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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rewind to 1992

While rain delayed the start in Barbados Channel Nine treated us to a replay of the the highlights of the 1992 World Cup final in which Pakistan defeated England.

1992 isn't that long ago, and while the format of the games (though not the tournament) has remained much the same, there are some noteworthy differences, eg that not all batters wore helmets (even against quick bowling) and that England And Pakistan contested the final. In one significant respect things have gone backwards since then: the game was played under lights at the MCG. Some artificial illumination would have been most welcome in Barbados today.

A few other observations:

  • Pakistan's 249 from 50 overs was a winning score. England came close, but were all out for 227 in 49.2 overs.
  • The only player in the match who played in the 2007 tournament was Inzamam ul Haq, or "Haq" as the back of his coloured shirt described him (the legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed is still playing English county cricket) . You won't be surprised to hear that the 1992 model Inzamam was appreciably slimmer than the 2007 version. In one respect he was well up to 2007 standards: his 42 in 35b was by far the quickest innings played by anyone in the game.
  • One of the umpires was Steve Bucknor, who even then took his time responding to appeals. (The other umpire was a New Zealander - not Billy Bowden - whose decision making capabilities were questioned by the commentators). Some things don't change much.
  • Most of the TV commentary team featured (inc Richie Benaud, Tony Greig, Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry) are still working for Channel Nine. David Gower also gave us the benefit of his wisdom. I'm not sure if, or for whom, he's still commentating.
For more about the tournament see Cricinfo's (presumably retrospective) highlights. From this you'll see that Brian Lara also appeared in both the 1992 and 2007 tournaments (opening the batting in some of the 1992 games).

Gilchrist at his best as Australia achieve World Cup hat trick

Australia won its third consecutive World Cup final by defeating Sri Lanka in the rain-affected final at Bridgetown by 53 runs, a margin determined by the Duckworth- Lewis method.

Adam Gilchrist's magnificent 149/104 b was
unquestionably the highlight of the game. I was tempted to say that it was vintage Gilchrist, which wouldn't be inaccurate yet wouldn't do justice to the special quality of his innings, which had some interesting parallels with his century in the Third Ashes Test of 2006. Both were quickfire, though today's was scored at the beginning of a game reduced to 38 overs a side and against as good an attack as any contemporary team apart from Australia can field. I was certainly glad that I was sufficiently patient to stay up until the rain stopped and the game got under way.

Once again Cricinfo's S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna provide a detailed statistical analysis of the innings, including details of Gilchrist's performance against each Sri Lankan bowler: Muttiah Muralitharan, who conceded 23 runs from his 23 deliveries was the most economical, a term which only makes sense by comparing his return with Sanith Jayasuriya's 9 deliveries which yielded 20 runs.

Once the pattern of play became clear, which didn't take too long, the other Australian batters sensibly played support roles, though in another situation several of their contributions would have been acknowledged more.

I didn't think that Sir Lanka bowled as badly as 4/281 from 38 overs implies, but once Gilchrist got going there were too many balls which didn't do much apart from inviting him to thump them, which he frequently did. The wagon wheel chart shows that 107 (72%) of his runs were scored on the leg side, yet 65 (44%) - including 5 of his 8 sixes and 6 of his 13 fours - were scored in the V in front of the wicket. It's those powerful and productive straight drives which I remember most about his batting, and which I don't recall being such a feature of his previous innings.

Batting second under a lowering sky, Sri Lanka were always going to be hard pressed to make the runs, yet as expected they gave it a good try. Jayasuriya (63/67b) and Kumar Sangakkara (54/52b) were positive but when the latter was second out with the total 123 from 122 balls, the light of hope flickered and soon after dimmed as none of the others were able to stay long enough to sustain the challenge. Rain once again stopped play, then the target was revised to 269 from 36 overs, which was clearly beyond the remaining Sri Lankan batters' capabilities as darkness descended.

At the end, as so often in this World Cup, ineptitude ruled as the umpires stopped play, then interrupted the Australians' victory dances by making them complete the 36 overs in sepulchral gloom. Sri Lanka had effectively conceded the game by then, so what should have been a justified celebration, was delayed by a farcical interlude. No doubt many others will comment on this kerkuffle, but I'll say no more other than to congratulate Australia for a well deserved victory in both the match and the tournament.

Scorecard

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Australia should win....unless

"Almost Over" shouts the headline on the front page of today's Age, reminding those who need reminding (which probably doesn't include any cricket followers) that the end of the 2007 World Cup is nigh.

I'd prefer to say that it's less than 12 hours to the start of the World Cup final at the refurbished Kensington Oval, Barbados .

Australia will start favourites, mainly because of their unbeaten record in the tournament so far, which has included a thumping of a less than full strength Sri Lanka a week ago. All their players have some form under their belts, their attack has sufficient variety to cope with a variety of conditions and they have the confidence that these things inspire. Sri Lanka also can claim to possess these advantages except for the small matter (as they'd probably see it following their strategic team selection then) of the loss to Australia.

Even if Australia don't perform at last week's level they've still a margin of safety. If they are to slip below this what might need to happen? The media consensus is that Muralitharan would have to turn in a ripper of a performance ("The world in his hands" says The Age), and that, to prevent this, Australia will aim to, as The Australian's headline puts it, "Annihilate Murali" . The Advertiser is relatively restrained compared to these assessments: its headline summing up the Australian strategy is " Blunt Lankans' spearheads". IMO this is much sounder, as at least two of the other SL bowlers ( Malinga and Vaas ) offer a combination of speed and guile and at their best could apply, or reapply, pressure on the Australians, either early in their innings, or later if they have to rein things in.

There's also the SL batting, which isn't as star studded as the Australian, but which has performed well, if not consistently well, throughout the tournament. Dilshan and Silva don't look as likely to set the world on fire as Clarke, Symonds and Hussey, but they are more than capable of supporting a Jayasuriya or a Jayawardene in full flight.

There's always the weather to consider, too. The forecast is for scattered showers with a maximum of 30 degrees. If the worst case eventuates and the Duckworth - Lewis method comes into calculations then the element of luck is likely to have more impact on the result. I hope it doesn't, but I also hope that each team plays more or less to its full potential. If that happens, and the rain keeps away, we should be in for a cracker of a game.

