Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The rain in Antigua ruins my evening

As I thought might happen this morning, the winner of the toss in the game between the West Indies and Australia did indeed choose to send the opposition in. It may have been that Brian Lara wanted to see how the pitch behaved for someone else before his side attempted to bat on it, or it may just have been that he thought that Australia have a weakness defening targets, but in any event Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden found thmeselves batting at 2.30pm this afternoon London time, whatever the time may have been in Antigua. The batsmen got off to a middling start: Gilchrist got and edge and was out cheaply, and Ponting was okay (although still perhaps a little below his best) before being brilliantly run out by Ramnaresh Sarwan for 35. Clarke looked okay for 41, and Symonds and Hussey didn't do that much, being out for 9 and 13 respectively. Hussey hasn't really found form yet in this tournament, and Symonds is recovering from an injury. Both of them could do with some time in the middle.

However, Hayden stayed in, and accumulated runs. He wasn't really quick about it, but was not especially slow either. Australia seemed headed for about 300 - with the possibility of more if someone got hitting - until about the 42 over mark. At that point Hayden really got his eye in, hitting two sixes and a four during the 45th over, and two fours and a six off the 46th. At that point Australia had 5/284 with four overs to go, and Hayden was 152 not out. If Hayden could follow up those two overs with four more in which he kept the strike to end the innings, Australia would be around 360 at the end, and Hayden would be close to one of the holy grails of cricket - the first double century in one day international cricket. It would be in a serious match against serious opposition in the World Cup, and on a reasonably large ground. A 200 will be scored by somebody eventually, and a circumstance like this would be good for it.

Unfortunately, it then started raining. The players went off. The game was not shortened, but it was about 20 minutes before the players came back on again. Unfortunately Hayden's timing was not quite what it was before he went off. He cut the first ball for four, whereas before the break he would have hit it for six. The first ball of the next over he tried to hit for six over long off. Again, before he went off he would have succeeded, but trying to hit the ball for six over long off is a risky shot when there is a player fielding at long off, and Hayden was caught by Samuels off Bravo. Make no mistake, it was a really outstanding innings from Hayden, but it wasn't far from being an innings of legend, so the rain break was a shame.

Watson again demonstrated the ability to play shots bother powerful and clever in the final stages, and although there were no more sixes he scored a number of fours. Australia ended up with 6/322 off 50 overs. In truth this was an excellent score, although I think the rain delay actually cost them twenty to forty runs.

And that was it for the day. The rain fell again, and although there were various attempts to get the West Indian innings started, none of them succeeded. At one point it looked like they would just get on the field in time, and the chase would be reduced to a frantic 20 over scramble. (WestIndies would have needed 163 from 20 overs).

As it happens, the game is still a full 50 over match, and the West Indies need 323 off 50 overs tomorrow to win the match. The pitch is good to bat on, but the ground is large and the boundaries are long. In my mind, the West Indies need something special from Brian Lara to win it. I don't think the other players are quite good enough. This all assumes that Australia's much tighter and improved bowling from the other night at least partly remains. I think it will. Australia's problems stemmed at least partly from selection errors and, mercifully, selection now seems pretty right.

In any event, come back to check the accuracy of my predictions tomorrow, as well as South Africa versus Sri Lanka in Guyana. Are Sri Lanka as I think they might be? Assuming there is no more rain, we will have a better idea by this time tomorrow.

No comments:

Blog Archive