Friday, April 27, 2007


Finally, can we expect to see the grand battle that this World Cup never gave us ? Can we expect to see to champion teams go head to head, not a quarter given, none asked for ? Not a close encounter between two no-hopers like England and West Indies, nor an upset which South Africa caused over Sri Lanka in the Super 8, not even an admirable yet evidently insufficient fight by a lesser opponent in the England-Sri Lanka game ... this World Cup has given us these three good matches - but none of them has been a battle among equals like this one, one would hope to be. For when can one expect a battle between two powerhouses going at each other with full gusto if not in the decider of the most prestigious trophy in the World ??

History however shows that World Cup finals have seldom been such grand contests. In fact in my cricket-watching memory, never can I remember a classic World Cup final - semifinal, yes, Birmingham 99, but not a final. In the last three finals Australia played an Asian team and only way back in 1996, when they actually lost did the game come close to being a contest.

One can always hope, however. On paper, the teams seem to be well-matched though even here Australia clearly have an edge. Here is a look at the respective strengths and weaknesses of the teams.

1. Explosive Keepers: Adam Gilchrist v Kumar Sangakarra
Neither has had a World Cup to write home about by their own lofty standards. I would say neither team shares an advantage in this respect. Gilchrist has scored 304 runs at an average of 34 with 2 fifities while Sangakkara has scored 296 at the marginally lower average of 33 with 3 fifities. Both have done well in the keeping department.

2. Vintage Baldies, Goldie Oldies: Matthew Hayden v Sanath Jayasuriya
Both have had excellent tournaments. Hayden is the leading run-scorer with 621 and all set to break Tendulkar's World Cup record. He averages a mammoth 78 at better than a run-a-ball with 3 hundreds. Jayasuriya has done well but nowhere close to the lofty Hayden. He averages a "mere" 45 at almost a run-a-ball with two hundreds. Australia will enjoy the clear advantage in this battle.

3. The Senapatis: Ricky Ponting v Mahela Jayawardene
Hayden and Jayasuriya may be the destructors at the top of the order but these are the players who control the direction of the battle, not just on the field but also with their bat. Jayawardene's hundred in the semi-final was an all-time classic and enough has been written about Ponting's innings in Johannesburg 2003 to be convinced that these are the players who can rev it up when it matters most. Ponting has scored 523 runs at 71 at a rate of almost a run-a-ball with a hundred and four fifties, while Mahela almost matches him - he has scored a few more runs at a slightly lower average of 67 and lower strike rate. But essentially I don't think either leader has a weakness that will let one team get the advantage over the other.

4. The Young Guns: Michael Clarke v Upul Tharanga
Clarke clearly enjoys the advantage being in better touch throughout the World Cup without really looking like he was threatening to make the tournament his own. Tharanga went through a pretty lean patch mid-series, however he has scored in some of the most crucial games including the semi-final. He has this tendency of never looking as if he is out there to dominate yet surprisingly often goes on to play the big innings. I'm going to stick my head out and say this will be an even contest despite the contradictory information provided by the figures. Clarke averages 86, Tharanga a mere 29.

5. The Hitters: Andrew Symonds v Chamara Silva
This might sound like a bit of a mismatch but make no mistake, when Silva first came into the Sri Lankan side he was in there for his big hitting. He can hit some huge sixes. We all know of course what Symonds is capable of, sometimes painfully so, but fact of the matter is he hasn't had much of a hit in the Cup, Silva has had a very fruitful one so I shall stay even on this one too.
Symonds 55, Silva 47

6. The Finishers: Mike Hussey v Russell Arnold
Ditto 4 and 5. In almost every situation a clear-cut no contest, except perhaps this one. Hussey has had a surprisingly subdued World Cup in large part because he hasn't had much to do, yet fact is he hasn't really had much of a feel for the conditions. Mr. Cricket he might be and we all know his obvious calibre especially in comparison to Arnold, this will make me say he only has a slight advantage in this particular scenario. Arnold averages 39 at a strike rate of 82. Hussey, make sure you hear this correctly, averages 17 at a strike rate of 75.

7. The All-Rounders: Shane Watson v Tillekaratne Dilshan
Watson hasn't been dismissed in the tournament scoring 142 runs in just 82 balls overall in the 5 innings he has been in. Dilshan has a more modest strike rate of 82 and an average of 34 but on the plus side he has been in more situations and worked his way out unlike Watson who missed half the thing and had to basically do a blasting job alone in the other half. It is as a bowler however that Dilshan completely outshines Watson, though differing very much in style. Plus, he is a brilliant fielder. I believe Watson could be the one man Sri Lanka should look to target in what is clearly an attack with hardly any loopholes. On the other hand Dilshan could be the man who will do a lot of bowling especially if the fourth bowler (a major weakness for Sri Lanka, as we shall see later) flops. So all in all, I'd say a decisive vote in favor of Dilshan here.

