Team By Team World Cup Previews

19 02 2011

So the Cricket World Cup, a tournament that doesn’t finish until the improbable date of April 2nd, gets under way today with a match between the favourites India and the nation applauded by many for giving the tournament back it’s soul, Bangladesh, with what was apparently a passionate and moving opening ceremony. In the best traditions of English cricket supporters and ODI cricket, we have been pretty ambivalent up until this point (regular readers may have guessed due to the lack of comment on this website) about it. Now, however – and as it always does eventually, the world cup bug has grabbed us and we are looking forward to two months of regular, meaningful limited overs cricket.

Therefore here are some short previews and predictions of how the various teams will go:

Australia

Have a better chance than many think. It really comes down to whether their all out pace attack can do the same job as it did in the West Indies four years ago. Tait and Lee are older and more broken than they were back then but still remain excellent bowlers. The batting is a concern and they will need Shane Watson in particular to be the star man in much the same way as Hayden was in the previous tournament. However our pick as a star man is David Hussey who will surely seize his chance and perform in his brother’s absence. Quarter Finalists.

Bangladesh

Over the past year or so there have been definite signs of improvement in this Bangledeshi team although it is hard to argue they have left their frailties behind entirely. Have the ability to spring an upset and could easily end the West Indian’s dreams of success before they even start. As always Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan will be key men with the captain being our pick as the star man. Have every right to believe they can progress and we have them down as quarter finalists.

Canada

This is likely to be a painful tournament for the men from North America. From a cricketing minnow’s point of view they are probably the weakest team but will be hopeful that they can at least beat the Kenyans. Showed in the warm up game against England that they can compete and have a player of good ability in Rizwan Cheema – our star man for the Canadians. Unfortunately we don’t think they will win a game and will go out prior to the knock out stages.

England

Have the potential to be winners although form and injury worries give the feeling that perhaps this might be a tournament too far for them. Morgan’s absence is a massive blow but at least they have the returning (and on form) Stuart Broad to lead the way with the ball. Much will depend on the captain, Andrew Strauss, and a rejuvenated Paul Collingwood, although our pick as star man after a move to the top of the order is Kevin Pietersen. We have argued before that this might not be a bad plan and if he has a good tournament you simply don’t know how far England could go… Semi Finalists*

India

Hardly an unoriginal choice as winners of this tournament, yet this this where the smart money lies. Devastating batting, bowling suited to their home conditions, one feels that if they play to their potential they are likely to be too much for the others. However they are not so far and away the favourites that it is a given and their bowlers in particular need to fire. Tendulkar is our (obvious) pick as star man in what would likely be his last tournament. Winners.

Ireland

Will be desperate to  to show that the decision to exclude associate teams from the next world cup is very short sighted by creating an upset or two. Buoyed by the returning Ed Joyce (the CH’s star man), they will believe they can beat Bangladesh, West Indies and the Netherlands with possibly even England also in their sights. It is unlikely that they would qualify for the latter stages yet like all Irish sporting teams they are combative and should not be discounted. We think they have one upset in them although this will probably not be enough so it is simply the group stages for them.

Kenya

Once seen as the next associate side most likely to be given test status, they have regressed in recent years. They do however possess some talented players with exposure to success at World Cups and will believe at any rate that they could beat both Canada and Zimbabwe. Having transformed himself from the leg spinning hero that took Kenya to the semi finals back in 2003 but who then developed the yips, Colins Obuya has turned himself into a good middle order batsmen and is our star man. Group stages is as far as they will go however.

Netherlands

The eternal ‘almost team’ but still one who opponents take lightly at their cost – just ask England. Have one or two talented players with the stand out being Essex’s excellent Ryan Ten Doeschate who has the potential to be quite brilliant. Like Ireland, will be eyeing up wins against Bangladesh and the West Indies as potential upsets – something that would be quite exceptional – but in all likelihood it is the men from the Emerald Isle who will be their most likely win.  Group stages.

