8 games, seven 300+ scores, one thrilling finish and most importantly, no wash-outs. Week 3 had it all!
Who would have expected?
If you had asked 10 people prior to May 30th about their thoughts on which 4 teams would reach the semi-finals of the competition, at least 5 of them would have chosen SouthAfrica. You felt that it was either SouthAfrica or NewZealand for that all-important 4th spot. But no one would have expected the Proteas to crash out (for all practical purposes) before the end of the 3rd week of the competition, after just 6 of their games. Such has been their form and dare I say, intent, that they have been outplayed by almost all of their opponents so far. Is this getting all too familiar once again? They play well in bilateral and triangular tournaments, show a good level of consistency throughout, but when it is time to perform at a global ICC tournament, they just don’t deliver! Is it the pressure of a global competition that puts them on the back foot or the huge expectation to win an ICC trophy? Or may be its just plain wrong team strategy and mediocre performances on the field? Well, one thing is for sure – what started off in 1992 seems to still be continuing after all!
WestIndies slowly petering out of the competition
The Windies started Week 3 with a disastrous, low energy performance against the hosts. Many hoped that it was a one-off and that they would be back with a better showing in their next game. But it was not to be. Having scored in excess of 300 against Bangladesh, the Windies never looked like defending that score! Credit to Shakib and Liton Das who played out of their skin that day, but one could clearly see the lack of intent from the fielding team. There seemed to be no effort and an obvious dearth of energy on that day, something you usually do not associate with a Westindian Cricket team. Russell is proving to be a liability with his fitness worries, something I had pointed out much earlier, and the team management continue to get their selection wrong. A 1-dimension bowling attack, absence of a plan-B with the ball and the lack of a specialist spinner in the playing 11 have brought about their downfall. WestIndies started off with a bang in their first game against Pakistan and announced their intentions loud, but are now clutching at straws to stay afloat in the competition.
Are we heading into a boring Week 4 and Week 5?
With Southafrica, Pakistan, Westindies and SriLanka being so inconsistent in this competition so far, it looks like we might already have a firm top-4 by just the end of Week 3 of the World Cup. Well, that might be good news for the fans of India, England, Australia and NewZealand, but what that also means is that most of the remaining 19 games in the group stage might be dead rubbers! That is not something any Cricket fan would be looking forward to! Theoretically, every team except Afghanistan is still in the competition, but it would take a herculean effort for any of the teams in positions 5-9 to stake a semi-final spot. The competition would definitely come alive though in week 4 if SriLanka beats England, NewZealand loses both their games, and Pakistan and WestIndies stay unbeaten. Let’s hope the better teams win!
Performance of the week
None better than Captain Kane’s match-winning century against SouthAfrica! A look at the scorecard does not portray the fact that Williamson struggled to get going in the innings, was hit on his arm numerous times, and found the fielders more often than he wanted to. But what it tells you is that he hung around for a long period of time in the middle and carried his side to victory in a crucial game that almost sealed a semi-final spot for the Kiwis. You could see that, despite the struggles, his mind was constantly working like a computer and always aware of the run rate needed to overhaul the target. He knew which bowler to go after and reminded himself at every stage that if he stayed till the end, his team would cross the finish line. Williamson continues to impress. He will now hope that his batting colleagues step up in the remaining games.
Match of the week
India v Pakistan attracted a record number of viewers, Bangladesh and WestIndies played out a high scoring affair, and Australia scraped through in their encounter against the Tigers. But the best game of the week was undoubtedly the one between NewZealand and SouthAfrica. That game proved 2 things – that SouthAfrica is almost out of the World Cup and secondly, that the Kiwis are becoming the masters of thrilling chases.
It was a story of some ill luck and numerous missed chances for the Proteas. Tahir bowled his heart out, Morris proved his selection in the team and Van Der Dussen has shown that he is the real deal. But in an all too familiar story, SouthAfrica once again failed to cross the finish line when it mattered. The Kiwis though have one foot in the semi-finals. They have batted second in all their games so far and, along with India, remain unbeaten. It remains to be seen how they will perform when put in to bat first. But, what they have shown so far is an exquisite chasing strategy, and have once again gained the invaluable experience of a close finish that could prove vital in the latter stages of the competition.