Some 10 days of cut and thrust!

Fourteen matches were contested on the first 11 days of ICC World Cup 2019 and India, which figured in two encounters, won both. Here’s a synopsis of the first tranche of matches.

A balletic shot from Rohit Sharma on way to a hundred. Rohit survived a trying first few overs before taking charge against South Africa.   -  AFP

India in control of big-scoring match!

India announced itself as a top contender for the World Cup title with a clinical performance against a strong Australian side at The Oval. The batsmen had chutzpah and panache, and the bowlers were disciplined and probing. On a gorgeous batting track, it was a run-fest, and Australia was pipped at the post by 36 runs. Shikhar Dhawan was the star of the show, scoring a stroke-filled 117. The rest of the batsmen in the line-up chipped in with useful contributions; Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli set about laying the foundation, and Hardik Pandya and Mahendra Dhoni provided the finishing touches for a sizeable total of 352.

Australia was in the hunt for the most part in its chase, but perhaps lost the plot at the business end; a cluster of wickets fell when the side needed to accelerate hard. David Warner scored his second half-century in the World Cup, but it was uncharacteristically slow — 56 off 84 deliveries.

Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja weren’t explosive either. Alex Carey played a lone hand at the end — scoring an unbeaten 55, off 35 deliveries. It was too little, too late.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah bowled well, taking three wickets each. Bhuvneshwar’s wickets of Smith and Marcus Stoinis were especially crucial.

India made it two out of two with this win, and Australia tasted its first defeat.

The scores: India 352/5 (S. Dhawan 117, V. Kohli 82, R. Sharma 57) beat Australia 316 (S. Smith 69, D. Warner 56, A. Carey 55 not out, B. Kumar 3/50, J. Bumrah 3/61) by 36 runs. Player of the Match: S. Dhawan.

Neesham, Ferguson blow away Afghanistan

Seamers Jimmy Neesham (5/31) and Lockie Ferguson (4/37) were clinical with the ball to scythe through Afghanistan’s batting line-up in helpful conditions and pave the way for a comfortable victory for New Zealand. The attacking start given by the Afghan openers turned out to be a false dawn, as once the first wicket fell, in the 11th over with 66 on the board, a collapse ensued and the team never recovered.

In what was a further blow to Afghanistan, the bouncer from Ferguson that struck Rashid Khan was lethal; the star leg-spinner walked away shaken and dazed after the ball struck his head and hit the stumps. Subsequently, he failed concussion tests.

New Zealand had no real hiccups chasing 173, stalwarts Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor calmly steering the ship through. Taylor fell for 48, but Williamson went on to score an unbeaten 79. This win was New Zealand’s third out of three matches, propelling it to the top of the table.

The scores: Afghanistan 172 (H. Shahidi 59, J. Neesham 5/31, L. Ferguson 4/37) lost to New Zealand 173/3 (K. Williamson 79 not out, R. Taylor 48, A. Alam 3/45) by seven wickets. Player of the Match: J. Neesham.

Roy’s royal show

It was Bangladesh that had sounded the death knell for England in the World Cup four years ago — a moment that had prompted a renaissance of sorts for the side in One-Day Internationals. In Cardiff, the home team underlined the journey it had undertaken in the interim as it defeated Bangladesh by 106 runs with a commanding performance.

Going by the strength and confidence of England on show so far in the World Cup, it seems to be a genuine title-contender.

Jason Roy scored an attacking 153 and it formed the foundation of England’s 386/6 — its highest total in World Cups. Roy’s innings was studded with 14 fours and five sixes. Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler provided useful cameos.

Barring a 106-run partnership for the third wicket between Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh couldn’t provide much resistance. Shakib went on to score a century, and helped the side reach 280.

The scores: England 386/6 (J. Roy 153, J. Buttler 64, J. Bairstow 51) beat Bangladesh 280 (S. Al Hasan 121, J. Archer 3/29) by 106 runs. Player of the Match: J. Roy.

Not a ball bowled!