New Zealand

We don’t know what has happened to the Kiwi’s over the past year. They appear to have imploded and, whilst you would be unwise to write them off, it is lucky for them that they are not in Bangladesh’s group. Even Zimbabwe on current form will be a test. Much as always depends on Taylor, Vettori and McCullum (our star man) although it is time for the support acts, Southee, Guptill and Ryder to step up to the plate. Unfortunately we do not see them going past the group stages as we believe Zimbabwe may cause an upset.

Pakistan

Anything could happen quite honestly and it probably will! Led by Afridi and with a bowling attack that can run through anyone on their day (even despite the bans to Amir and Asif) it is the batting that will be crucial to Pakistan. In recent times it has been this aspect of their game that has let them down badly. Star man for us will be the veteran Abdul Razzaq, whose batting is crucial in the late order and can snatch games from the jaws of defeat. Quarter finalists.

South Africa

The team who if only for themselves may well have won two world cups, will believe that with the demise of Australia, this may be their year. Studded with talent in both departments including the interesting choice of Imran Tahir as their attacking spinner, they will be a handful for anyone. Despite the claims of Amla we have plumped for Steyn to shine. Again in this most open of world cups it is far from a given that they will progress past the quarters even as their previous habits of folding under pressure show, yet we believe they will be losing finalists.

Sri Lanka

Possible winners, the Sri Lankans are bound to benefit from home support, familiar pitches and a wealth of talent and it would be a fool who would write them off. We have picked the upcoming Angelo Matthews to be our star man, a player of immense ability, although the old stagers of Sangakarra, Murali, Jayawardene  – not to mention Dilshan et al – will push our choice all the way. We believe they will be Semi Finalists.

West Indies

Of all the teams in the world cup we will be hoping that the West Indies do well. As we all know cricket is struggling in that part of the world and a successful world cup would do wonders for the teams confidence. Anything from semi finals onwards would represent real achievement – something that would mean Chris Gayle has had an excellent world cup. Darren Bravo is our pick as star man although in all honesty Quarter finals is likely to be as much as they can achieve.

Zimbabwe

The men from Southern Africa have been on an upward spiral of late and should not be taken lightly by anyone. We have already called a possible upset against New Zealand and providing they can win the other games they are expected to, this should be enough to put them in the quarter finals. Something that would represent a major achievement. As star man we are going to go for Brendan Taylor although players like Chigurumba or Taibu will push him all the way. 
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Extraordinary England and Australiadesh…

6 01 2011

An England Wishlist

At the start of this test match, in discussions with some fellow armchair experts, we suggested that we needed only a few more things to happen and we would be more completely satisfied at the end of an England test series than we have ever been before. These were, in no particular order:

  • Ian Bell to score a hundred.
  • Matt Prior to score some runs.
  • Swann to take a few wickets.
  • The match to finish with a win for England.

With the first two of these objectives able to be ticked off and the fourth looking imminent in the morning (possibly at the hands of Swann thereby completing the third item on our wish list) we are already approaching this aforesaid state of nirvana. Whilst technically we are jumping the gun by celebrating the series win today, it is of course more or less a given with Australia yet again trying to ensure it is not an innings defeat – although with the deficit still lying at 151 runs that too will prove to be futile. This England team are fast becoming a side who can be relied upon to deliver and, unlike in 2005, are promising to simply get better and better.

We said at the start of the series that the key to winning the series would be in the batting and particularly their opening partnerships. In short, with a perceived similarity in quality of their bowling attacks, the side who scored more runs would win. England won this particular battle and won it convincingly, however, this alone would not have resulted in such thumping margins of victory. What has turned these prophesied close victories into absolute thrashings has been the enduring and consistent quality of England’s bowling, something that was in evidence again today. On a flat pitch with plenty of opportunity for the batsman who is willing to graft, England again ran through the Australian batting to set up what will surely be a 100 run innings victory. All the bowlers were exceptional with even the wicket less Swann containing the batsman and ensuring that the pressure was maintained.