May the best team win.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Australia use heavy roller to crush South Africa

The World Cup semi-final at St Lucia was decided in the first few overs.

South Africa, after winning the toss and batting, crumbled to 5/27 in the face of some sharp, varied and hostile quick Australian bowling. The lower order effected a modest revival but never truly got the measure of the Australian attack (except for some Shane Watson overs) and crawled to 149 all out from 43.5 over; far less than everyone (even the Australians) would have expected at the start of the innings, but better than seemed possible from the depths of 5/27.

As usual when there's a collapse the causes were a combination of good bowling and poor batting, though to my eyes the Australian bowling was far too good for the techniques and mental approaches of the South Africans. Nathan Bracken and Glenn McGrath bowled an almost impeccable line and length (an exception was when McGrath strayed outside off stump yet Ashwell Prince was enticed into chasing the ball and edged it to Adam Gilchrist). Shaun Tait bowled a few wide and wild balls but was consistently menacing (at least while bowling: his dropping a simple outfield catch from Justin Kemp was the poorest piece of Australian cricket in the game), while Brad Hogg bewitched, bothered and bewildered everyone he bowled to. He must be candidate for a place in the Test team.

Prince aside, the top order South Africans seemed determined to come out fighting. In fact they, in particular Graham Smith and Jacques Kallis, chose the wrong balls to advance to and were made to look foolish when they were bowled.


Australia lost an early wicket, and Ricky Ponting was bowled, to the surprise of me and the TV commentators for 22, but Matthew Hayden (41/60b) and Michael Clarke (60 no/86b) led their team to a convincing 7 wicket win in the 32nd over.

Scorecard.

As usual , I recommend the Cricinfo stats summary by S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna .

The final

Most people would, I think, agree that the two best teams of the tournament will play off in the final. Who will win? At the moment I'd say Australia. Why? I 'll leave that for another time.




Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sri Lanka rightly claim place in final

Sri Lanka convincingly defeated New Zealand by 81 runs in the World Cup semi-final at Kingston Jamaica. They will now play the winner of the Australia- South Africa in Saturday's final.

Sri Lanka, who were at full strength, won the toss and chose to bat. James Franklin took the first two wickets but Upal Tharanga kept things moving. When he was third out at 111 in the 26th over for 73/74 he'd provided a good launching pad which captain Mahela Jayawardene and the other batters duly built upon. The New Zealand bowling fell away in the last 10 overs, conceding 100 runs which left them to make 290 to win: a tall order given the calibre of the Sri Lankan attack.

And so it proved. Stephen Fleming continued his poor form against Sri Lanka, though this time it was Lasith Malinga, not Chaminda Vaas, who dismissed him. Peter Fulton and Scott Styris retrieved an unpromising 2/32, but the spinners , especially (though not unexpectedly) Muttiah Muralithuran, handed the initiative to Sri Lanka by taking 7/44. A last wicket partnership of 59 narrowed the margin but did little to sweeten the bitter pill of defeat and expulsion from the tournament.

Scorecard.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

England keep their best until last

England beat West Indies by one wicket from the penultimate ball of the match in one of the closest finishes in the history of the World Cup.

The game in brief: England won the toss and "chose to field first", then watched Chris Gayle (79/58b) and Dwayne Smith (61/106b) put on 131 in 23.5 overs (143b) to set up a platform, upon which the batters who followed, except for Marlon Samuels (51/39b), failed to build as sturdily as they should have. Still 300 all out was, by their previous standards in the tournament, a good, perhaps surprisingly good, score. And probably enough to win.

Until Michael Vaughan ( an overdue 79/58b), Kevin Pietersen (a commanding 100/91b) and Paul Nixon ( a characteristic 38/39b) decided that valour was the better part of discretion. From the second ball of the final over Nixon was ninth out at 298; number 11 Jimmy Anderson with a leg bye and then Stuart Broad with a lofted two took England past the finishing post with a ball to spare.

The pity is not that one team had to lose but that both left it until they'd passed the point of no further progression to draw upon reserves of skill and determination which they may not have realised themselves that they possessed.

Some of the game's many highlights are included on Cricinfo's Plays of the Day feature. One which isn't was Paul Collingwood's catch to dismiss Samuels: this was shown on tonight's ABC-TV News, and described thus by the Cricinfo commentators:

Flintoff to Smith, OUT, what a catch - a remarkable, gravity-defying catch! Smith slashed seemingly over Paul Collingwood at backward point who sprung up, swivelling as he did so, taking the ball high in the air. A quite brilliant example of athleticism and hand-eye co-ordination.

Also on Cricinfo S Rajesh reviews Brian Lara's career and Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna provide their customary detailed statistical examination of the game.

Scorecard

Other observations

#
The Barbados pitch appears to have played very well. This should ensure a good, if high scoring game, in next week's final.

# The West Indies will face yet another bleak period of rebuilding as Fazeer Mohammed argues in a trenchant piece:

...baseless optimism and the absence of real accountability has brought us right where we are: used, abused and humiliated under the whip of the ICC and their minions in the Local Organising Committee's (LOCs), bundled out of what was laughingly described as "our" World Cup even before the last two Super Eights matches, a fractured, underperforming team, a technical staff incapable of insisting on any sort of standard, and an administration preoccupied with all sorts of silver-tongued public relations foolishness in the midst of almost irreversible decay.

.....

I had spoken about how change for change's sake since 1995 has made no difference. Now, though, we should consider real change: not replacing one for another of like mind, but installing personnel who will abide by a code of conduct, on the field and off it, that rewards performance, commitment and integrity and is not compromised by expediency and convenience when it comes to dealing with those - in the dressing room or the boardroom - who make a habit of stepping out of line.


# England will also face a lot of scrutiny from their supporters and media. At the moment only Duncan Fletcher and Paul Nixon, the former for perceived incompetence, the latter for being too old (if hardly incompetent), look likely to be discarded from the England camp (Michael Vaughan's 79 may have left the jury deliberating on him). I can't for the life of me see why Matthew Hoggard , who has just made a significant contribution to Yorkshire's defeat of Surrey, isn't considered good enough to play in England's one day side. He was by far their best test bowler here in the Ashes series.




Saturday, April 21, 2007

Australian aggression lays ghosts of recent meetings with NZ

Australia produced an awe-inspiring performance to defeat an understrength New Zealand by 215 runs in Grenada.