After Pakistan’s stunning win against England, the team would have fancied crushing Sri Lanka in Bristol, especially as the latter had had a shaky start to its campaign. Incessant rain prevented play, however, and the contest between them had to be abandoned. The teams got one point each, and Sri Lanka may be the happier of the two considering the potency and might of Pakistan and the lopsided World Cup head-to-head record (Pakistan 7-0 Sri Lanka).

In the dressing room, Pakistan’s players played dumb charades to entertain themselves. The rain relented eventually, at around 7 p. m., IST, but the outfield was deemed too wet by the umpires to start play. The match was officially called off at 8.16 p.m. IST.

Smooth flows the Nile!

It was a contest waiting to be clinched by the sprightly, confident team from the Caribbean, but that didn’t happen. After having reduced Australia to 79/5, it allowed a target of 289 to be set. And for much of the chase, the side was well in the hunt, thanks to valuable contributions from Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran and captain Jason Holder.

West Indies fell short by 15 runs, as the fast and furious Mitchell Starc demolished the lower order, finishing with figures of 5/46 in his 10 overs.

With the ball and with the bat, West Indies looked solid and expressive. As the tournament progresses, it will look to gradually eliminate the chinks in its armour. There will be disappointment at the missed opportunities but plenty to be buoyant about, too.

As for Australia, the miraculous batting recovery — engineered in the main by Steve Smith, Alex Carey and Nathan Coulter-Nile — will give the side confidence.

The scores: Australia 288 in 49 overs (S. Smith 73, A. Carey 45, N. Coulter-Nile 92, C. Brathwaite three for 67) beat West Indies 273/9 in 50 overs (Shai Hope 68, Nicholas Pooran 40, Jason Holder 51, Mitchell Starc 5/46) by 15 runs. Player of the Match: Nathan Coulter-Nile.

New Zealand comes through Bangladesh scare

Ross Taylor’s class helped New Zealand eke out a two-wicket win over Bangladesh.   -  Getty Images

 

Ross Taylor’s silken touch took the Black Caps home after middle-order jitters against Bangladesh at The Oval on June 5.

Chasing 245 for victory, all was well in the New Zealand camp till Kane Williamson’s soft dismissal in the 32nd over. It triggered late hunger pangs for Bangladesh at The Oval.

Williamson’s half-hearted flick off Mehidy Hasan was taken by Mosaddek Hossain at deep midwicket. Four balls later, Mohammad Saifuddin ran a few yards near the boundary to catch Tom Latham and the game came alive.

Bangladesh believed it could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but New Zealand bats deep. Mitchell Santner proved his lower order batting prowess by remaining unbeaten on 17 as the Kiwis huffed and puffed to finish the chase.

The scores: Bangladesh 244 in 49.2 overs (S. Al Hasan 64, M. Saifuddin 29, M. Henry 4/47) lost to New Zealand 248/8 in 47.1 overs (R. Taylor 82, K. Williamson 40) by two wickets.Player of the Match: Ross Taylor.

Rohit shines in unusual ton

Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal restricted South Africa to 227/9 and Rohit Sharma survived a tricky first hour to score an unbeaten ton to take India home on June 5 in Southampton.

Rohit Sharma leaving deliveries outside off is a rare sight in white-ball cricket. At the post match presentation, he agreed it was not his typical innings. The right-hander — playing close to his body — struck the ball at 84.72, surviving Kagiso Rabada, as India started its World Cup campaign with a six-wicket win over South Africa.

Chris Morris (1/36) and Rabada (2/39) tried their best to contain, but the Proteas perhaps fell short by 20-30 odd runs.

Electing to bat, South Africa lost its openers inside six overs, courtesy the sheer pace and length of Jasprit Bumrah. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal soon joined the party to initiate the ‘choke’ process South Africa is known for.

The scores: South Africa 227/9 in 50 overs (C. Morris 42, Faf du Plessis 38, Y. Chahal 4/51) lost to India 230/4 in 47.3 overs (R. Sharma 122 not out, M. S. Dhoni 34) by six wickets. Player of the Match: Rohit Sharma.

Telling pace from the Lankans

Nuwan Pradeep and Lasith Malinga ran through Afghanistan with a little help from Duckworth/Lewis.