Lessons From Bangladesh

Earlier this year England completed two clean sweeps against Bangladesh. In almost all these games Bangladesh found themselves in a position where if they could bat well and crucially bat time, they would have drawn the game. Every time, without fail, Bangladesh appeared to decide that this wasn’t an option and came out all guns blazing – inevitably going down in a plethora of stroke play by large margins. It has been interesting to see that Australia appear to have been taking lessons from the Bangladeshi’s in this department over the last year.

Shane Watson in particular looked like he was attempting to set a target for England to chase by lunch on the fifth day and several of the others got out chasing balls that, bearing in mind they were batting for the draw, they would have been better leaving alone. We firmly believe one of the things has had led to England being the very good side that they are now is that, quite simply, they are extremely difficult to beat. Over the past two years, on several occasions, England have batted five sessions or more to draw the game. The Aussies, here as in Adelaide, appear not to have a clue how to go about this; so much so that one wonders if they might approach Paul Collingwood about the possibility of becoming their batting coach now he has retired – expert as he is in these situations.

Commentators Curse

One final thought for today on commentators of this wonderful game. As in the journalistic world the notion that ex players make the best commentators is clearly rubbish. Some are excellent it is true, Mike Atherton take a bow on both the writing and TV fronts, yet most are either average or so jingoistic that the notion of impartial coverage has clearly never occurred to them.

One commentator (we think Ian Healey), clearly in the midst of a pleasant dream in which Australia are twice the side they are now, said that ‘neither side have dominated the other in this series’ and then (definitely) Healey said Johnson was one of the best fast bowlers in the world. Both statements clearly severe cases of self delusion.

Warne too has gone from a man widely credited with an excellent cricketing brain to someone, whilst not in the Ian Botham camp of ridiculous inane comments, has also lost some credibility by his apparent belief that success is an Australian birthright. Whilst it has been mildly irritating having to listen to some of these ex players, it has been worth it for the amazing back tracking that they have been forced into – worth the Sky subscription alone!





A Word On Bangladesh and New Zealand

18 10 2010

Bangladesh

A quick word in praise of Bangladesh once more who have won the fifth and final one day international to take the series 4-0 (one match was rained off). This result is possibly one of the most unexpected score lines of the past decade or more and is notable, not only for the consistency of performance by the Tigers, but also the attitude with which they have played.

Being an English cricket fan we have seen rather a lot of Bangladesh over the past eight months or so. First of all there was the test and ODI series in Bangladesh itself; this was then followed by an immediate repeat in the early Summer, this time in England, only to then have the ODI leg repeated for the third time in July. During this time the Bangladeshi’s were notable, not only for the regularity of their defeats, but also for the manner in which they came. With one or two notable exceptions (Tamim Iqbal for example) they were a quiet, non-threatening presence whose body language denoted a passiveness which, if not submissive exactly, hardly belied a confidence that they could win. Watching yesterdays final ODI yesterday it was notable that this was entirely changed and is a testimony to what a couple of wins can do for a team. They were vibrant, lively, noisy and, above all, a confident side who knew they could win and were trying to do so rather than simply avoid defeat.

The key for Bangladesh now is to maintain this level of progress and aim to make it out of the group stages of the world cup in February next year. With no matches scheduled other than a couple of pre tournament warm ups between now and then, it would not be a surprise if another series somewhere is arranged in interim in an attempt to build on this success.

Interestingly, Bangladeshi coach Jamie Siddons, whose normal repose when watching his charges play appears to be one of a man liable to throttle the nearest Bangladeshi player for some frustratingly avoidable misdemeanour, still looked exactly the same. He did however crack a smile at the end and we hope that his stress levels can return to more normal amounts as, if one man deserves a holiday, judging by his normal facial expressions it would be him.

New Zealand

As for New Zealand they simply looked like they wanted to be anywhere else in the world. New Zealand are a team who will always struggle to dine at the top table of world cricket thanks to the combined forces of a small population and an all encompassing passion for rugby but really, even despite these factors, this result was a huge surprise.