Yes, with the semi-final order of battle more or less confirmed, in theory there was little hanging on this match, but Australia used the opportunity to send a message to all the remaining teams that they are still the ones to beat. Unlike their last three meetings with Australia, most of the Black Caps threw in the towel when they tried to chase 349. A poor decision against Stephen Fleming didn't get the innings off to an ideal start but, apart from Peter Fulton, last out for 62/72b, and a breezy 27/22b from Scott Styris the others couldn't handle the Aussie attack in which Brad Hogg 4/29, Shaun Tait 3/32 and Glenn McGrath 2/25 were outstanding. Does any other team have an attack to match? Perhaps Sri Lanka; certainly not South Africa.

The Black Caps' batting surrender followed Australia's pummelling of an attack weakened by Shane Bond's late withdrawal (and Jacob Oram's earlier one, though his absence from the bowling crease should have been easier to cover). The openers, Michael Mason and James Franklin, were, despite the latter's 3 wickets, out of their depth and, while some of the others bowled the occasional good ball (Jeetan Patel looked better than Daniel Vettori), the Australians treated them with disdain. Matthew Hayden (103/100b), Ricky Ponting (66/70b), Michaels Clarke (49/46b) and Hussey (37/44b) and, at the end, Shane Watson with a devastating 65no/32b swept all aside to post 6/348 from the 50 overs.

Note, for future reference, that Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds contributed 12 between them. What might this presage for the finals?

To my bleary eyes the 48th over encapsulated the difference between the teams. With his first delivery Gillespie (never the most penetrating of bowlers) bowled Hussey with a no ball. A leg bye came off the next, and first legitimate, ball. The rest of the over, with Watson on strike, yielded 62446. Enough said?

For the statistically inclined, or merely curious, S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna's Cricinfo stats summary is, as usual, worth perusing. Their analysis of Hayden's innings and how the NZ bowlers approached (attacked is the wrong word) him is very instructive. They also provide more evidence to support the claim that Jeehan Patel was by far the best Kiwi bowler.

Scorecard

Friday, April 20, 2007

B C Lara

Today Brian Lara announced his retirement from international cricket.

He is or, depending on when you read this, was unquestionably a great player. I remember him for two majestic innings which I saw him play at the Adelaide Oval: the first 156 in a one day international against Pakistan on 28 January 2005, the second 226 in a test against Australia in November that year.

In both games he took time to play himself in before unwrapping his repertoire of strokes. In the one dayer he went into overdrive and cut loose, hitting 5 sixes as well as 12 fours. In the test he was more restrained and hit 22 fours but no sixes. There he kept the ball on the ground - I recall several exquisite drives which sped over the turf like a billiard ball across the cloth.

Yes, a batting superstar, but, it's generally agreed, not a leader. During his periods of captaincy the West Indies sunk to their lowest ebb since their earliest test playing days. That, for so long in the 1980s and early 1990s , they were head and shoulders above everyone else in world cricket, makes their decline the more disturbing.

While Lara was part of this, he was for so long the one torchbearer of the flame of West Indies cricket. What will happen when he goes? There are some good players, but no one who comes close (or who seems to have the potential to do so) to Brian Charles Lara.

Update 22 April

Lara's last ODI ended in a one wicket loss to England. He made 18 with the bat before being run out at the non- striker's end for 18.

Cricinfo's S Rajesh has produced a detailed statistical survey of the great man's Test and ODI career.


West Indies win a Super Eights game

West Indies at last broke their Super Eights duck and defeated Bangladesh by 99 runs in Barbados. This shouldn't surprise us, given that the West Indies have been one of the stalwarts of world cricket for many years (though some of the lustre has gone from their reputation and performances in the last decade).

The facts of this match, which had no bearing whatsoever on the semi-finals, may be ascertained from the scorecard and the Cricinfo coverage. I'll just draw your attention to the performance of the West Indies number 6: B C Lara 33/ 27b (1x4, 2x6). After the game he announced his retirement, which deserves, no requires, a separate post.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sri Lanka bat for 10 overs to defeat Ireland

12 wickets fell for 158 runs in 38.4 overs as Sri Lanka crushed Ireland by 8 wickets at Grenada.

Sent in by Sri Lanka, Ireland's openers briefly flickered before they and the rest of the team were snuffed out by Farveez Maharoof (10-3-25-4) and Muttiah Muralitharan (5-0-19-4).
Sri Lanka wanted an early lunch and , while Upal Tharanga didn't trouble the scorers, the three others who batted did. Captain Jayawardene (39 no/27b) led his team home at a Ten/10 pace (is the the next form of the game?) as they passed the target with the last ball of the 10th over.

As we've come to expect from them, S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna 's
Cricinfo stats report mines the orebody of material which is there for the quarrying in matches as one sided as this one.

Scorecard

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

South Africa peak to defeat feeble England

South Africa crushed England by 9 wicketsat Barbados with 30.2 overs to spare and thereby secured themselves a place in the semi-finals. Both the manner and the margin of victory were significant and will boost South Africa's confidence. The England team will soon be going home with their tails between their legs, which they didn't have to do after their last gasp CB series victory in Australia.

The England batting was characteristically deficient: early wickets, a modest and staid revival to 4/111 (but in the 33rd over) by Andrew Strauss (46) and Paul Collingwood (30). The rest, except for Ravi Bopara (27 no), buckled under the pressure applied by Andrew Hall (10-2-18-5) and Andre Nel (10-3-35-3).

154 was not a tough target, and the South Africans sensed it. They turned the chase into a Twenty/20 match. Graham Smith's bat was much much productive than his mouth has been at times during the tournament as he charged to 89 no/58b, and led his team to a 9 wicket win in 19.2 overs. The England bowling? Choose your adjectives: appalling, weak, pathetic, third rate...

If you want to read more see Cricinfo's match coverage (follow link above), which includes another good statistical analysis by S Rajesh and H R Gopalkrishna. The Scorecard is here.

Looking forward

With only four more Super eight games to be played it looks as if the semi-finals will be played between Australia and South Africa, and New Zealand and Sri Lanka. These are unquestionably the most deserving teams in the tournament, even though each of them except Australia has temporarily fallen from grace.

