Monday, March 7, 2011

Is it game over for 50 over games?

Thank goodness for England. Without England, this World Cup would be nothing more than a damp squib, devoid of any excitement or any way of getting the juices flowing. After a winter of genuine thrills, this encore has failed to gather any momentum. The Ashes, this is not.

Much has been written and said about this format of the game. Does this tournament signal the death knell of the 50 over one day game? Much will depend on whether it delivers in the knockout stages and also how the IPL, which follows hot on its heels, is received globally.

One thing is for sure, whoever was responsible for deciding on a month long group stage needs a reality check. During the football World Cup, there are often 3 games a day. Set across India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, there are plenty of grounds for multiple games to be played daily. Canada vs. Kenya as today’s singular fixture was never going to set pulses racing.

OK so we’ve had a couple of hat tricks, the fastest century at a World Cup and some lusty hitting using T20 tactics but these have been the exception rather than the norm. Far too many teams are simply going through the motions and frankly it’s all a bit underwhelming.

Back to England. What a rollercoaster so far. A hugely unconvincing win over the Dutch was at least still a win. Then a pulsating game against hosts India saw the game swing first one way, then back another and in the end though England escaped with a draw, they really should have won once Strauss and Bell had laid the foundations of a record run chase.

This performance should have given them great heart in a game they were expected to lose but signs of sloppiness evident in the first two games really came to the fore against the plucky Irish who really looked dead and buried at 111-5 chasing 328. The bookies had them at 400-1 to recover and win the game at that stage and no one was going to take that!

After capitulating, the spotlight has firmly been on a couple of players, notably James Anderson who looks a pale shadow of his usual self. The magnificent Ashes effort and the birth of his child appear to have taken their toll.

Hitherto, the batsmen had proved their worth but against arguably the best bowling attack in world cricket, England’s batting line up wilted and they were bowled out for 172, well below par. South Africa started the chase well but seem to find it hard to shake off the long associated tag of ‘chokers’ and following a much more disciplined performance from the England bowlers, succumbed a few runs short.

KP’s exit from the tournament may not be a disaster. His replacement Eoin Morgan is one of the canniest one day players in world cricket and is adept at keeping the scoreboard ticking over. This will undoubtedly be a valuable trait as the tournament progresses when clever nibbling and nurdling in the middle overs will be required.

Elsewhere, well there really is nothing to note so far. You never quite know what you’ll get from Pakistan but they’ve started well. Bangladesh have generally been a huge disappointment on home territory falling to an embarrassing all time low world cup total of 58 against the Windies, of who not much is really expected.

India have been steady. There are harder tests to come but they look a well balanced side and the game against the South Africans this weekend could be a belter. Sehwag’s world cup opening innings will live long in the memory, and both the Little Master and young pretender Kohli have already cashed in. Their batting line up is truly supreme. The Turbanator will have a big role to play as the tournament reaches its key stage. A nation expects and the pressure is on.

Let’s hope for a couple of cracking games this week as I’ve not spoken to anyone yet who is the least bit enthralled with this tournament and it needs a game or two more like the epic England vs. India game from last weekend.

England play Bangladesh next. Should be an easy victory given the hosts’ wretched form but you never quite know what to expect from England and at the moment that uncertainty is the only thing keeping this tournament alive. Just.

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