Many Kiwi’s and cricket followers around the world are suggesting that this is one of the poorest New Zealand sides ever – but to us this is missing the point somewhat (apart from not being entirely true anyway). With the proven fire power of McCullum; the class of Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor; the workmanlike abilities of Kyle Mills and Grant Elliot; the potential of Jesse Ryder and Kane Williamson – there should have been more than enough in the tank to dispose of what still remains an essentially poor to average Bangladesh side. Yet through a mixture of irresponsible batting from the established stars plus being out bowled by the Tigers’ collection of slow left armers they managed to lose. On the latter they really deserve to be castigated as bowlers like Abdul Razzaq and Naeem Islam should never out bowl anyone – let alone someone universally known as the best slow left armer around, Daniel Vettori.

New Zealand go to India next month and, such was their performance in Bangladesh, we would be surprised if they managed to avoid a white wash in all formats. Much like an Australian however, Kiwis often fare well in adversity or under pressure and so we are hoping that this upcoming battle will be more closely fought as they will be attempting to prove themselves to the cricketing world. As a friend of the Compulsive Hooker’s from New Zealand suggested the other day, it is imperative that they do as, future tours program or no, the top countries will be less willing to host the Black Caps in the future due to a lack of interest from the paying public. With the best will in the world, everything comes down to money in the end and, if New Zealand aren’t an enticing prospect from a spectators point of view, they won’t be invited to tour.





Bangladeshi Brilliance

14 10 2010

Whilst all the hullabaloo regarding India’s series win over Australia has been going on; something brilliant has been happening in Bangladesh. That is, of course, if you are a Bangladeshi.

With the 3rd one day international just finished, Bangladesh have bowled out New Zealand to win the game by 9 runs. Having won the previous two games of a four match series this is their first series win over a full ICC member nation and, rightly, it appears things are going mad in Bangladesh.

Now we haven’t seen a single ball of these series so we cannot tell you about the standard of cricket, the umpiring or any other facet of the game yet we can say we are delighted for the Bangladesh team. Despite losing both home and away series in England, test and ODI, there were signs that just perhaps there was a quality to the side, albeit at times hidden in amongst the dross, that the cricketing world had not seen before. Whether it was the brilliance of Tamim Iqbal at Lords in the Summer, or the frankly incredible contributions from Shakib Al Hasan in this series so far, (in this game he scored a hundred to go with the fifty he scored in the first match and has comfortably out bowled Daniel Vettori as well) there is a hint of class that was not present before. Even more impressively they have won this series without Tamim who is injured.

You have to feel for the Kiwi’s though as suddenly this next couple of months is looking pretty grim. Following this they have a trip for 3 test matches and 2 ODI’s to India – hardly the place you would want to go having lost to Bangladesh. Looking at the scorecards however it appears that the Kiwi batting has simply not fired with the usual stalwarts of Ross Taylor, Vettori again and Brendan McCullum having a lean time of it. The Black Caps, like the Australians, are renowned ‘scrappers’ yet this quality appears to have been lost according to many of the reports during this series and that should be a major concern to them.

A while ago we wrote an article suggesting that the West Indies could learn a great deal from the Black Caps – both are teams with limited resources in terms of numbers of players amongst other things – yet the Kiwi’s have a better record over the past decade or so. However if New Zealand lose this extra grit then there is not really much to separate these too sides and that could be problematic for the future of cricket in the country. Perhaps we’re being melodramatic by suggesting this but it is surely a concern at some level.

To round off however, we would like to get back to Bangladesh and congratulate them once more on a brilliant and convincing performance. Lets see whether they can make it 4-0…





Strauss Demolishes the Desh

13 07 2010

Anyone still mentioning Strauss’ inability to score quickly enough in one day cricket should be shot after his magnificent 154 yesterday. Equally, anyone mentioning Trott in the same breath should probably suffer the same fate, but, as we are likely to continue our mini crusade to rescue English cricket from Trott’s presence, we are going to waive this ban… Granted he has scored 94 and 110 in consecutive innings so for now we are going to have to leave this point of view to one side, but be assured that we are going to pick it up once more when Trott starts failing against the Pakistan and Australia later this year as assuredly he will!