One big question is whether South Africa can maintain their momentum. I'd be surprised if Hall and Nel could reproduce anything like their form in this game against Australia, but...even something less might be sufficient to grab some early wickets and expose the middle order who haven't had much time at the wicket. Smith and some of his aggressive teammates might be able to take a lot of runs off the fifth Australian bowler (whether Clarke/Symonds or Watson). Enough speculation for now.









Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Australia thrash Sri Lanka A attack

What many people, including me, thought might be a first draft of the World Cup final , turned out to be something considerably less than that as Australia easily defeated an understrength Sri Lanka by 7 wickets in Grenada.

By fielding a team which lacked its spearheads Muralithuran, Vaas and Malinga, only the last of whom was injured, Sri Lanka debased the coinage of the match, turning it an A team (ie B team) or warm up game where one side fields its strongest batting and second string bowling lineups.
This is not to say that Australia would have lost had SL been at full strength, merely that the result is an imperfect guide to the form of the respective teams.

What it does tell us is

1. That the Australian attack is very strong. Nathan Bracken's 9.4 - 19 - 3 -4 was outstanding, while Glenn McGrath 9-1-48- 2 and, once again, Brad Hogg 10 -0-35-2 ( the two top scorers) probed the opposition weaknesses. Even Shaun Tait, who had an off day by his recent standards, still took two middle order wickets while conceding 68 from his 10 overs.

2. The Australian top order batting is ditto. Everyone who batted got a start. Ricky Ponting 66 no/ 80b and Andrew Symonds 63 no/72b were especially effective as they led their team home with 44 balls remaining. ponting's straight drive for 6 to win the game was worth staying awake to see.

3. The Sri Lankan batting, when faced with a top class attack, is brittle. Take away Mahela Jayawardene (62/88b) and Chamara Silva(64/107b)'s 140 partnership for the fourth wicket and the rest contributed 9/86 to the total of 226 in 49.4 overs.

For some light relief see Cricinfo's Andrew Miller's "Irrelevant statistical spot of the day":

Until the start of this match, Tait's career record for ODI batting and fielding was a binary geek's delight. Matches played 11, Innings 1, Not Out 0, Runs 11, Highest Score 11, Average 11.00, Balls faced 10, Strike Rate 110.00, Hundreds 0, Fifties 0, Fours 1, Sixes 1, Catches 1, Stumpings 0. Of course, he's gone and spoiled that for ever by taking part in his 12th match, although for the record, the binary number 1110111111001011000001110 equals 31430158 in standard decimal. Oh dear. For God's sake, bring back Murali and Malinga. We have far too much time on our hands when matches are foregone conclusions ...


Scorecard

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Zealand lift game to defeat butterfingered South Africa in low scoring contest

New Zealand defeated South Africa in their low and slow-scoring Super Eights match at Grenada. They are now assured of a place in the semi-finals, whereas South Africa will play England on Tuesday for (probably - see Postcript) the fourth place.

After the Black Caps' form reversal I may have to eat my words about the wisdom of batting first. The toss was crucial, but it's nonsense, as I've heard some commentators suggest, to claim that this, coupled with Stephen Fleming's decision to field first was the principal cause of the result. It subsequently emerged that Graham Smith was contemplating batting had he won the toss: the team selection, with swing specialist Charl Langeveldt omitted in preference to left arm spinner Robin Peterson, supported this opinion.

The plain fact is that New Zealand were the better side, especially in bowling and fielding. There was rain about and the pitch was slow, which meant that NZ, with a more varied bowling attack, was able to keep the pressure on the Protea batters. Two early wickets, one to the quick Shane Bond, the other to the contrasting left-armer James Franklin, left South Africa 2/3, the first time as S Rajesh and H R Gopalkrishna's admirable Cricinfo Stats report states, in the team's 38 World Cup appearances that they'd lost two wickets before reaching double figures. Raj & Gop (if I may call them this) argue that the first 20 overs, in which the Proteas reached 3/52, were crucial:

Just how difficult the conditions were for batting can be gauged from the fact that the not-in-control factor - the number of times the batsmen were beaten, rapped on the pads, or edged it - was 23% during those opening 20 overs. Even Kallis struggled, despite his watertight technique - his not-in-control factor was 24%, and he played-and-missed, or edged the ball 13 times out of the 41 deliveries he faced during this period. Among the New Zealand bowlers, Bond was again the most threatening - the in-control factor against him was only 68%. With survival itself being such a difficult proposition, it's hardly surprising that South Africa played out 92 dot balls out of 121 - effectively more than 15 maiden overs out of the first 20. South Africa's strongest statements of intent were the two sixes that Kallis and Gibbs struck off Jacob Oram - apart from that they managed only two fours in the entire Powerplay period.

This wasn't obvious to me, watching the game on TV, as I was expecting a revival of some sorts from the notionally strong South African batting, but it never came. Jacques Kallis was out from the penultimate ball of the 20th over, well caught by Bond in the deep off Daniel Vettori for 22/54b. A standoff ensued in which Herschelle Gibbs (60/100b) and Ashwell Prince (37/57b) added 76 in 95b against steady but nonthreatening bowling. Then, seemingly as an afterthought as the number 7 bowler, came Craig McMillan who, in Gavin Larsen/ Chris Harris / dibbly-dobbler vein, took 3/23 (and three good ones - Gibbs, Prince and Boucher) to leave South Africa 6/149 in the 43rd over. Bond had several overs left, and kept the lower order in check as well as taking another wicket: he finished with 10-1-26-2 and South Africa a below par (whatever people say about the wicket) 7/193.

The Black Caps' reply, despite the modest target, was very cautious. Once again the lack of variety in the attack (accentuated by keeping Peterson away from the crease until the game was all but decided) told against the Proteas, but it was their fielding which, as Andrew Miller's Cricinfo "Plays of the Day" describes, fell apart:

Drop of the Day Mk 1

Ashwell Prince's parry at square-leg had all the makings of a match-sealing moment. When you're defending 193 and the batsman of the tournament, Scott Styris, gives a chance while still in single figures, there's really no forgiving the culpable fielder. In mitigation, the ball was whipped through square leg with such power that it pulled up just yards inside the rope, but on the other hand, South Africa's reputation in one-day cricket has long been based upon their superlative fielding. At 54 for 2 it was a vital opportunity squandered.