8. The Battle of The Spinners: Brad Hogg vs Muttaiah Muralitharan
This has been discussed in detail in an earlier post. This should have been one advantage Sri Lanka could have easily exploited and mind you, Murali has done nothing wrong, contrarily he has been outstanding. It is just that Hogg has also bowled really really well and though he will never be a Murali he has done enough to negate Lanka's edge here. So, only a slight advantage to the Lankans in this case. Hogg has picked up 20 wickets at an average of 16 at an economy rate of 3.9. Murali obviously has bettered that - 23 wickets at 13 with about the same economy rate.

9. The Support Bowler: Nathan Bracken vs Dilhara Fernando
No contest whatsoever. Australia win this hands down and I predict that this will be the key difference that could decide the outcome of the match, on a close par with the Hayden difference. Figures should be enough to settle this - Fernando 4 wickets at 51 apiece and an economy rate of 5, Bracken 15 wickets at 15 at a rate of would you believe it 3.4 !!!

10. The Whacky Slingers: Shaun Tait vs Lasith Malinga
Again a very close one with Sri Lanka perhaps edging it. Both are young, both are new, both are fast and have slinging actions and have that X-factor about them. Both have had brilliant tournaments. Tait - 23 wickets at 18 at a slightly high rate of 5.4, Malinga 16 wickets at 16 and a more economical 4.7

11. The Metronomes: Glenn McGrath vs Chaminda Vaas
What fantastic bowlers both have been over the years - both would have a legitimate right to include the word accuracy in their names, although in Warnakulasuriya Patabandige Ushantha Joseph Chaminds Vaas' case that would be rather cruel to add another one in there. But McGrath I believe has that little bit of extra edge more than just the accuracy and that would help him edge out this contest. McGrath has been slightly expensive at 4.4 runs per over this series by his own lofty standards but he has been more attacking - the leading wicket-taker with 25 at an average of 14 breaking the World Record of who else but WPUJC last time, Vaas has been miserly as ever with the runs 3.3 the rate but has been less wicket-taking this time - he has picked 13 wickets at 18

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Battle Of The Spinners

Im hopping over to the finals. Normally, Muralitharan vs Hogg would have been a no-contest but in this particular World Cup, look at these figures.

Player Mat Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR 4 5 Ct St
Hogg 10 79.5 6 313 20 4/27 15.65 3.92 23.9 2 0 4 0
Murali 9 77.4 1 307 23 4/19 13.34 3.95 20.2 2 0 5 0

They are almost identical, another contest within the contest that is really close.

I plan to come up with a series of contests within contests for the finals that will help us to see why both teams are so well-matched and yet the Aussies will be favorites. The fact that Hogg has managed to match Murali is certainly one of them - one big advantage Sri Lanka would have enjoyed has been blunted to some extent.


My good friend Atul joins me on this blog. I respect his views and believe that having him here will enhance the quality of the blog and make it more interesting. Join me in welcoming him.

The Second Semifinal

Australia v South Africa.

South Africa in tatters at 104/8.

Can Kemp pull off a Klusener ? He needs to look back at this match to see that things can still be kept open.

11:06 CDT- What do you reckon the best SA can hope for in this situation ? 180 ? To stay in with some chance ?

11:31 CDT- Nel cannot hang in there long enough. Gee, now this is going to be tough for Kemp to make it even anywhere near worthy of consideration.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

When The Game Bows Down To An Individual ...

... it is said that the game is always bigger than the individual.

But what when the whole game itself decides that it should stand as one to salute the individual ???

What if the World Cup which has seen empty stadiums so far, for this last game produces a grand setting with several thousand supporters cheering for one man ??

What when those supporters are not just of his own nation but also of the opposing team and from every other nation that understands this the greatest game of all ??

What when the opening batsman after playing a splendid innings gets out but rather than feeling disappointed hugs the indivdual on his way in coming in ?

What when the whole world cricket community stands up in applause ??

What when the opposition provide the guard of honour right at the time he walks in ?

What when even the umpires don't feel like being left out ?

What when that individual has scored over 20000 runs and broken nearly all individual records in batting ?

What when that individual has time and again single-handedly carried a pathetic team, on occasions, declaring it was upto him to bail the team out and then gone on to live up to his word producing some of the most amazing unbelievable innings in living memory ?

What when he has given every cricket lover in the World moments to cherish for a lifetime ? Strokeplay that will quench the thirst of the most insightful eyes ? Produced innings of audacity in times of most difficult and challenging circumstances ? Been a source of inspiration and joy to all and sundry ?

