Cricket World Cup: 5 Moments that mattered

The Cricket World Cup has ended with Australia demolishing New Zealand in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground overnight.  

This has been an amazing tournament replete with quality cricket and fascinating stories.  Australia proved worthy favourites with their astonishingly clinical win in the final.  The World Cup though was about more than one team winning and with that in mind here are my 5 moments that mattered from Cricket World Cup 2015: 

  1. MS Dhoni’s real legacy … giving up: Much is made in commentary and on the internet of the excellence of MS Dhoni’s captaincy and finishing ability in ODI cricket.  Against Australia in the semi-final Dhoni was faced with a situation which suited the legend that surrounds him.  A large run chase, plenty of overs to control the timing of the chase and wickets in hand.  However when things got too hard Dhoni just gave up.  First he started blocking when acceleration was needed and then, inexplicably, he did not try to make his ground when run out by Glenn Maxwell.  He should have been at least trying because odds were he would have made his ground.  Everytime I hear the hyperbole about the greatness of Dhoni that image will be at the forefront of my mind: he just gave up … simple!
  2. Bangladesh into the quarter finals: Before this tournament started most would have thought that they would be able to select the 8 teams to go through to the knockout rounds without much hassle.  There was a feeling of inevitability about it.  Then England came to the tournament in disarray and with a mindset harking back to the days of Gatting and Gooch and played, frankly, horribly.  This set up a qualifying final in Adelaide with Bangladesh facing England for the final slot in Pool A.  Bangladesh’s win in this game was wonderful, not only because it came against an opponent that they were vastly out matched by on paper, but because of what it will do for cricket in their home country.  This is a place of 156M people and to read of their celebrations after this win warmed the heart. 
  3. 300 a barrier no more: I know that there have been scores of 400 or more in ODI cricket before however there has been still, it appears to me, been a mental barrier about the size of total with a 3 in front of it when it comes to chasing in the second innings of these sorts of fixtures.  Across this tournament though we saw some massive totals run down with no better example than Sri Lanka chasing Englands 309 first innings score with 9 wickets in hand and 3 overs remaining.  The game has changed and now 300 runs is not the target it once was.  
  4. The “Associates” must play more cricket: Much has been made of the place (or otherwise) of the “Associate” ICC member nations at the Cricket World Cup.  Even during the Final the Chairman of the ICC was heard speak on their involvement and the ICC’s preference for those nations to have the tools to be more competitive at tournaments like this.  It is simple to say but surely these teams improve by playing more cricket against the “full” member nations? Has the ICC learned nothing from the experience of Sri Lanka’s slow introduction to the game of cricket?  For years Sri Lanka was a laughing stock and an after thought but as they started to play more and more cricket against the more experienced nations they thrived and have won a World Cup. From exhuberance of Hamid Hassan through to John Mooney’s story of redemption these teams provided part of the fabric of this tournament.  Now the cricket community has to give them the tools to win. 
  5. Grant Elliot … the shot heard around the cricket world: The first semi final in this Cricket World Cup was a game for the ages and ended with a mighty blow by Grant Elliot off Dale Steyn.  I can not recall being more emotional about the result of a cricket game not involving Australia than I was at the end of this game.  There was some amazing cricket before this moment but the final blow was a microsm of New Zealand’s growth in stature throughout this tournament.  The co-hosts had prepared perfectly but most pundits were just waiting for them to fall and when it looked like they would a discard from another country who took his chance in New Zealand repaid their faith and got the job done.  Just amazing! 

So now we have 4 more years to wait for the next instalment of the Cricket World Cup.  Much will happen in the game between now and then and I, for one, can not wait to see where the game is taken by those who play it and administer it. 

Cricket World Cup: And then there were four! 

The Cricket World Cup has reached the knock out phase and after the quarter finals Australia, South Africa, India and New Zealand have made it through to the final four!

To be honest I think most people would have said at the start of the tournament that these were the four teams who would make the semi-finals and given how they dominated their respective quarter final opponents the favouritism that has vested in these teams has been well founded it would seem. 

Here are some initial thoughts on the coming semi finals: 

New Zealand v South Africa (Eden Park)

Home ground advantage vests in the Black Caps, as it has the whole tournament, and one expects that they will be backed by yet another delerious crowd.  Both sides have much to prove in this fixture given that both of them have been regular “bridesmaids rather than the bride” in the Cricket World Cup in the past. For two teams who have some of the most explosive batting in the tournament in their line ups it is strange to say but I think this game will come down to the respective bowling units of each on what is a postage sized ground in Auckland.  Boult v Steyn, Southee v Morkel, Vettori v Tahir are all match ups that make the mouth water.  

