Tuesday, March 15, 2011

World Cup Catch-up Report.

It has been over a week since my last review, and if anything I have been too far away from my PC to have an opportunity to put fingers to keys to describe what I have been witness to.

Australia found themselves in cruise control against a Kenya side that showed plenty of fight to continue to charge in time and time again against some of the best batsmen the world has to offer. Australia have not yet been truly tested in this World Cup, they have not been clinical in their victories if anything they seem to building to a final performance rather than setting the fields alight.

Michael Hussey on his return gave a full performance of cut and thrust one-day cricket as he glanced and pulled his way to 54 runs, before trying to clear the ropes and falling short. Michael Clarke seemed sure to make his debut World Cup 100 as he teamed with Hussey for 114 between them, at 93 it was all but assured only for he to seemingly throw his wicket away with uncharacteristic attempt to clear the fences.

The highlights seem to all be from Kenya, as the associate nation knowing in its heart no chance of chasing the 325 required. AA Obanda sent the partisan crowd into cheers as he smashed a Shaun Tait slower ball well back into very deep mid-off, for which Tait replied with an 85mph flare of pure speed to knock back his middle stump. CC Obuya put together a tidy innings amongst the boring as he showed first-rate shot selection on his way to well deserved asterisk next to his 98 and was a true shame not to have reached three figures against the current trophy holders, his innings was not without its hiccups as he ran his brother in the early overs, and this may have been the reason he was so keen to stay out on the field till the end.

Ricky Ponting will be acutely aware that his team were far from impressive especially in the field. The bowlers, except for Brett Lee, certainly looked rusty as Kenya posted their best World Cup total. No spinner was able to get in a bowling groove, and as the game moved further along to its 50 overs it has the feeling of net session rather than pool match. With Canada tomorrow morning I can’t see Australia really moving out of this cruise mode anytime soon, if anything a big match might spark more of a fire.

And then there was England, oh England, the great entertainers of this tournament with the ability to dazzle the spectators and bedazzle themselves as they go from having both hands on the wheel to seemingly jumping out of a speeding car. It is now quite obvious that this is a tiring side that needs a break, whether that break comes of an exit in the tournament the days shall tell. You can see in the frustration on Strauss’s face, even the anger from Swann showed a spinner who is pleading for a break. And then we come to Prior who’s dismissal showed that he is on a bad run of form that nothing other than a afternoon in the stands will only fix, Prior needs to move away from the opening spot you can see it in his eyes that he is on edge and in a position where he is just waiting for the mistake, and this mental torment is not helping his glove work either as he scraps and lets balls fly past his ears.

Before I start to go into the issues of the English innings as they again were involved in a cliff hanger of a match against Bangladesh, it must be said that when poise was needed it was the Bangladesh that showed the mental strength to gut out a win from an England side that started badly but also pulled itself together only to not find the final internal urge to fight for the last remaining overs.

It was clearly a sluggish track for which runs would have to be earned not given, England batting first put on a 225 which in the conditions seemed a manageable score if not slightly behind what might have been. Trott again just improved his standing in this World Cup with 67 grafted runs from 128 balls, and I feel will come out of this cup the most spared of the English for any criticism. Morgan scored his first fifty in World Cups. He now has 154 runs from ten innings at an average of 15.40. In ODIs overall, he averages nearly 39 with four hundreds and 11 fifties. Collingwood had an opportunity late in the game batting well down the order to steady the sinking ship, only to find himself short of the crease and run out on 14.

The left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak was especially impressive. It was he who stunted England's ambitions with his first-ball removal of Matt Prior, and he did not concede a single boundary until Ravi Bopara larruped the third ball of his final over through the covers. Even then, Razzak had the last laugh, as two balls later Bopara tried the same trick and picked out Naeem Islam in the covers. It was Razzak's earlier spell that set the tone, however, as he and Naeem squeezed all ambition out of England's top-order in a boa-like alliance that resulted in 19 singles and nothing else between overs 7 and 17.

With England having to do the talking with its now injured and jaded pace attack. Anderson again was having a torrid time finding line, length and a variation to tempt the batsman into anything untoward. Swann despite his protest resulting in a 10% reduction in his match fee was the pick of the bowlers again along with Shazad who if anything with the injuries to others has shown he is a great asset with variation and intensity.

Yet as Strauss raised his hands to his cover his head in frustration of watching the 58 run 9th wicket stand between Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam, the man who had the game in the palm of his hand was the eventual - and rightful - Man of the Match Imrul Kayes, the less-vaunted of Bangladesh's opening batsman, who slipstreamed Tamim Iqbal during a captivating 38 from 26 balls that put Bangladesh firmly ahead of the run-rate, before settling down to play the holding role with a chanceless 100-ball 60.

Last week Bangladesh was being showered with brickbats - literally - after a spineless surrender in Dhaka. Now those same players will be garlanded by a jubilant nation they now have a real chance to propel themselves to the quarter-finals. England, meanwhile, must ride the rollercoaster for the sixth match in succession. Another slip-up, and this time it really will be the end.

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