Drop of the Day Mk 2

Ditto, with knobs on. Mark Boucher will need little reminding of the last time New Zealand and South Africa met in the World Cup. At Centurion in 2002-03, he dropped Stephen Fleming on 52 - a sitter of a chance off Jacques Kallis - and Fleming went on to make a fantastic match-winning 134 not out. Two weeks later, the hosts had been ejected from their own party. Today's chance was tougher - a thin top-edge that a leaping Boucher could only parry onto his nose - but the impact on his team-mates was very much the same.

Drop of the Day Mk 3

Ok, so it's cruel to labour the point, but déjà vu is a powerful thing, especially when poor old Herschelle is involved. For eight painful years, he's had to live with the memory of thataberration at Headingley in the 1999 World Cup, and like a particularly rubbish punchline, the joke gets wearier every time it is repeated. So, all together now, for (surely?) one last time: "You just dropped the World Cup, Hersch!" Of course, he could well cling onto a blinder to seal victory over England next week, and all will be forgiven. (At least, until the fourth-placed South Africans take on Australia in the St Lucia semi-final...)

I struggled to stay awake as the Black Caps plodded towards victory. Fleming 50/84b, Scott Styris 56/84b and Craig McMillan, adding 38 no/ 55b to his bowling, took their side across the winning line with 5 wickets and 10 balls to spare as the sun sank in Grenada and rose here.

Scorecard


Postcript: Where to from here?

Much depends on the England - South Africa game on Tuesday. "Expect a cracker" writes the prolific S Rajesh on Cricinfo, who explores the consequences of a win to each side. In short, England must win, but all is not necessarily over for South Africa if they lose, and, according to Rajesh, there even be a scintilla of hope for Bangladesh and West Indies.

All will be clearer by Wednesday.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Another game, another win for Australia...

Yes, as expected Australia did defeat Ireland , and by 9 wickets, a margin which was not surprising given that Australia won the toss and, as Worldcupspeak now puts it, "chose to field".

The match was all over before the lunch (or between innings) break, and I've heard some comments to the effect that Australia, who won the toss, should have batted. As if it was an exhibition match...

No Irish batter looked like staying long enough to compile a half decent score, even though some of the Australian bowling was a tad ragged. Tait, the main offender, compensated for a reversion to his pre-tournament waywardness with some very quick deliveries which clearly distressed the Irish by taking two wickets in successive balls at the start of his second over and a third later. Glenn McGrath (7-1-17-3) was, well, Glenn McGrath 2001 vintage. There was no recovery from 3/2, 4/12, 5/32 and so on, despite some resolute defence and a few bold strokes from the lower order as the total crawled to 91 all out from 30 overs.

Australia promoted Michael Hussey to open with Adam Gilchrist. While the latter was his characteristic self (34/25b), Hussey (30 no/45b) didn't always look comfortable early on, but eventually came good, bringing the game to an early finish with a pulled 6 over midwicket.

Australia are now confirmed semi-finalists. Who will join them in the top four remains to be determined. Sri Lanka have an easier run home, while England, New Zealand and South Africa will most probably contest the last two places.

Scorecard

TV commentary

Mark Taylor and Ian Healy in the Channel Nine Studio in Australia are collectively much better than the grab bag of commentators who provide most of the (Fox Sports?) TV feed commentary. Tony Cozier, who revealed that his son is working as part of the production team and that the media centre at the ground is named after his late father (and two others), and Mark Nicholas are good but many of the others are conspicuous only by their silence or blandness.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sri Lanka wounds New Zealand

If the result of this much anticipated Super Eights game is any guide to the future prospects of the participants, then Sri Lanka look certain semi-finalists and possible (I'm tempted to say probable) finalists. New Zealand will need to regroup, lick their wounds, and think carefully about how to prevent the Lankans from rubbing more salt into them should they meet again.

The Black Caps won the toss and (surprise) chose to bat, a decision they'd doubtless regretted after the innings was 13 balls old, when (as the TV News highlights showed) Chaminda Vaas had Ross Taylor flatfootedly edging a ball to a diving keeper Sangakkara. This was the second wicket to fall, and the second duck, as Stephen Fleming had shortly before confirmed that he is Vaas' bunny with what looked like a death wish padding up on (or, perhaps as he hoped, outside) off stump, which the umpire adjudged to be l b w. Cricinfo's stats analysis, by George Binoy and H R Gopalakrishna, fills in the details of this extraordinarily onesided personal mismatch.

If 2/4 didn't take the wind out of New Zealand's sails it certainly discouraged any thoughts of recklessness, or even modest aggression. Peter Fulton and Steve Styris added 67 in 106b before Vaas, who finished with 9-2-33-3, struck again to remove Fulton for 28/54b. Craig McMillan didn't last long, though Jacob Oram stayed for a while without, except for a solitary 6 (his only boundary) , looking as if he was going to set the world on fire. He was fifth out, at 145, for 31/45b, and Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori soon followed as Muttiah Muralitharan (10-0-32-3) tightened his constrictor-like grip. 7/155 was verging on a minnow country score but James Franklin joined Styris and together the pair put a couple of patches on their team's reputation by batting out the 50 overs without further loss , during which Styris reached his century (111 n o/157 b) and the total 219. I was impressed with the modest unPietersen- like manner in which Styris celebrated (acknowledged is a more accurate term) his achievement, which was broadly conparable to Pietersen's in the Australia - England game.

219 didn't look enough at the time (whatever would have happened without Styris' contribution?), and so it proved. Sri Lanka lost Upal Tharanga at 30, whereupon Sanath Jayasuriya (64/80b) and Kumar Sangakkara (69 n o/104b), as they have done so often in one day internationals, put their team on course for a win. The NZ fielding produced some gaffes for the TV highlights (how good a keeper is McCullum?) and while Vettori chipped in with a couple of wickets, neither Shane Bond nor anyone else was penetrating, so the Lankans cantered to a comfortable 6 wicket win with 29 balls remaining. They have a powerful team (Malinga didn't play today because of injury) with strong and, if needs be, aggressive batting, a varied attack , and good fielding. Their game against Australia should be a corker...and I'm not yet willing to predict a winner.

New Zealand have, and I'm not the only person to make this point, problems with their early batting and some of their bowling. They've also been dealt a poor hand with injuries, so there are few quality replacements in the wings. That said they should be able to give South Africa a better contest than they gave the Sri Lankans: whether it's enough to beat them is another matter. As for their fixture with Australia, it's hard to see them continuing their New Zealand form....
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Cricinfo match package.

