Friday, February 28, 2003

Okay, two games today. In group A, Zimbabwe played the Netherlands. Zimbabwe demonstrated that if they are not as good as most of the test sides, they are better than the minnows. Zimbabwe scored 8/301 off 50 overs with 71 from Andy Flower and 58 from Andy Blignaut, who is having a good tournament. The Netherlands could only manage 9/202 and scored an easy 99 run win. Zimbabwe will make the Super Six if both they and India beat Pakistan, but this isn't likely.

In Group B, we had a big game today. Sri Lanka versus West Indies. Sri Lanka got off to a good start: at one point 2/113 off 26 overs. However, they had a bit of a middle order collapse, and slumped to 5/139 off 35 overs when Jayasuriya got out. They then stopped losing wickets but had trouble boosting the runrate. At the end Chaminda Vaas hit 15 off the last over to get the score to 6/228 off the 50 overs, which I thought at the time was about 20 runs short of what they needed.

However, the Sri Lankans got off to a good start with the ball, and in particular Vaas got rid of Lara cheaply. Worse for the West Indies, Ramnaresh Sarwan, who has been their best batsman in the tournament, was hit in the head by a bouncer and had to retire. Still, the West Indies appeared to be cruising to the fairly modest total at 3/121 off 28. However, Vaas came back on and struck again, taking two wickets in an over. After than, the West Indians fell below the required runrate and they ended up needing over 10 runs an over off the last six or seven overs. At the fall of the seventh wicket, Sarwan came back on, and after two or three sixes, and a rather bad dropped catch, the West Indies were back in it. They had trouble coping with Muralitharan's bowling, but were getting the runs off the other end. They ended up needing 14 off the last over, but an accurate over from Gunaratne meant they couldn't gete the necessary boundaries, and Sri Lanka ended up winning by 6 runs.

It was an exciting match, with some excellent cricket. The West Indian bowling (which I have criticised) actually looked better today. The comment I made at the start of the tournament - that Lara would have to play at top form repeatedly for the WI to have a chance hasn't really come true, and today it may have cost the WI their place in the Super Six stage. (That said, the rest of the West Indian team have played much better than I expected, and Sarwan looks a splendid player. It's a shame he was injured today. If he had been able to bat for longer, his team probably would have won. Great match winning performance with both bat and ball from Chaminda Vaas, too. Plus Muralitharan as always was crucial, being able to completely stop the flow of runs from one end. The Sri Lankans looked very determined to win today after the debacle against Kenya.

I like the way that both these sides have played cricket, both today and in the whole tournament. I want to see more from both of them. The West Indies have been extremely unlucky: the washout of their game against Bangladesh and the New Zealand default against Kenya and the Kenyan win over Sri Lanka, that looks like it has done rather more harm to the chances of New Zealand and the West Indies than to Sri Lanka. Things have to go their way for the West Indies to make it from here, but I am hoping. I want to see them play some more.

From the qualification point of view, Group B is now much simpler. Assuming no ties or no results. If South Africa beat Sri Lanka, they go through to the Super Six. If not, they don't. It's that simple. If Kenya beat Bangladesh, they go through. If not, they don't. If both of these things happen, then both sides go through and whichever of NZ and SL has the best net run rate will go through too. If only one of these things happens, then SL and NZ both go through. If neither of these things happen then NZ, SL, and WI go through. Detailed analysis here.

Pakistan versus India and Bangladesh versus Kenya tomorrow. A huge day for the tournament.

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