ODI Cricket at its Best

ICC World Cup
India beat Bangladesh, Bangladesh beat Ireland, Ireland beat England, England beat South Africa & South Africa beat India! What goes around comes around – this is a very famous tweet doing rounds on the Twitter.

This tweet is story of World Cup 2011 in a nutshell. Even before the start of the Knockout Stage we have seen a sensational tied match, a couple of nerve wracking last over finishes and some upsets. And even after so many matches we do not have a clear favourite. Pre-Tournament favorites India, Sri Lanka & South Africa have already tasted upsets. Australia is the only team which looks to be assured and seems to have got their balance right but to be fair they are yet to be tested by a competent opposition. Australia played New Zealand when the NZ players were disturbed by massive earthquake at Christchurch and surrendered. Australia’s match against Sri Lanka was shaping up to be a thriller but weather intervened.

Group B is turning out to be the Group of Death. All test playing nations are in good form and are competing hard for the top four slots. It also has the best of Associate teams in it with Ireland already producing an upset by beating England and Netherlands also giving a good account of themselves against all the teams. The above tweet is the story of this World Cup and in particular story of Group B where no team is sure of a Quarterfinal berth even after playing at least 4 matches out of 6 league matches. The Net Run rate is expected to play a big role in this Group.

India has to make sure that they win against West Indies and make sure of the last eight spot and also to avoid the top 2 teams of Group A. After a nail biting win against India, South Africa are the favorites to top this group with games against Ireland and Bangladesh. England has to win against West Indies to assure them of last eight spot. West Indies are at 6 points with games against England and India to come up for them. West Indies have a very good Net Run rate thanks to their massive win against Bangladesh and even if they lose the next 2 they have to make sure that they don’t lose heavily and hope that South Africa beats Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a relatively easier game against Netherland which they have to win to be in the hunt for last eight spot but couldn’t have asked for a tougher opponent then against South Africa as a must win match to try and qualify for the knockouts.

South Africa looks all set to top this group with India, England and West Indies coming in 2nd, 3rd & 4th spots respectively. After the India-England tie and England upsetting South Africa, the match between India and South Africa was considered to be a decider for the Group topper. If we do not witness any more upsets then South Africa is all set to top the league table in Group B. India-South Africa was one thriller which every cricket lover was looking for. Every India supporter must have felt short changed at the result of the match given the position India was in upto the 40th over while batting.

It required something special from South Africa to pull it back and that’s exactly what Dale Steyn did by picking 5 wickets and giving almost nothing in his 2nd spell of bowling. The Indian batsmen were guilty of going for too many sixes and in the process ended up shooting themselves in the foot. The momentum definitely shifted to South Africa from thereon but the way Indian bowlers and fielders fought back after that collapse was heartening to see. They made sure that South Africa had to work hard for each run and were assisted by slowness of the pitch which made stroke making difficult. Ashish Nehra may be blamed for India’s defeat as he could not defend 13 runs in last over against number 9 batsman but then to be fair to Nehra, Petersen got an inside edge on the 1st ball and his 3rd delivery was a yorker which again went for 2 runs. Every cricket lover must have felt satisfied with the way both teams fought it out in the middle and game going down to the wire.

This win is very big for South Africa especially after the way they lost their game against England chasing 172 and looking comfortable at 124/3 with almost 20 overs left. England did a similar thing against Bangladesh where while defending 225 they had Bangladesh on mat at 169/8 and then let them take it away from that position. Bangladesh erupted in joy after this victory after their humiliating defeat to West Indies which led supporters to throw stones at team buses. Ireland’s Kevin O Brien is proving to be a one match wonder.

Results in Group A are more on expected line with the only exception being matches involving Pakistan which ironically is expected out of them. Pakistan defeated favourite Sri Lanka in a closely fought encounter but lost easily to out of touch and low on confidence New Zealand thankfully to a Ross Taylor special. The Pakistan-New Zealand match will be remembered for slog overs hitting by NZ wherein they scored 100 runs of last 5 overs and blowing away Pakistan out of the match. Even after this loss Pakistan has looked to be a formidable side and a threat to any team in this World Cup. Australia looks assured of themselves and are enjoying their time out of the spotlight as expectedly the complete focus is on Sub continent teams.

Australia is all set to top this group and going by the form of the teams Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan will be in the2nd, 3rd and 4th spots respectively in Group A. Both New Zealand and Pakistan are expected to be tied at 8 points after their group matches and depending upon their Net run rate the Group Standing will be decided.

With the advent of 20-20 format whosoever said that One Day Crickets is fighting for its existence needs to watch and follow the Current World Cup. It is a different thing to bat with just one aim to hit every ball out of park but an altogether different thing to play out 50 overs and post a respectable total. Similarly bowling 4 overs with a single aim of not getting hit out of park and bowling 10 overs in multiple spells where a bowlers is also required to take wickets in addition to defend runs is different ball game. As we had said earlier the matches will be won and lost in the middle overs and that is where the character of the teams is being tested in this Championship so far. This World Cup 2011 has proved to be a great advertisement for One Day format of cricket and has once again proved that ODI’s are not getting extinct anytime soon.

No one team can be termed as clear favourite in this Championship so far. The quarter final line up is expected to bring some interesting matches and only thenthe picture in this World Cup can be clear. There is every possibility that India and Pakistan come face to face once again in quarter final of World Cup and if it happens it will be the match of tournament. In fact most teams are matched in terms of skills in this tournament and the team which will be able to handle the pressure and slowness of the pitches better on a given day will come out victorious in the tournament.

Cricket is a great game of uncertainty and it has given ample examples of the same so far in this tournament and is expected to enthrall us more in the days to come.

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