Scorecard


Thursday, April 12, 2007

England muddle through against tenacious Bangladesh

The fifth ball of the sixth over of Bangladesh's innings, which was shown on tonight's ABC News (and no doubt many other places), summed up the game beautifully. Michael Vaughan at mid-wicket dropped a looped catch from Shahriar Nafees, then picked up the ball and angrily returned it to wicketkeeper Nixon, who ran out the non-striker (and on this occasion non-watcher) Habibul Bashar.

Bangladesh 2/23, soon became 3/26 (Nafees almost let off again, this time by Nixon who handballed the ball on to Andrew Strauss' safe pair of hands), 4/40/, 5/47, then 6/65 before Saqibul Hasan (an obdurate 57 no/ 95b) found enough support from the lower order to lead his team to a disappointing-but-could-have-been-much-worse 143 all out. Sajjad Mahmood (3/27), Monty Panesar (3/25) and James (Jimmy?) Anderson (2/30) kept the Bangladeshis in check and were rewarded with good figures.

England began as if they had all the time in the world to make the runs, which in a metaphorical sense they did. Ian Bell's 10 ball duck was, even for an opener in this situation, literally taking things a little too slowly. Neither Vaughan nor Strauss looked their best, but at least they put a few (or at least more than they'd done recently) runs on the board. Still, both were out by the time the score had crawled to 70 in 20.5 overs: slower than Bangladesh but at least with wickets in hand. Which was just as well, as at 70 Kevin Pietersen (10/25b) failed while Andrew Flintoff's modest success (23/21b) was only so in the context of his batting in the tournament to date. When he went it was 5/110, which looked, and was, shaky; and 6/110 (Ravi Bopara not troubling the scorers) was unquestionably very shaky. Fortunately for England Collingwood (23 no /74b)and Nixon (20 n o/39 b) took their team to victory not with a bang but with a whimper, which means that it's not the end of their World (cup). Yet.

Oh, and I've not mentioned that England sent Bangladesh in.

Once again, Cricinfo has a detailed stats report, this time by S Rajesh going solo.

Scorecard


Tonight's New Zealand - Sri Lanka match should be most interesting. What a pity it's not being shown on Channel Nine. If you're reading this hot from my press and you want to peek at the score click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

South Africa's batting dominates West Indies

At St George's Grenada in a high scoring game South Africa defeated West Indies by 67 runs. Once the Proteas had amassed 4/356 (AB deVilliers 146/130b, Jaques Kallis 81/86b, Herschelle Gibbs 61 no /40b, Mark Boucher 52/23b) a West Indies victory looked improbable, yet they had no option but to give it a go, which they did, thanks chiefly to Ramnaresh Sarwan's 92/75b. When he was out from the first ball of the 39th over, it was 8/213 and effectively game over, but some biffing by the tail, including Daren Powell's 48 no /36b (which did something to offset his bowling figures of 10 - 0 - 78 - 0) took the total to 9/289.

The result means that the West Indies won't go beyond the Super Eights stage (I'll stand by that notwithstanding that the estimable S Rajesh on Cricinfo has explained that it's still theoretically possible). Tonight on the TV highlights Brian Lara apologised to his team's supporters (who seemed to have turned out in reasonable numbers) for not doing better. They have yet to play Bangladesh and England so may still have some influence on who plays in the semi-finals, but they will be disappointed at their own inconsistency (and perhaps,as the Cricinfo Bulletin comments,
some odd decisions off and on the field).

South Africa's batting and (as the TV highlights showed) fielding are very good. The pace attack, which now seems to be built around the similarities of Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and Andrew Hall, did enough to hold the West Indies at bay; but the spin bowling still looks thin. Sure Graham Smith took 2/56, but from 5 overs!

Once again S Rajesh and HR Gopalakrishna have provided an excellent statistical analysis for Cricinfo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kiwis fruit, Ireland withers

New Zealand defeated Ireland by 129 runs with 74 balls to spare in their Super Eight fixture at Guyana. Peter Fulton's 83/110b held the NZ innings together early. He was fifth out at 176; shortly afterwards Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori followed him making the score 7/189 in the 43rd over. Brendon McCullum (47/37b)and James Franklin (34 n o /22b) demonstrated the depth of the Black Caps' batting and hit out, adding 45 from the last three overs, to take the total to a healthy 8/263.

This was well beyond the reach of Ireland, who struggled against Shane Bond (2/18), Daniel Vettori (4/23) and Jeetan Patel (2/32). Kevin O'Brien (49/45b) fought, but the middle order and tail threw in the towel, losing 6/9 to the Black Cap spinners. A comfortable, and not unexpected win, to New Zealand though Ireland's performance at the end of each innings made the gap between the sides look larger than it had done for much of the match.

Scorecard

Monday, April 09, 2007

"A batter of great might" 1773 style

I recently came across this on the free part of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website (unlike its Australian counterpart only a small part of the English one is free).

It's from a biography of Sir Horatio Mann, in his day (the 18th century) a famous English cricketer. An extract:

The only evidence of Mann's skills as a cricketer lies in some lines of doggerel written in 1773 after he had batted in a match between Surrey and Kent:
At last Sir Horace took the field,
A batter of great might,
Moved like a lion, he a while
Put Surrey in a fright.
(Haygarth, 1.10)
Note the use of the word "batter": it is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest recorded use of a term which is now the preferred, non-sexist, one to describe the likes of Ricky Ponting, Kevin Pietersen and Mohammad Ashraful. I'll no longer have any qualms about using it in future posts.

While I'm on Sir Horatio, here's more from his DNB entry:

Mann's twenty-two runs [in the match described above] proved to be his highest known score and only one other innings is recorded. What contemporary fame he had as a player must lie in any achievements in the years preceding 1772 in matches not recorded in Haygarth's
Scores and Biographies. This ‘agreeable, gay and affable’ man (ibid., 1.55) found his chief satisfaction in cricket through his ability to organize, his delight in entertaining, and his compulsion to bet.

Batters and betting on cricket. Some things don't change much.


Australia outclass England

Australia beat England by 7 wickets with 16 balls to spare in the Super Eight game at Antigua. The margin made the differences between the teams seem a little, but not much, greater than it looked to me watching on TV.