Bruised by the 10-wicket loss to New Zealand, the Sri Lankans started the Afghanistan game in Cardiff as wounded tigers. It was evident as the side recorded the best Powerplay I (1-10 overs) performance in the tournament, 79/0, as of June 4.

Sloppy fielding and unimaginative bowling cost Afghanistan some runs before Mohammad Nabi spun a web to pick three wickets in an over. It pushed the islanders on the backfoot when rain came to their rescue.

Chasing a revised target of 187 (D/L method) in 41 overs, the Afghans crumbled under pressure and lost by 34 runs.

Pacers Nuwan Pradeep and Lasith Malinga kept the proceedings tight. While Pradeep kept the length short, Malinga did what he is known for — bowl menacing yorkers to uproot the stumps.

Malinga played a prominent part in an ODI victory for Sri Lanka since July 6, 2017. He was part of 21 losses and one no-result in the interim.

The scores: Sri Lanka 201 in 36.5 overs (K. Perera 78, M. Nabi 4/30) beat Afghanistan 152 in 32.4 overs (N. Zadran 43, H. Zazai 30, N. Pradeep 4/31, L. Malinga 3/39) by 34 runs (D/L method). Player of the Match: Nuwan Pradeep.

Twin tons fail to cover sub-par England bowling

Mohammad Hafeez buoyed up the Pakistan middle-order with an innings of 84 and bagged a wicket too.   -  Getty Images

 

Joe Root (107) and Jos Buttler (103) scored centuries but the Pakistan bowlers had the last laugh in Nottingham.

Pakistan is known for being unpredictable. The trait reached a new level against England in Nottingham on June 3. The side that succumbed to short balls and folded for 105 against West Indies returned to score 348 at the same venue, eventually winning the game by 14 runs.

Openers Fakhar Zaman (36 off 40) and Imam-ul-Haq (44 off 58) meant business at the top of the order. The duo added 82 runs for the first wicket to set the stage. Fifties from Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed helped reach the score Pakistan was looking for.

Pakistan handled the English pacers well. Off-spinner Moeen Ali was the only bowler to trouble them.

England looked on course to meet the target until Wahab Riaz started varying his length and pace. He got rid of Moeen Ali (19 off 20) and Chris Woakes (21 off 14) off back-to-back deliveries to turn the tide. Mohammad Amir chipped in at the right time to remove Buttler and Jofra Archer.

The scores: Pakistan 348/8 in 50 overs (M. Hafeez 84, B. Azam 63, S. Ahmed 55, M. Ali 3/50) beat England 334/9 in 50 overs (J. Root 107, J. Buttler 103, W. Riaz 3/82) by 14 runs. Player of the Match: Mohammad Hafeez.

Injury-hit Proteas scarred by Bangladesh

Chasing 331, South Africa was restricted to 309/8, losing its second consecutive game in the World Cup.

Injuries have been a hindrance to South Africa’s plans. Senior batsman Hashim Amla sat out against Bangladesh — on June 2 at the Oval — to fully recover from the Jofra Archer-inflicted concussion.

To make matters worse, express bowler Lungi Ngidi picked up a hamstring strain and retired after four overs; Bangladesh took advantage of the void and posted 330/6 — its highest total in ODI cricket.

The Proteas batsmen failed to gain momentum in the middle overs and eventually folded for 309/8. Skipper Faf du Plessis top-scored with 62 off 53 balls. J. P. Duminy (45), Aiden Markram (45) and Rassie van der Dussen (41) got starts but could not avoid the crash.

Bangladesh left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman (3/67) impressed on Cup debut.

The scores: Bangladesh 330/6 in 50 overs (M. Rahim 78, S. Al Hasan 75) beat South Africa 309/8 (du Plessis 62, A Markram 45, M. Rahman 3/67) by 21 runs. Player of the Match: Shakib Al Hassan.

Warner 2.0 is fresh energy for Australia

David Warner took his time to settle down and eventually remained unbeaten on 89 in Australia’s seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan.

Prior to the Cricket Australia sanction for ball-tampering, David Warner meant endless strokes, risks and a galloping run-rate. The new Warner is measured. The left-hander showed immense mental strength on his Australia return — amid the jeers from English fans — to start his World Cup campaign with an unbeaten 89 off 114 balls.

