Half Term report on the Cricket World Cup - Who will make the Semi- Finals?
The 50-over ICC World Cup, has well and truly lit up the first half of the English summer. The carnival of cricket, the first to be played on these shores since 1999, has thus far witnessed some high quality limited-overs cricket.
Even, the ever so unreliable English weather, has been kind enough to disrupt and cause wash out, in only a small number of games, mostly in the north and the south west. The unique English playing conditions, with a10.30am start has managed to bring back the bowlers, quite often recipient of heavy punishment in high scoring matches, to make way for, far more absorbing cricket.
On the evidence of the 50-over cricket being played at a breakneck pace, all around the world, more so perhaps in the Asian sub-continent, the high scoring matches have just become a so ‘predictable’ and ‘boring’. Thankfully and mercifully, those fears of the traditional cricket follower have been unfounded in the present World Cup.
The matches with both sides scoring 300 plus totals have been an exception in the 2019 World Cup and that could also be attributed to the fact that a tournament of this magnitude is a different ball game altogether compared to a bi-lateral series between the two countries.
The prospect of England with its most explosive batting line-up, becoming the first team to reach 500 mark was quickly shelved. The set of skills of all the leading bowlers of world cricket and the very pressure of World Cup, has readdressed the balance of white ball cricket.
The supporters of all ten participating nations, have poured from all around the world, into all the11 World Cup venues. A mad rush for on-line purchase of tickets had begun last summer and it is evident by the overwhelming presence of fans of all overseas teams, often outnumbering neutral or local cricket fans.
All World Cup venues have had a taste of the passionate appeal enjoyed by the game in the sub-continent, which is represented by five teams – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The single league format and enthusiastic crowd participation of the UK-based contingent of all the cricket nations, has helped to lift the profile of World Cup
The tournament, now in its fourth week, has provided some indicators but there is no obvious and clear pathway ahead in terms of the four semi-finalists. Although England, India and Australia, the pre-tournament favourites, besides New Zealand are all heading in the right direction, it is not a case of dead certainty. A couple of unexpected results, in the coming week, might just allow either Bangladesh or even Pakistan, to sneak in to make things, let us say, a bit more interesting.
Today’s crunch match between England and Australia at Lord’s is match number 32 of the 48 scheduled to be played in the World Cup, set to earn ICC, the governing body of the game, more revenue than has been the case in the previous ten editions of the global cricket tournament.
New Zealand, have done very little wrong till now with six wins and its washout against India also earned it an extra point. It is hard to see them throwing it all away and led by example, as always, by skipper Kane Williamson, who has already two sublime hundreds to his name, is a team to watch out.
Australia, apart from its defeat against India, has looked quite solid in both batting and bowling. The opening pair of skipper Aaron Finch and David Warner is a big headache for the opposition and shall continue to stay so.
England with three tough games to play against the present top three teams of the tournament – Australia, India and New Zealand – still remains as one of the favourites to win the World Cup. With no less than half a dozen match-winners in its squad, led by Irishman Eoin Morgan, England could create history this summer.
India, one of only two teams still unbeaten, besides New Zealand, have a strong leader in Virat Kohli and with two wicket-taking wrist spinners – Kuldeep and Chahal - has every chance of reaching the final at Lord’s. As professional and clued
Bangladesh first appeared in the 1999 World Cup and two decades later has progressed and matured to emerge as a possible contender for a semi-final. Its star all-rounder, Shakib Al Hasan, batting at No.3 have the highest run aggregate of 475 runs and as always remains a wicket-taking spinner. Not surprisingly he has played part in all three of the wins against South Africa, West Indies and Afghanistan.
Pakistan, still unpredictable and in disarray, now captained by wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, is no longer the team, feared by the opponents. Heavy defeats against West Indies and arch rivals India has shaken them badly and now it needs to win the last three pool games – New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh – to stand any chance of a semi-final berth.
Though Sri Lanka created a stir by beating England, it does not seem to have the firepower in either batting or bowling to earn a semi-final spot. The other three teams: West Indies, South Africa and Afghanistan, have not been able to grab the opportunities on offer and find themselves in the bottom half of the World Cup points table.
Watching the game from a vantage position in the media enclosures at various World Cup venues, has been a great experience. The mutual respect amongst cricket journalists representing different nations from all around the world leads to more harmony and goodwill. The game of cricket is the winner.
The crowd support for all overseas teams, with their traditional garments in national colours, flags, hooters and good-natured banter, continue to liven up the atmosphere. The game of cricket is being enjoyed in good spirit and there has not been any unsavoury incident to report.
Manchester: Australia vs England
Birmingham: India vs New Zealand
Lord’s: England at India
©Cricket World 2019