England, who won the toss and batted, lost two quick wickets, both to Shaun Tait, who bowled superbly: quick and direct without as many loose balls as we've come to expect from him. Then Ian Bell, building on his recent improvement in both forms of the game, and Kevin Pietersen took control of the match and got on top of the Australian bowling. They didn't spare Glenn McGrath whose opening overs were decidely ragged, though he returned and had Bell caught at midwicket for a pugnacious 77/90b. Even so, at 3/164 in the 30th over, England still looked well placed. But that soon changed as Ricky Ponting brought back Tait and Brad Hogg, and each soon took a wicket, Tait having Paul Collingwood caught behind and Hogg luring Andrew Flintoff forward to miss a wrong'un (chinaman?).

At 5/179 the English wheels were wobbly but Pietersen , who had been missed off Tait, was still there. While he didn't exactly go into his shell he dropped down a gear, partly because of the tight bowling, partly because he knew that he had to keep accumulating to give his team a fair chance. (On Cricinfo S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna have an excellent analysis of this passage of play).

Ravi Bopara supported Pietersen for a time but fell to Nathan Bracken for a slow 21/36b, whereupon Pietersen scrambled over the line to his century (the first by an England player in the World Cup since 1996) before Bracken dismissed him and, with McGrath, swept the others aside. 247 all out on a good batting wicket neither fulfilled the promise of the first 29 overs nor looked sufficient to deny Australia victory.

Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden started well, while Ricky Ponting, coming in at 1/57, looked his usual highly proficient self. Hayden (41/50b) was out at 89 but his was the last wicket that fell to a bowler. Michael Clarke and Ponting, pacing themselves well, added 122 before the captain was run out for 86/106b. Enter Andrew Symonds whose 28 n o/28b (though he was almost given out caught when Pietersen didn't quite manage to control the ball on the boundary) complemented Clarke's 55 no /63b as the pair moved to a comfortable win. The England bowling, as the score suggests, was more steady than penetrating and highlighted the significance of Tait's opening and mid innings spells, which deservedly won him the Player of the Match award. I've been critical of Tait in the past for his erratic bowling and fielding lapses, but his performance today suggests that he'll be a major force in Australian cricket for some time to come.

Scorecard


Where to from here?

Australia are looking good, but do they have any weaknesses or areas they could improve? Yes, eg
  • The fifth bowler (Clarke/ Symonds conceded 0/67 from their combined 10 overs)
  • Fielding (McGrath and, now, Hayden are not as nimble as they once were)
  • Middle order batters (esp Mike Hussey but also Brad Hodge if he's to stay in the team) need more time in the middle.
And England? They've been reprieved by South Africa's loss to Bangladesh but still need to win their three remaining games, which is a tall order. Their weaknesses, as I see them, are
  • Poor batting starts (see the Rajesh-Gopalakrishna article)
  • Long batting tail
  • Inconsistent bowling which lacks a spearhead.
Or, to put it bluntly, England are carrying too many passengers.



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Another Bangladesh upset

Bangladesh, for the second time in the tournament, caused a major upset, this time against South Africa. Sent in (again!), Bangladesh were led forward from a modest 4/84 by Mohammad Ashraful's aggressive 87/83b to reach a reasonable, if hardly ungettable, 8/251. The Proteas attack was uneven: Andre Nel took 5/45 and Shaun Pollock was economical (0/25 from 10 overs), but the rest (who yet again didn't include in their number a front line spinner) struggled.

South Africa regrouped after losing Graham Smith at 18, but stumbled against Bangladesh's three left arm spinners and excellent fielding to be all out for 184. with only Herschelle Gibbs, batting lower than usual because of an injury, making many runs. He was left high and dry on 56 no in 59b, as the innings subsided around him.

Cricinfo has much more.

Scorecard.

Tonight will be a long one for me as the Australia v England match will be shown on free to air TV.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Commonsense at last?

At last there's a possibility of some commonsense about spectator management being injected into the World Cup. See this Cricinfo piece.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

At last a cliffhanger

I thought that Sri Lanka would beat England but I'm not claiming any bragging rights after the close result in the Super Eight match which the Lankans won by 2 runs from the last ball of the game.

It was , as many of the best one day games are, a low scoring match (by contemporary standards). Sri Lanka, sent in, reached 5/215 from 45 overs, lost 5/20 and were all out for 235 from the last ball of the 50th over (Upal Tharanga 62/103b, Mahela Jayawardene 56/61b, Sajjad Mahmood 4/50, Andrew Flintoff 3/35).

England lost Michael Vaughan and Ed Joyce cheaply, but Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, again, steadied the ship. Bell was, again, run out (how many times has this happened to him in crucial situations?). 3/101 from 25.2 overs became 6/133 from 33.3 overs as the middle order crumbled. Paul Nixon 42/44b and Ravi Bopara 52/53b put the chase back on the rails using a combination of orthodox and (especially Nixon) unorthodox methods, but could raise not quite enough steam to get their team over the line. Bopara was bowled by Fernando trying to win the game from the last ball.

I'll refer you to the Cricinfo match package and Scorecard for more information and comment about the game.

As for the future prospects of the two teams, England have a tough task to qualify for the semi-finals. They're not playing badly at present, certainly not as badly as they were three months ago in Australia when they flummoxed their critics, including me, with a form about turn (President Bush might have called it a surge) which gave them the tri-series trophy. So they shouldn't be written off yet.

Sri Lanka are doing pretty well everything that their supporters could ask of them. They're batting, bowling and fielding well enough to look a likely contender to proceed through the semi-finals to the final. I'll keep my powder dry and not say any more than this for the time being.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pattern repeated as South Africa defeat Ireland

After the shocks of the Group Stage the Super Eight series is following a pattern of (1) rain, (2) team winning toss puts opposition in and (3) stronger side wins regardless. Today was no exception as South Africa defeated Ireland by 7 wickets in a 35 overs a side match decided according to the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Ireland made a half respectable 8/152 (Shaun Pollock 2/17 at last returning good figures, Charl Langeveldt 3/41 and Andrew Hall 2/37). Jacques Kallis 66 n o /86b, Graham Smith 41/45b and Ashwell Prince 47 n o/44b saw the Proteas home comfortably.