I am going to stick with the home team in this game: I tipped at the start of the tournament that they would win the tournament and nothing has changed after their performance in the quarter final.  

Australia v India (Sydney Cricket Ground)

These teams have played so much this summer that they must be getting sick of each other by now! The crowd at the SCG will be heaving but one wonders whether Cricket Australia is worried it will be an Indian supporting crowd given the sudden “Wear Gold” campaign that has popped since Friday night’s victory.  The batting line-ups, again, of the two teams appear to be evenly matched.  It is in the bowling that the key differences appear.  Mitchell Starc is head and shoulders the best fast bowler in this game.  On the other side of the ledger are two excellent spinners in Ashwin and Jadeja.  The premier bowlers being so different the pitch could effect the outcome of this game.  

This fixture is very hard for me to pick.  My heart says Australia but my head is leaning towards India.  I might reserve the right to hold judgment at this stage until just before game time when the pitch has been reviewed.  

I can not wait for these two fixtures: they will be much closer than the quarter finals and one expects that the cricket will only get better! 

Cricket World Cup: Quarter Final’s Crystal Ball

After 42 games involving a spectrum of cricket that ranges from the mediocre to the sublime and all parts in between, we are now down to the final 8 teams. If you had have been asked on 14 February when this tournament started who was in your final 8 these are the 8 teams many would have chosen with the notable exception of England being in there instead of Bangladesh.

With New Zealand and India going through undefeated in their respective pools, they, righlty in my view, are the top seeds going into the finals stage.  Here is how the quarter finals have been matched up: 

  • 1st Quarter Final: South Africa (2nd in Pool B) v Sri Lanka (3rd in Pool A)
  • 2nd Quarter Final: Bangladesh (4th in Pool A) v India (1st in Pool B) 
  • 3rd Quarter Final: Australia (2nd in Pool A) v Pakistan (3th in Pool B)
  • 4th Quarter Final: New Zealand (1st in Pool A) v West Indies (4th in Pool B)

Each of these games looks to be absolutely quality encounter.  Here are some thoughts on the keys to each game: 

South Africa v Sri Lanka

This is about the pick of the games for mine and could all hinge on who bats first.  South Africa have struggled chasing totals in this World Cup but when they have batted first they have been largely unstoppable.  Sri Lanka possess the best batsman in world cricket for mine in Kumar Sangakkara but have been a little bit thin on form after him in the order.  South Africa has the edge with the ball.  I am prepared to back the South Africans in this fixture but I will be getting very nervous if they loose the toss and have to chase a target. 

Tip: South Africa

Bangladesh v India

This has just been an amazing four weeks for the Indian cricket team.  They were just destroyed in Australia before this tournament in all forms of the game but have shown, again, that the maxim “Form is temporary, Class is permanent.” rings true.  There is no better tactical captain nor judge of a run chase in the current game than MS Dhoni and they possess the best remaining spin bowling attack in the competition.  Bangladesh look on paper to be vastly out matched in this fixture however they seem to find a way times to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat.  India will win this game with class all over the field. 

Tip: India

Australia v Pakistan

To start rhetorically: is there a more enignmatic cricket team in world cricket than the Pakistan team? Some days they look like a club side, a very bad club side, and yet other days they conjour the sublime.  They will have confidence from both the ghosts of 1992 and their win against South African earlier in the tournament.  Australia have the ability to bat teams out of games with power all through the line up.  The blossoming of G Maxwell as a force in this tournament has been a highlight so far.  Starc’s bowling aside, there remains a significant question mark over the bowling attack whose talisman, Johnson, has lost his way again.  Australia should win this game but it may hinge on which Pakistan team actually turns up. 

Tip: Australia 

New Zealand v West Indies

Can anyone see New Zealand being beaten in this game? If Chris Gayle plays many will suggest that he could play a big innings but I think that is a false hope given his form (one big knock aside) this tournament.  I would back the New Zealand swing bowling against Gayle et al every day of the week and, to me, that makes this fixture the easiest one to pick.  Setting aside the bowling of New Zealand for a moment, in McCullum the Black Caps also possess the best opener in the competition backed by a solid, if not spectactular, middle order.  Add the New Zealand crowd to this and this game is a no brainer. 

Tip: New Zealand

I know I have picked all of the favourites here but that it the way this tournament has gone so far and I do not really expect it to change.  The Sri Lankans are the best placed team to pull an upset whilst Pakistan may also surpise.  

The Super Sports Multi: It’s Back!

After a summer hiatus, the start of the NRL season is a good enough time as any to return to this blog my weekend sports multi.  I will post one every Thursday afternoon focusing on the sport on the coming weekend.  

