Week 5 of the competition produced some scintillating Cricket, and has all but confirmed the 4 semi-finalists. Read on for a quick review.
England show what they are made of!
After two successive defeats to SriLanka and then Australia, many believed England would miss out on a semi-final spot. With Pakistan and Bangladesh running them close, they were now at a position of no return, and were facing must-win games against India and NewZealand. Two tough teams in two must-win games was the ‘kick in the rear’ they needed to get their campaign into high gear. And it is a testament to their attitude, team ethic and the progress they have made over the last 4 years that they came out victorious in those games and are now guaranteed to finish in 3rd place in the league standings.
Positives – Bairstow and Roy are back among the runs. Plunkett has come in for Moeen and has proven to be a very good middle-overs wicket-taking bowler. And most importantly, England have their confidence back after an overall seemingly insipid performance prior to this week. Waiting for them in the semis is either India or Australia. A victory for Australia over SouthAfrica would see England facing India in the semis, a repeat of the game at Edgbaston. But an Indian victory over the Lankans and a SouthAfrican victory over the Aussies would see the Poms take on their perennial rivals Australia. Whatever happens, we are in for a treat as any match-up would make for absolutely terrific viewing!
Afganistan huff and puff, but return home with no points!
The Afghans faced Pakistan and then WestIndies in week 5 of the competition. They battled hard as usual, but ended the tournament with no points to show for their effort.
Their best chance came in the game against Pakistan, but a lack of experience along with a determined effort from the Pakistanis who were still in contention of a semi-final spot, denied them victory. Following this, their loss to WestIndies, a team they had beaten multiple times in the World cup qualifiers, shattered any hopes of Afghanistan getting their first win in the competition. They now head back home with nothing other than their stupendous effort to show for.
The Afghans have come a long way in the last 6-8 years, and even though they ended up with no victories, the road ahead looks bright for them. Many thought they would struggle adapting to 50 over Cricket, but by running teams such as India, Pakistan, WestIndies and Bangladesh close, they have proved their naysayers wrong and that they are here to stay.
Not the best finish for NewZealand!
The Kiwis have lost their last three games in the competition. Prior to this, they were the only unbeaten side, along with India. But consecutive losses to Pakistan, Australia and England have derailed their run, going into the semifinals. Although they are, for all practical purposes, through to the semi-finals, what they now lack is momentum, which in sport is an absolutely vital thing. At one point, they looked like finishing top of the group, but their weaknesses have been exposed glaringly in the last few games. Their top-order continues to be a big issue, and when Williamson doesn’t score, their batting doesn’t seem to generate that firepower from elsewhere. It’s high time that the likes of Guptill, Taylor and Latham stand up and contribute before it is too late.
The bowling though, still delivers. Boult is in good form, and so are Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson. But what the Kiwis need is to forget the last few games and get back their confidence, because waiting for them in the semi-finals (assuming Pakistan do not beat Bangladesh by over 300 runs) is either India or Australia.
The Proteas finally show some promise!
This World Cup proved once again why it is so tough to be a SouthAfrican cricket fan! The perennial under-achievers, they once again failed to come good when it mattered. With just 2 wins out of 8, they have once again disappointed their fans worldwide. Their performance in this World Cup ranks, in my opinion, as their worst ever since coming into competitive white-ball cricket in 1992.
But it looks like, they might finish the competition on a high note. They comfortably beat SriLanka earlier this week. Hashim Amla finally made some runs, and Dwayne Pretorius utilized his chance. A lack of consistency and a failure to bring their best game forward when it matters have cost the Proteas another World Cup. They still have one more game in this competition, against Australia and they would really want to end the World Cup on a high note by beating them.
The Proteas now have to look ahead, and start working their way to becoming better. With Steyn, Tahir and possibly Amla hanging up their boots, the SouthAfrican selectors now have big shoes to fill. The work starts now!
Performance of the week!
Two must-win games, two centuries – Johnny Bairstow proved yet again why he is valued so high in the English ranks. With him in terrific form and Jason Roy back amongst the runs, England go into the semi-finals with huge momentum and in supreme confidence. I had written previously that Bairstow has once again found his mojo, and with Roy back in the team, he seems to have elevated his game. The free will with he usually plays is now clearly visible and that seems to show in the way he is scoring runs. With confidence back on his side, he will be eager now to get back on to the field as quickly as possible for the semi-finals.
Match of the week!
It has got to be Pakistan v Afghanistan – a wonderful game that went till the last over. Afghanistan fought hard but failed to cross the finish line. Pakistan continued their unpredictable run in the competition, and made a big deal of a reasonably modest target. They needed some sensible batting by Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan, and some big hitting from Wahab Riaz at the end to secure victory. It was not the ending the Afghans expected, having been in the driving seat for most of the second innings. A bit more application would have seen them gain their first points of the competition. But it was not to be!