guptill has failed miserably, by being unable to notch up a double-digit score in both these matches, while Munro has gone for a duck and 12 in the same.
Performances of the week
We have seen some brilliant performances this week, and so this list is justifiably a huge one.
It will be best to start with Shakib-Al-Hasan, who is having a dream tournament, both with the bat and the ball. He was the player of the match against Afghanistan, having scored 51(69) with the bat, and claiming a fiver(5/29) with the ball, thereby playing the key role in helping Bangladesh trump Afghanistan by 62 runs.
Carlos Brathwaite, with his amazing 101, kept the hopes of his team alive, and our goosebumps intact for the greater part of the match against New Zealand, and also delivered with the ball in the same match, taking 2 wickets.
Babar Azam was a spectacle to watch during his unbeaten 101 against New Zealand, playing the crucial role as Pakistan became the first team to defeat New Zealand in the tournament. His innings was a well sculpted one, a marvellous display of clean drives and sweeps, as he overtook Sir Viv Richards to become the second fastest cricketer to get to 3000 ODI runs, bringing them up in 68 innings.
David Warner looked at his fiery best against Bangladesh on Thursday, notching up a fabulous 166, helping his team post a huge 381/5 at the end of their innings. Warner paced his innings beautifully after being dropped at 10, ably assisted by Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja at the other end, as Australia won the match eventually, by 48 runs.
Lasith Malinga is back in the spotlight after a long time, clenching 4/43, and the Player of the Match title as a clinical Sri Lanka caused a major upset by defeating the hosts by 20 runs, keeping Sri Lanka’s hopes of being in the tournament, alive. His four wickets comprised the crucial scalps of Root and Buttler. Root, especially, was looking good at 57, and it was his wicket that signalled Sri Lanka’s return into the game.
Jason Behrendorff was the standout performer in Australia’s win against England, taking a brilliant 5/44, reducing England to a paltry 221 in response to Australia’s 285/7, causing yet another major upset for the hosts.
What to look forward to in the next week
The next week promises to be an exciting one, given the current scorecard. India faces the West Indies, England and Bangladesh in their next three games. A win in even two out of these four would confirm our place in the semi-finals. However, Kohli’s men would be looking forward to win all four and enter the semis as the only team left unbeaten in the tournament. The clash against England on Sunday would undoubtedly be the marquee clash of the week, as a loss for England would push the hosts out of the tournament.
Pakistan takes on Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and they need to win both the games in order to stand a chance to qualify for the semi-finals, similar being the case for Bangladesh. Sri Lanka would have their hopes buoyant due to the win against England, and would be looking forward to defeat a seemingly weak South Africa on Friday to keep their chances of qualifying alive. New Zealand would want to wake its top order up as it has suffered its first loss of the tournament after a great beginning. In the remainder of its games against Australia and England, it would want them to deliver in order to qualify to the semis, and not ruin a campaign that has been good till now.
The Indian team has been unbeatable till now, with almost each of its players having delivered when needed. Shami has comfortably taken the place of Kumar, as he demonstrated against Afghanistan, and Bumrah has been extremely consistent with his lethal yorkers at the other end. The Men in Blue should defeat West Indies easily, as the latter have glaring holes in their batting. The clash against England on Sunday promises to be a thriller, as the hosts play the game in a do-or-die situation. India, however, would be favourites going into the Sunday clash at Lords. Pakistan should manage a comfortable victory against Afghanistan, given the current form of Babar and Haris. Sri Lanka’s matches against South Africa and West Indies should be close calls as all three teams have almost identical prowess, with Sri Lanka being favourites here due to their seemingly impossible victory against England. We would surely love it if the Lankans surprise us by jumping onto the train for the semi-finals.
New Zealand faces England and Australia, two of the strongest teams in the tournament, and would have to display some extraordinary cricket to defeat them. Australia should crush New Zealand given its current form, which has made it nearly invincible and a genuine contender for the finals. England has gone out of form but would be looking to revive it against New Zealand and India. Thus, it would not be a surprise if New Zealand lose the remainder of their matches.
And so, we enter week 5 of the World Cup, which promises to be full of action and even more nail-biting finishes. It is cricket’s biggest spectacle, and it surely is contagious!