Strauss on the other hand has merely continued his good work from the Australia series although this time rather than falling for an attractive 50 odd he went on to score the big one he has been threatening to do so. Strauss currently has a reasonable record as an opener, certainly by English standards, yet by world standards he needs to score more hundreds to be considered a very good one day cricketer. This criticism is hardly new though and can probably be applied to the entire England team rather than just him although perhaps there are early signs that this may be improving with Morgan (2) and now Strauss and Trott all scoring hundreds this year. KP is one that, despite a blazing start to his ODI career, could learn this lesson and indeed needs to pick up his game entirely. In the last 18 months he has scored just 285 runs in 17 games with an average of just over 17.

These complaints are relatively minor though as England are winning series and generally winning well, so it seems churlish to pick too many faults. On the positive side, the performance of Ajmal Shahzad in this series was a major plus point. Shahzad bowled with a pace and fire that England had been conspicuously lacking up until this point. Indeed in our eyes there are faint echoes perhaps of Simon Jones in the way he bowls with such aggression and we hope he gets further opportunities ahead of Tim Bresnan in particular.

For Bangladesh this can be put down as a good trip albeit they were still beaten comfortably in two of the games. That first win is highly important though as it can form something of a mental block and with it they showed continued signs of progress. Mashrafe Mortaza impressed with his captaincy as he at least appears to have a cricketing brain.

The Bangladeshi team now move on to a two match series against Ireland which should prove interesting. Ireland have recently been crowned the ICC World Cricket League Champions and been unbeaten in the process with wins over Afghanistan, Scotland, Kenya, Netherlands and Canada. Bangaldesh, as the next rung up on the ladder, will provide a good challenge and it is important for both sides they perform well. For Bangladesh, it is key that they prove their higher quality so justifying their inclusion at the top table of world cricket, and for Ireland, whose bid for test status has faltered, it would be a further demonstration of their quality and right at the very least to be considered an equal of Bangladesh and possibly Zimbabwe.

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Finally a quick word about the Pakistan vs Australia series kicking off today at Lords. The first neutral test match at Lords since 1912, this is quite an event for both sides and offers Pakistan a chance to redeem themselves after the shambles of the Australian Summer.

In modern times when cricket seems to rank a long way down the list of what the newspapers and other media organisations deem newsworthy it is excellent to hear that the BBC and the Test Match Special team are providing live commentary for the entire series. We had suspected that this series being between two neutral countries would have been deemed an irrelevance in a sporting Summer taken over by the round ball game, yet we are pleased to see its not.

We even heard the brilliant and amusing Henry Blofeld during the Bangladeshi series so there is hope yet!





Bangladesh Win At Last

11 07 2010

Bangladesh Win

Well that was a surprise!

We are talking, of course, about Bangladesh’s very first win over England in any form of cricket which occurred yesterday at the County Ground, Bristol. We have written about this series and its lack of meaningful context, yet suddenly, with this win for the the underdog, it has assumed, if not quite a relevancy, certainly an added piquancy. Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool, English cricket fundamentalist, who only ever wants to see England crush their opposition with no sympathy for the up and coming nations, this was an exciting day for cricket. Whilst it is hardly likely to herald a changing in the world order it has served amongst other things as a wake up call for Andrew Strauss’ men who have now lost three from four games, a boost for the ECB with regard to potential returns from the third game and a major fillip to the Bangladeshi team who now have a chance of winning the series.

Jamie Siddons, probably the most frustrated national coach in the world and usually someone who looks like he is about to personally lynch the latest Bangladeshi to be dismissed in some careless and ridiculous manner, was delighted afterwards. It was possible to see from his reaction alone how much this win means for Bangladeshi cricket and, for that reason, it is difficult to begrudge them anything. Up until this game Bangladesh had not won in 14 one day matches against England and indeed in any form of cricket for 247 days against any opposition, despite putting in some impressive performances during this time.

