Great matches bring great moments. 3 matches over the past week have pushed the World cup ahead and given it some moments to buildup momentum towards the knock out phase. The mercurial side of Pakistan had to come out , better early than late. The Kiwis thumped them by over a 100 runs courtesy a brilliant unbeaten 131 by Ross Taylor. He scored more than 60 runs in the last 16 balls he faced and with big hitting from Oram in the final overs, New Zealand reached 300 +. The big story however was Kamran Akmal and the internet media is flooded with Akmal jokes. But Shoaib Akthar was not smiling as two catches went down in the same over. He couldn’t believe his luck as he produced two beauties to Taylor on 0 and 4, balls with wicket written all over them but it was in vain. The connoisseur of drop, Akmal didn’t react to the first one when all he should have done is stuck a hand out. He showed some learning when he got both his gloves to the next one but seemed to have dipped them in a can of butter as the ball inexplicably popped out. Poor Akthar, with age not on his side, could only curse out loud but worse was to come. Taylor clobbered him for 26 in one over – a groundhog day if ever there was one. Thereafter the match meandered to its conclusion. Abdur Razzaq threatening for a bit with Umar Gul but the Kiwis always had the ascendancy.A shock result, not a great match but one with its moments.
Bangladesh were hurting after their performance against the West Indies and fittingly they were up against the new Minnow fodder – England. With an uninspiring display of batting, save the enterprising Eoin Morgan (who may want to change sides to native Ireland the way it’s going!!), England managed 225 on a good wicket. Bangladeshi’s were 154 for 3 and coasting when Imrun Kayes’ brain malfunctioned and he went for a non- existent second run. That run out gave the undeserving English a way back in the game and they reduced Bangladesh to 169 for 8. But the fear of a crowd backlash or a sudden sense of self pride or probably a combination of both, inspired Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam to play brave cricket and win the match. England have a lot of questions to answer for themselves, all departments are not functioning in unison and injuries are now adding to the insult. Interesting times for them and Strauss wish of not having any more close matches doesn’t seem to be materializing. At least they are producing some great matches inadvertently.
The Indian Team aims to win the World Cup for Sachin Tendulkar but it looks like he has to do the the hard work while the others just make up the numbers. Right now it seems like there are few fighters and many bystanders in this ragged outfit. It is great getting 3 fifties against the minnows and Englishmen, but Yuvraj has to come to the party against the likes of South Africa if India is to progress in this tournament. Gambhir seems out of sorts and messed up with the momentum of the innings. Sachin and Sehwag were brilliant but Sachin as is his wont slowed down as his century approached. After the initial assault and Sehwag’s dismissal India failed to score above 5 on over. The worst was our capitulation from 267 for 1 to 296 all out. In a bout of senseless batting , India handed the match to the South African. Admittedly SA bowled very well, but the Indians had lost it in between their ears. First they took the powerplay when Sachin and Gambhir were not really striking it well. Once the powerplay was taken, Sachin and Gambhir tried to become Yusuf Pathan and a confused Yusuf was sent ahead to face Steyn and co. Just because it was the Powerplay Yuvraj tried to hit a low full toss out of the ground instead of placing it well. We had lost 4 wickets in the powerplay for just 30 runs. Madness. Virat Kohli is like a fish out of water in the final overs and the less said about the tails approach the better. Dhoni said that they needed to learn not to play to the galleries but he himself should have shielded the tail and got to a more respectable score. However the Indian bowlers responded well on a benign pitch and kept good control. Though Amla, Kallis and DeVilliers played good innings to setup the chase, it looked like India had sealed it when they got Duminy. However Faf du Plessis, Botha and Pietersen had other ideas. Munaf at his pace and good length bowling is a delight for the sloggers and one or two are bound to go out of the park in his spell. Botha creamed him before Zaheer Khan’s brilliant last over ensured that they required 13 off the last over and then another moment of madness from Dhoni. Instead of handing the ball to Bhajji , he went for the uncoordinated Nehra. Four, Six, Four and the match was over.
Where can India go from here? Batting is heavily dependant on the top order, bowling inadequate and fielding below par even when at it’s best – while SA saved some 30 runs in the field, the Indians allowed twos where only one was possible. But because the Quality of teams is not great , we still have a chance. Dhoni should try Ashwin, bring back Raina in place of Gambhir or Kohli. Forget experimenting with 3 pacers, we do not have the quality there. Grave concerns for India, lets see what the “Think Tank” comes up with! South Africa though seem to have grown in stature. Their bowling unit shows a never say die approach and their batting seems better equipped on these surfaces than other visiting teams.
More good action coming up next week. I am looking forward to India v/s West Indies and Pakistan v/s Australia. Looking at form Australia and South Africa seem the favourites at this stage of the World Cup However, in a free for all shoot out even a stray bullet can be effective, similarly any team who reaches the Quarters has a shot at the title. It is just a question of 3 good days on the field.