What when that individual is a living legend ? The Last King Of Trinidad ? The last link to an era of glory in one of the ancient powers in cricket that is now in ruins ? A beacon shining amidst a heap of coal ?

What when that individual answers to the name of "Sir" Brian Charles Lara ?

It is at moments like these that World Cricket stops .... to salute one man ... to salute the greatest batsman of the modern era ... and of the rare magicians the game has every produced ...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Australia vs Sri Lanka (THE BIG ONE)

... and a dress rehersal for the final ? Almost surely, barring miraculous upsets.

And Sri Lanka seem to be in the woods a bit at 38/3 in the 12th over with Jayasuriya, Tharanga and Sangakarra back in the pavillion. But Jayawardene has just signalled his intent with a most gorgeous hook shot and I do believe this is not really a done and dusted affair yet.

The big news today - Sri Lanka have "rested" Vaas AND Muralitharan - for most people, at first glance, could look like a stupid move - one that if results in a loss might lead to a loss of momentum and brownie points, but IMO this is quite a well-crafted decision.

The idea is to tell the Aussies - let us see what you can do when three of our best are out. If you have a tough time beating us with this team, just wait for what we have got when we come to the finals. The key for this move to pay off is that the team needs to put off a challenge. Absolutely no harm in losing here - the key is they should be able to make Australia sweat. If they can do that and then have to endure defeat in this game, it might be well worth it in the bigger scheme of things.

10.38: Some super-hitting by Jayawardene ... his innings while they last are always masterful and classy ... the big question is how long will this last ??

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bangladesh v England

Bangladesh 123/8 as I write. Will the results against India and South Africa still be categorized as "upsets" and not "wins" ? After today's show one might tend to go with this line of thought again. How many times have we thought Bangladesh had turned the corner only to follow up with something like this ? Admittedly, a challenging pitch, but still ...

A thumping win here will keep England in the tournament and Bangladesh out of it ... well not entirely, but almost.

14.42: Did I speak too early ... yet again ? I left with England at 48/2 anticipating a stroll in the park, when I return it is 110/6 and this is a tense scrap yet again ! The Desi Boys seem to have finally arrived on the big stage and they are here to stay. Or are England just too weak ? I do think they will manage to scrape through this one though.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

West Indies v South Africa

HUGE game this for both sides more so for the West Indies and once again right at the start they seem lacklustre as usual. After 9 good overs they have given up 27 runs in the last 3 with Kallis and Devilliers looking really aggressive.

Hmmm. One thing I cannot understand though is why the experts keep saying this is a do-or-die for the hosts. As I can see it, even if they lose this game, they can still go on to beat Bangladesh and England to get 6 points. If South Africa win this they will have 6 points and stay on 6 if they lose to New Zealand and England. England will have 6 points too and it would well be a 3-way tie for the fourth slot.

11.04: 183/1 in 33 overs as I write and I am frankly quite aghast at the West Indies performance so far, well as Kallis and deVilliers have batted. I don't want to sound a cry-baby but I can guarantee that even a team like India would not have given as poor an account of themselves in the field as the hosts have. Quite frankly, West Indies have looked by a wide margin the worst team in this Super 8 stage with both Ireland and Bangladesh looking far more impressive. Brian Charles Lara or Chris Gayle may yet go on to produce a miraculous innings that takes them home in this one but that cannot and should not take away from the fact that the West Indies do not look like they belong at this stage; they should not belong here. Nothing is as untolerable for me in a cricket side as lacklustre fielding. The fielding today has been quite diabolical to say the least. While players like Lara and Bravo are still trying their best to prop up the fielding unit, others like Bradshaw, Pollard, Powell just to name a few have been thoroughly listless.

11.45: Some astounding hitting by AB Devilliers; but yet again that 200 in ODIs remains elusive. Bit of a soft dismissal but Collymore has no reason to really beam and gesture - this is a hopeless effort by the West Indies - notwithstanding the fact that they can still win as I said earlier. Now Mark Boucher is at the crease and would you believe it, Lara has STILL not taken the third powerplay !!!

Monday, April 09, 2007

New Zealand v Ireland

After a surprising run of good contributions the New Zealand's tail has finally come a cropper against Ireland. The experiment of promoting the tail-end batsmen like Fulton, Marshall, Styris, McMillan and Fleming (to a lesser extent) continued today but unlike the earlier games they could not quite make it big and hence and finally the big guns like Oram and McCullum will get their chance to get a good time in the middle. Of course Peter Fulton one of the strongest tail-enders is filling his boots against lowly Ireland today.