In preceding matches with the game finely balanced, an Englishman has always stood up to take the game away from Bangladesh. Unfortunately for England; yesterday’s man was Jonathan Trott who, at several points through his innings, looked like he was batting for himself rather than the team. Only sparked into boundary hitting form late in his innings we couldn’t help but feel that the innings typified why he is not ever going to be a truly effective one day player. Had Morgan or Collingwood been the ones batting through, the game would have probably been won with overs to spare due to their ability to work the ball around. Indeed the progression of runs needed over the last 10 overs showed this perfectly. At 10 overs to go 66 runs were needed, which  but with quite honestly is the sort of asking rate Morgan laughs at, yet with Trott nurdling this became 23 from two.  Trott scored at a strike rate at just over 50 runs per 100 balls for much of his innings (at the end of the 35th over he had 45 from 83 balls) indicating a serious problem with keeping the scoreboard ticking over and in the long term probably losing the game for England.

To tell the truth, this first win for Bangladesh against England was always coming as they are a fast improving side and England were bound to have an off day at some point. The difference to Bangladesh yesterday was probably the captain. In the recent past Shakib Al Hasan has been doing the job and in all honesty has not been making a particularly good fist of it. Good bowler and useful batsman that he is, Shakib had previously shown the cricketing brain and tactical nous of a shrew, often seemingly playing for defeat (if such a thing is possible in professional sports!). The skipper for this series, Mashrafe Mortaza, has shown what a difference positive captaincy can make and we hope that he maintains his injury free form over the coming months and years as Bangladesh undoubtedly will need him. Without him at the helm, and despite Trott, we would go as far to say that England would probably have walked home fairly easily despite regularly losing wickets.

England came into this series with team in the grips of squad rotation and on a mini losing streak after Australia had ruthlessly highlighted their flaws in the final two one day games of their series. If England are truly going to challenge for the world cup next year in India, the following questions are the most pressing amongst a few others: Where is the quality back up for the established top 5? Is Craig Kieswetter really the answer at the top of the order? Shahzad or Bresnan?

Without a doubt England have a good team and are finally confident that they can win regularly in this format, yet they clearly still have some way to go before becoming true world beaters. Bangladesh on the other hand needed this badly. Regularly putting up a fight, they have been guilty of not following through to turn this fight into victories. We would like to see them challenge England once again in the final one day match as, who knows, with the added confidence this gives them, they could even sneak a series win!

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Morgan for Bell?

Ian Bell suffered an unfortunate injury in the match yesterday, breaking a meta tarsal in his foot attempting a catch whilst fielding, putting him out of the Pakistan test series. Unfortunate for Bell yes, but possibly a timely opportunity for Morgan to press his case in test cricket leading up to the Ashes.

Several famous ex-cricketers including such luminaries as Sunil Gavaskar, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh have already cited Morgan as a possible deciding factor in this Winter’s Ashes series due to his calmness under pressure and with Bell’s injury he now has a further chance to cement a place against Pakistan, which the Compulsive Hooker, as fervent Morgan fans are very pleased about.





The Bangladesh Time Warp

28 06 2010

We are officially confused! We cannot decide whether we are experiencing what might be a weird time dislocation science fiction style, an incredible sense of deja vu or simply just a bewildering reality. Either way we are definitely a little disturbed.

Let us ask you something.

After the fifth one day international against Australia in this current series is finished; who do you think England’s next international opponents are?

You would be forgiven for saying Pakistan (which is indeed what we thought) as the first test match is on the 29th July. Yet, and entirely incredibly, it appears to be Bangladesh. Try understanding that piece of scheduling!!! To be honest we’re still not convinced that we haven’t slipped back in time by about two months.

It feels that for time immemorial England have been playing tests and one days against Bangladesh, never looking like losing, but never creating much in the way of excitement either. Clearly, though, we can’t do without them now as they are back for three more games of what is probably the most unnecessary tour every arranged.

They have two further games against Ireland after that; but surely, if they are coming over for some more cricket, it would benefit Ireland and Bangladesh more if they played all five games against each other?

Ridiculous quite honestly!!! Less is more is a rather overused cliche but in this instance it couldn’t be more apt.








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