Sunday, March 02, 2003

Three World Cup games over the weekend, all of them of grave import to the makeup of the Super Six stage. Yesterday's games just briefly. India played Pakistan in the ultimate grudge match, a match that also was vital for Pakistan's chances of making the Super Six - less so for India. Pakistan batted first, and batted extremely well, ending up with an excellent 7/273 off their 50 overs, thanks to 101 from opener Saeed Anwar. For India, star batsman Sachin Tendulkar opened the batting and scored a brilliant 98 off just 27.4 overs to take India to a great position of 4/174, from which they were able to cruise to the victory total. An impressive effort for them, and from their point of view it is also great to see Tendulkar in great form. (I didn't see any of the match, and I am very sorry, because Tendulkar was apparently stupendous. India are looking great in the tournament at the moment. Pakistan on the other hand still have a theoretical possibility of making the Super Six stage, but this is very unlikely.

In the second match, Kenya played Bangladesh. Not much to be said, really. Kenya won, and made certain of their Super Six spot. This does not make me especially happy. Kenya went through at the expense of the West Indies, and although Kenya scored one upset over Sri Lanka, they were also helped by a combination of a match against between the West Indies and Bangladesh being ruined by rain, and scoring a win over New Zealand by default. If may be that in addition to this, South Africa may go through at the expense of New Zealand as a consequence of these events also. Again, this would be an injustice, although in this case, it was New Zealand's own decision to default the match against Kenya. (I also think there are injustices in the way the teams that go through are decided in the case of multiple teams having the same number of points, but I will leave that for another day). In Group B, there is another crucial match tomorrow, between South Africa and Sri Lanka. The winner of that match will definitely go through. If South Africa lose, then they are eliminated. If Sri Lanka lose, then we will face a situation where whichever of New Zealand or Sri Lanka has the worse net runrate is eliminated. At the moment, Sri Lanka have by far the better net runrate, so unless Sri Lanka are absolutely destroyed by South Africa, and New Zealand utterly annihilate Canada in their last game, Sri Lanka will go through. If Sri Lanka are eliminated (unlikely), well, that is their own fault for losing to Kenya. If New Zealand are eliminated, that will disappoint me a lot, because it will mean that the two sides whose play I have most enjoyed in Group B (New Zealand and West Indies) will both have been eliminated with a certain amount of injustice.

In today's game in the much saner Group A, Australia played England. England needed to win this game to be certain of going through to the Super Six stage. Australia wanted to win it in order that they would carry maximum points through to the next stage, and for reasons of pride. If Australia won today, it would have been their 14th successive win against England since 1999, and it would also have been the longest winning streak (12 matches) of any team in one day internationals. England started very well, scoring 0/66 off 9.4 overs, before Andy Bichel struck, reducing them to 5/87. England managed to score a few runs slowly in the middle, eventually scraping together 8/204. Andy Bichel took 7/20 off his 10 overs: the second best figures in one day internationals by an Australian, worse only than Glenn McGrath's figures against Namibia three days earlier. This looked an easy total for Australia to get, and they came out of the blocks fast. However, a good spell from Caddick, and Australia slumped to 4/48. They kept losing wickets after this, eventually slumping to 7/114 and 8/135. However, Michael Bevan was not out. Bevan is a specialist at batting in exactly this sort of situation, and has won many games when Australia have looked out of it. We haven't seen him do this much lately, but that is mainly because Australia haven't needed him to do his stuff. Although Australia had lost a lot of wickets, the run rate required was not excessive, and Bevan (as he does) kept finding gaps in the field, and knocking off ones and twos. He was joined at 8/135 by Bichel, and the two batted very sensibly. Bevan mostly scored in ones and twos, as did Bichel. Bichel hit the odd boundary and the run rate required didn't get out of hand. Eventually, 14 runs were needed off the last two overs. Bichel hit a six and a four off successive balls in the 49th over, and then Bevan hit a four in the final over to finish the match off. A great effort, classic Michael Bevan, and a magnificent all round game from Andy Bichel. 14 wins in a row against England and 12 against all comers.

In a sense I am quite pleased about how the game went. Bevan had only had one bat in the tournament so far, and that was a case of his being elevated up the order against Namibia just to get a bat. Today was a case of his being needed when it counted, and if he was not in form, he really is now. Plus Bichel was a replacement for an injured Jason Gillespie. When Gillespie is fit, the selectors will have difficult work.

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