Scorecard.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

World Cup shortcomings keep spectators under house arrest and threaten livelihoods of firework dealers

When Tony Cozier, the doyen of West Indian cricket commentators (and one of the best in the world) is moved to write a Cricinfo piece lamenting the administrative shortcomings of the World Cup organisation, you know that something is seriously wrong.

Public ire has been especially aroused by the stipulation that offers no pass-out vouchers. It means that once the punter has left the ground, there is no way of getting back in unless through the understanding of some sympathetic official-and that's an oxymoron.

Once they hold a ticket, West Indians are accustomed of being able to come and go as they please, to attend a meeting, to take in the lunch hour from the office, to pick up the kids. At this World Cup, they are under virtual house arrest once they are in the ground. Those who turned up early yesterday morning at the Viv Richards ground had to wait five hours before play got going. Had they left, there was no way back.

It must be especially galling for Cosier, who has reported West Indies cricket since its glory days of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, to see both his team and its constituent nations palpably failing to make a reasonable fist of the tournament both on and off the field.

"The 2007 World Cup nightmare seems to get worse every day for organisers, sponsors and hosts," says Peter Lalor in The Australian, echoing Cosier's sentiments.

Last Tuesday only 9500 turned up to watch the home side play defending champion Australia in Antigua. Authorities had spent more than $25 million increasing capacity at the ground from 10,000 to 19,000. West Indies captain Brian Lara was angry and embarrassed at the Antigua snub but he has bigger problems with three straight losses leaving West Indies on the verge of elimination. Plans are already in place to bus in schoolchildren and members of local cricket clubs to matches in Antigua and Guyana.

But it is the exit of India that has really hurt the competition. "It is like Brazil going out in the first round of a soccer World Cup," Chris Dehring, managing director and chief executive of the tournament, said. "There is virtually no substitute when a team like India goes out in terms of a travelling contingent."

The economic impact has been felt across the subcontinent. The Gujarati State Fireworks Dealers Association and their colleagues in other states are complaining that they had expected to make a killing from the sale of fireworks to cricket fans but are sitting on a stockpile of the incendiaries. The biggest damp squib is the loss to broadcasters and sponsors who bank on India's enormous population to keep the world game afloat.







New Zealand continue in Australian vein and trounce Bangladesh

Hard on the heels of their defeat by Australia, Bangladesh had to face up to another in form team, New Zealand at Antigua. Though the match was not interrupted or delayed by rain, the Black Caps' 9 wicket victory was almost the same margin as the Australians' two days before.

NZ opted to field first and kept the Bangladesh batters on so tight a rein that they used up all except 9 balls of their 50 overs in crawling to 174 all out ( Steve Styris 4/43, Shane Bond 2/15 from 10 mean spirited overs, and Jacob Oram 3/30 including a stumping).

Stephen Fleming (102/92b) led his team
at the gallop into the final straight . After reaching his century he allowed Hamish Marshall to take them past the winning post, and his 50 in 54b, with a six.

Scorecard.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sri Lanka win easily and diminish West Indies' chances of making semi-finals

After winning the toss West Indies chose to send Sri Lanka in. This turned out to be yet another unwise decision, as the Lankans, with Sanith Jayasuriya jumping out of the blocks with a rapid 115/101b (10x4, 4x6) and Mahela Jayawardene contributing a relatively placid 82/113b, amassed 5/303.

The West Indies reply started, as it needed to, positively but the openers were both out by the time the total reached 40 and then Brian Lara, their great, if not last, hope, was stumped by Kumar Sangakkara standing up to W. P. U. J. Chaminda Vaas, his first stumping dismissal in a lifetime of bowling (Cricinfo has a photoof this). Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shiv Chanderpaul stopped a further slide but couldn't accelerate enough to keep their team, with its unreliable lower order, in touch with the required run rate. Sarwan was out at 134 in the 35th over for 44/68b, three others followed in swift succession trying to force the pace, and at 173 in the 42nd over Chanderpaul was out for 76/110b. The rest of the game was a formality: Sri Lanka won convincingly by 113 runs with 33 balls to spare.

Scorecard.

West Indies are now in even more danger of missing the semi-finals, which will be a disappointment to their supporters who, judging from the highlights shown on tonight's TV news, turned out in some force at Providence Stadium in Guyana.

Sri Lanka continue to look good and must fancy themselves to make the final. They have a well balanced team and everyone is in at least reasonable form, though whether Jayasuriya or Vaas can reproduce today's performances against Australia or South Africa or even England, is a moot point.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Australia race to victory in 22/22 match

I stayed up last night intending to watch Australia v Bangladesh but grew tired of watching the ground dry slowly (despite the sunshine) and fell asleep after Mark Nicholas, hair was blowing in the wind, had interviewed Umpires Bowden and Aleem Dar (why do they always seem to be officiating when there are delays and interruptions?).

I woke up to find that the game had begun as a 22 overs a side match, that Bangladesh, sent in by Ricky Ponting, were batting and that,at 3 for just over 30, they were in trouble. Glenn McGrath, whose 3/16 (all top order batters) from 5 overs gave him 57 World Cup wickets and therefore the record as the highest wicket taker in the competition, was in top form. As one of the commentators said , he may not be quite as menacing as he was a few years ago, but he is still very, very good.

Bangladesh finished with 6/104 from their 22 overs. In the innings break I nodded off again and awoke to find Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden toying with the bowling. They passed Bangladesh's score without losing a wicket: Gilchrist 59 no/44b and Hayden 47/39b. This took all of 13.5 overs and 56 minutes.

Scorecard.

To judge from the TV pictures and comments by Cricinfo's Andrew Miller the spectators must have felt that they had been shortchanged, especially with all the irksome restrictions (eg no pass outs issued, no food and drinks allowed to be brought in) further diminishing their enjoyment.

Australia are cruising along comfortably at the moment, but even they have a couple of matters to worry about, particularly the injury which Shane Watson, who is so important to the side's balance, sustained in the match, and residual concerns about the middle order batting. Both Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds would probably have found conditions to their liking today had the match been a full 50 overs a side contest, but they will almost certainly have other opportunities before the semi-finals, in which Australia now looks almost certain to participate.
Bangladesh are struggling in the Super Eight stage, and today's defeat was so comprehensive, even though the match was shortened, that they may just want to go away, try to forget it and regroup before their next game, another tough one, against NZ on Monday Caribbean time.