What many viewers expected to be a boring week turned out to be the most exciting! And what more, this paves the way for an even more wonderful week 5!
The World Cup is alive after all!
When England and SriLanka kicked off week 4 of the competition, it looked like the remaining 2 weeks of round robin matches wouldn’t make for much interest. Because It seemed as if the top-4 was almost finalized. But SriLanka had other ideas. The experienced duo of Malinga and Mathews came to the rescue.
A lot of controversy has surrounded these players over the last year or so, but there was always hope that they would come good at some stage of the competition. And when it mattered the most, they produced the goods for their country. A brilliant rearguard performance from Mathews ensured SriLanka put a decent total on the board for their bowlers to have some chance. And that little chance was all that Malinga needed, to produce magic. A terrific spell of intelligent bowling with both the new and old balls brought about a superb and tense 20 run victory for them. Suddenly, the World Cup had come alive!
A scare for India?
India had probably the toughest start amongst all teams at the World Cup. SouthAfrica, Australia, NewZealand and Pakistan were their first 4 opponents. So little would anyone have imagined that their biggest scare would come only in their 5th game, against an Afghan side who had failed to deliver on their promise till then.
First, an insipid batting performance ensured that India only put up 224 runs on the board. Many batsmen got starts but no one capitalized. But with India’s strong bowling attack, one would have though that 224 would be enough against an Afghan batting line up that had not produced a single good batting performance till then. But the Afghans battled hard, till the last over! Nabi’s IPL experience came in handy and he held the innings together till the end. With him in the middle, there was always hope that the Afghans would make it. But a brilliant spell from Bumrah with the old ball and a terrific last over from Shami ensured that India would remain undefeated, and Afghanistan without a win. It was India’s biggest scare in the World Cup so far. Probably, it was something they needed to wake up and be ready for bigger challenges that lie ahead of them. Atleast their middle order got some invaluable batting practice. Kohli isn’t complaining!
Best innings of the World Cup so far? Definitely the best innings of the week in the best match of the week!
Carlos Brathwaite – remember the name? When he walked into the middle to bat against NewZealand, the score was 142/4 in in 22 overs. We he got out, WestIndies had lost the game by 5 runs with an over to spare. Brathwaite ended up scoring 101 out of his team’s 144 runs, but failed to get his team over the line. Many argued that he should have taken a single off the last ball of the 49th over and kept strike for the 50th, with only 5 runs needed, instead of playing the big shot. But it was the big shots that ensured that he actually made the 101 runs before that! It’s easy to point out that he made a wrong decision when all that was needed was some simple common sense. But if only common sense was the order of the day, Brathwaite wouldn’t have made a century in the first place. The game is better because of players like him who play with freedom, flair and absolutely no fear. Allow him to be the player he is. The 101 he made ranks in my opinion as the best innings of the World Cup so far.
Pakistan oh Pakistan!
They never fail to amaze. 2 wins out of two during the week have made them favorites for the 4th spot. First against SouthAfrica who don’t seem to come out of their rut, then NewZealand who gave a much sterner fight. But Pakistan came through both tests with their reputation, and their chances of a semifinal spot, both substantially enhanced.
With games to go against Afghanistan and a potential knock-out fixture against Bangladesh coming up, Pakistan could reach 11 points. They probably have a comparatively easier fixture than their closest competition in England, Bangladesh and SriLanka.
Will Pakistan make the cut, knock out the hosts and set up a potential India-Pakistan semi-final? Well, with Pakistan, nothing is predictable, but isn’t that the most wonderful thing they bring to the table?