11.29: After a well-compiled innings, Fulton gets out on the stroke of lunch. This surely is a blessing for New Zealand. Wonderfully commited though Fulton's innings was this will give their best batsman McCullum an opportunity to get set before he can launch into the onslaught. Now, New Zealand's top two batsmen at the crease.

11.38: Oram out !! Is there going to be a hint of another upset in the air ?? Although New Zealand have a strong "middle" order in Vettori and Franklin to follow.

Nightmarish Commentary !

If nightmarish commentary was the criterion, which teams would win it ??

I bet Rameez Raja-Aamir Sohail would play against the deadly combination of Ranjit Fernando-Laxman Sivaramakrishnan in the finals !! And it would be a close game.

Gavaskar-Shastri would lose in the semifinals.

Your thoughts ?


1. Australia
2. Daylight
3. New Zealand
4. Daylight
5. Sri Lanka

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Australia v England !

It's the Ashes contest and so far a cracking game. Unfortunately, Ian Bell is out after a most well-played innings - now it is down to Pietersen, Collingwood and Flintoff to make sure England put up a challenging score - so far, the fight is on, the Aussies are under pressure and I'm loving it.

10.46: Colly out. Must say a bit of a disappointment after his exploits in the CB series.

11.13: If Collingwood has been a "bit" of a disappointment, Flintoff has been a massive one. Things going decidedly Australia's way now; but I think England would be better off now aiming lower - 250ish - than aim too high and implode. As I said it has not been easy chasing in this tournament and in the later stages of the innings it is difficult to get the ball away.

14.31: What do you guys think ? Nicely balanced, eh ? Australia need 152 from 28; 8 wickets in hand. Ponting biding his time. Anyone's game at this point ...

15.38 So Ponting chose the moment to open up. Sajid Mahmood has been nothing but rubbish, really, today. So Aussies now coasting home. They are showing yet again to the rest of the World how totals should be chased. What was a keen contest for about 80 overs has become a bit of a stroll in the last 5-6. Is there still a twist left ? I would think not ... but can never say ...

15.55 Ponting run-out and maybe I'm just being too optimistic and naive to think there still could be something in this ???

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bangladesh v South Africa (should have been India v South Africa)

... and tell you what ... I don't really regret that it is not India playing today for Mohammad Ashraful is playing wht in my opinion is a gem of an innings probably one of the best of the tournament so far in terms of quality of strokeplay on display, the artistry of the strokes, the quality of the opposition and the game situation. Keep in mind, I say this, in the light of some stupendous innings by Hayden, jayasuriya etal in this event.

Magnificent innings. And note, I'm usually not very genrous with these terms. He just played an inside out shot over extra cover that was one of the most miraculous shots ever and prompted the great Barry Richards to say that there was an element of a young (emphasize young) Tendulkar in that shot.

He has just got out for 87 but make no mistake, this is an innings that will be remembered for years to come in the annals of Bangladesh cricket.

Update: What a magnificent victory ! Now this innings will definitely go down in history. The Desi Boys have shown the Saffers their rightful place and thrown this tournament open - open enough for themselves, England and West Indies to have a hope. This is the just the tonic that this tournament needed - now if the Poms can pull one over the Aussies tomorrow - that will really put the cat among the pigeons !!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

England v Sri Lanka !!

This could well turn out to be a match !! So far in this tournament, totals of 240+ have been defended easily, while those below 210 have been chased down easily. This total is likely to fall nicely in between these 2 points and so should be an exciting afternoon !

Man Of The Series ?

So who is likely to be the Man of This World Cup Tournament ? I say likely to be, because I believe it has not really yet begun in the true sense - only when the top 4 teams have played against each other will I believe that we will come to know something.

My vote goes to Shane Bond. I believe he can be the single largest factor in influencing this tournament. Figure this - the top 4 teams so far have been Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Sri Lanka and South Africa played a really close game and South Africa were thrashed by Australia. So I think going with the old school thought of bowlers being the one winning matches, I think the attacks of South Africa and Sri Lanka though good still don't measure up to Australia. But what the Aussie attack lacks is that X-factor that Bond provides.

The name is Bond, SHANE Bond.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Finally The Bugger Speaks ...

What he has said might be utter crap, of course, but at least he has shown the effort to speak rather than hide in his Bandra home ...

Ireland vs South Africa (should have been Pakistan v South Africa)

... another one to put me to sleep ...

Rain ... almost a relief ....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bangladesh vs New Zealand

What, in your opinion, would be a good nickname for the Bangladesh national cricket team ? Bengaboys ? Desi-Boys ? Pour in with your ideas ...

Meanwhile Shane Bond has returned obscene figures of 10-4-15-2, both wickets in the same over clean bowled, were a treat to the eye though.