Here is this weekend’s multi:

Leg 1: South Sydney to cover the line (-4 points) against the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL. 

Leg 2: India to defeat the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup. 

Leg 3: South Africa to defeat Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. 

Leg 4: Blues to defeat the Lions by greater than 12.5 points in Super Rugby. 

Leg 5: North Queensland Cowboys to defeat the Sydney Roosters by between 1-12 points in the NRL. 

This multi will pay around $20 for every dollar invested. 

As always: 

  1. Please gamble responsibly. 
  2. Whilst all care is taken with these tips, no responsibility vests for losses incurred. 

Cricket World Cup: 19 pool games to go but only two matter

The Cricket World Cup has meandered through 23 pool fixtures to date with a mix of excellent cricket and mismatches keeping fans around the world entranced.  Much has been made about the length of the tournament and, at the time of writing, there are some 19 pool games left to go before the quarter finals commence on 18 March.

Having run the eye over the table and thought about who might win which games I have come to the conclusion that only two of the coming fixtures have the potential to significantly impact on how participates in the final series.  Those games are:

  • England v Bangladesh, Match 33; and
  • Ireland v Pakistan, Match 42.

To understand why these two games are the “only” important games lefts, one must consider the following:

Pool A:

  • New Zealand and Sri Lanka presently sit atop Pool A.  Each have two games left (NZ face Afghanistan and Bangladesh whilst Sri Lanka play Australia and Scotland) and I think they are unlikely to lose either. That puts them at the top of Pool A and in the finals.
  • Scotland will not win a game and thus will not make the finals.
  • Afghanistan, who have been one of the revelations of this World Cup, have the toughest run home playing Australia, New Zealand and England to complete their campaign.  I do not expect them to win any of these games and thus predict they will not advance beyond the two points they presently hold.
  • Australia have a soft draw for the rest of the pool rounds with the exception of their fixture against Sri Lanka which, on current form, they are likely to struggle to win. Whether they win or lose that game they will be in the finals with victories against Afghanistan and Scotland.
  • That leaves Bangladesh and England to fight the battle for the 4th spot in this pool.  Bangladesh have 3 points from 3 games and face Scotland, England and New Zealand to final the pool rounds.  They will defeat Scotland and, absent any strategic play from New Zealand, will be defeated by them which means they will would sit on 5 points with their game against England in dispute.  England are on 2 points with 2 games to play against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.  Even in their current woeful form I think they will defeat Afghanistan which just leaves their game against Bangladesh to gain points from.
  • The winner of Bangladesh v England on 9 March will have the advantage and make the finals.  The loser will head home. It is that simple.

Pool B:

  • Much like in Pool A there are two stand out teams in Pool A at the moment: India and South Africa.  Both are yet to play Ireland.  India also play the West Indies and Zimbabwe whilst South Africa is yet to play Pakistan and the UAE.  I can not see them losing in their remaining fixtures and thus predict they will be the top two teams in Pool B.
  • UAE will not win a game and thus will not make the finals.
  • Zimbabwe have two games left against Ireland and India.  They are presently on 2 points from a victory against the UAE and whilst they were plucky in defeat against Pakistan I do not think they have the team to best either Ireland or India on current form.  They will stay on 2 points.
  • The West Indies have two games left with which to add to their current tally of 4 points.  The West Indies have been scratchy at times in the competition and then at times they have been brilliant.  Against the quality of India I can not see them winning but they will bank 2 points from a run rate enhancing win against the UAE.  This will put them on 6 points and in the frame for the finals (subject to the final bullet point).
  • That leaves Ireland and Pakistan.  Pakistan have had an ordinary start to the competition raising, unsurprisingly, comparisons to 1992.  Presently on 2 points from 3 games they face South Africa and the UAE before they contest the final pool fixture against Ireland at the Adelaide Oval.  I would expect them to best the UAE but lose to South Africa.  Ireland have been one of the stories of this World Cup but now they face the worse schedule with 4 games in the next 12 days whilst travelling extensively including across the ditch for their game against India.  In addition to that game I suspect they will lose to South Africa tomorrow but defeat Zimbabwe.
  • These results would love Pakistan on 4 points and Ireland on 6 points with the last (42nd) pool game to be played.  If Ireland win they will end up 3rd in Pool B.  If Pakistan win they will join Ireland and West Indies on 6 points and then Net Run Rate will decide who fill the final two spots in Pool B.

Obviously there is still some great cricket to come in this World Cup.  That said: given the form of the teams to date it is easy, in my view, to predict who will win what games.  Those predictions taken into account the race to the finals could really go down to the wire with the last pool game almost a preliminary final in Pool B.