Surprisingly the usually non-flamboyant England have brought this world cup some of it’s most interesting moments. Not that they have set grounds on fire with their performances but they managed to conjure up close matches with the minnows and big teams alike. After a shaky high scoring win against the Netherlands, they tied a match they should have won against India, then were hunted down by the Irish Army in the World Cup’s largest chase and then they choked the ever willing Proteas in a low scoring game to remain in contention.
Kevin O’ Brien single handedly took apart the English attack with strokeplay that would have made any top batsman from the so called “Big” nations proud. The game was meandering to another minnow thrashing when I switched on the television at 115 for 5 but the next hour or so showed how the hunted could easily turn hunter. In a breathtaking display of hitting , the English attack was made to look like ants on an elephant path, just waiting for the inevitable end. And the English didn’t help their own cause with a few spilled chance. Every ball was disappearing of the blade of O’Brien – he would move outside the leg stump and free his arms to hit to all parts of the ground. He could have completed the job on his own but unfortunately got run out with some still to get. But the Irish lower order were resolute and skilled to get them through against their old foes. His 100 came of 50 balls, the fastest in the World cup and has been the innings of the World Cup so far, eclipsing Strauss’ epic against India.
Ireland have staked their claim for a test berth and seem to belong. They were not overawed by India in today’s match either. Though bowled out for 207 on a difficult pitch, they made it hard for the Indians with some good disciplined bowling and brilliant fielding. It required a few meaty blows from Yusuf Pathan and a record all round performance from Yuvraj ( getting a fifer and a fifty) to settle the issue. Dhoni paid the ultimate compliment to Ireland saying that they made 207 look like 240 with their fielding performance.
Canada too gave Pakistan a scare but Afridi, the lion heated, blew them apart in a typical bowling display. He grabbed five which enabled Pakistan to defend a low score of 174. Canada were well placed at 100 odd for 3 before he started his act. Pakistan have their troubles with the bat but as a bowling unit they sure can defend low scores. Their major challenge will be against the bowling side of Australia. With Hussey back , Australia look good enough to defend their title.I was really looking forward to the Australia – SL encounter as it would have shown the direction each of these teams were headed. Sadly only one intersting match remains in this group viz Aus – Pak.
South Africa, the other favourites gifted a winnable match to England. The English spirit won in the end , as South Africa disintegrated faster than the Chennai pitch. It was a team effort from England with bits and piecescontributions from everyone. Ravi Bopara’s 60 has virtually forced Collingwood out of the squad and it is good because he was proving to be dead wood. India v/s South Africa, India v/s Windies and England v/s Windies should be a close encounters in this group. Ireland could also throw up some more surprises yet.
There will be a few good clashes but how I wish there was a fast forward button I could push to go directly to the Quarter Finals shoot out. It seems very strange for a Top competition – three weeks of meandering to arrive at a very short climax. They need to parallelise a few matches , maybe three a day and revert to the Super Six format.