Folding for 207 on June 1 in Bristol, Afghanistan did not pose any challenge. Warner took it easy. He let skipper Aaron Finch (66 off 49 balls) do the bulk of the scoring upfront, while he only punished the loose deliveries. His two-hour long innings included only eight fours.

Najibullah Zadran (51 off 49 balls) top-scored for the Afghans. Star leg-spinner Rashid Khan picked up only one wicket in his eight overs.

The scores: Afghanistan 207 in 38.2 overs (N. Zadran 51, R. Shah 43; P. Cummins 3/40, A Zampa 3/60) lost to Australia 209/3 in 34.5 overs (D. Warner 89 not out, A. Finch 66) by seven wickets. Player of the Match: David Warner.

The Kiwi rock and roll on a green top

Matt Henry and his fellow-pacemen made short work of Sri Lanka on a seaming track in Cardiff.   -  AP

 

The New Zealand seamers, as classical and disciplined as it can get, stuck to their line and length to run through Sri Lanka in Cardiff.

Three slips, gully, a moving ball and tight fielding — New Zealand stuck to the old school cricket grammar to unsettle Sri Lanka on a green top in its World Cup opener in Cardiff on June 1.

Matt Henry (3/29) and Lockie Ferguson (3/22) tore apart the islanders with disciplined bowling, with a little help from the flawless fielders.

Skipper Kane Williamson used five seamers to bowl out Sri Lanka for 136 in 29.2 overs. Slow left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner picked up one wicket in his two-over spell.

The Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne (52* off 84 balls) was the sole survivor.

Martin Guptill (73* off 51 balls) and Colin Munro (58* off 47 balls) carried their bats to celebrate a grand start to the tournament with a 10-wicket win in 16.1 overs.

The scores: Sri Lanka 136 in 29.2 overs (D. Karunaratne 52 not out, K. Perera 29, T. Perera 27, M. Henry 3/29, L. Ferguson 3/22) lost to New Zealand 137/0 (M . Guptill 73 not out, C Munro 58 not out) by 10 wickets. Player of the Match: Matt Henry.

Pakistan’s car crash of a performance

Hostile bowling by West Indies pacers turned the clock back; the two-time champion started the WC 2019 campaign with a big win over Pakistan.

Overcast conditions prompted West Indies captain Jason Holder to bowl first in Nottingham on May 31. Then, started the short-ball show. Pakistan didn’t like the chin music and eventually succumbed — 105 all out.

Playing only his third ODI since the last World Cup, Andre Russell sent down shivers in his T20-like three-over spell. Fakhar Zaman (22 off 16 balls) was the first casualty in the short-ball series. Clocking close to 90 mph, Russell’s third over was a wicket maiden that saw the end of Haris Sohail, again off a short ball.

The Russell show charged up Oshane Thomas. The young fast bowler switched his beast mode on to clean up the rest, along with Holder.

Chris Gayle (50 off 34) and Nicolas Pooran (34 off 19) helped chase down the target in 13.4 overs.

The scores: Pakistan 105 in 21.4 overs (O. Thomas 4/27, J. Holder 3/42) lost to West Indies 108/3 in 13.4 overs (C. Gayle 50, N. Pooran 34 not out, <TypographyTag15>M. Amir 3/26) by seven wickets. Player of the Match: Oshane Thomas.

Ben leaves England fans stoked

Ben Stokes batted splendidly, bowled with verve, brought off an amazing catch and even had a hand in a run out as England crushed South Africa at The Oval.   -  AFP

 

“No way, no, no way! You cannot do that, Ben Stokes!” — Nasser Hussain fell short of words to describe the screamer of a catch taken by Stokes to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo at the Oval on May 30.

Diving backwards near the boundary rope, the one-handed stunner was labelled as the ‘catch of the century.’ The England all-rounder — not being remotely close to his A game in the IPL — peaked at the right time to hand South Africa a 104-run defeat in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 opener.

Even with the bat, he added 106 runs with skipper Eoin Morgan to set the momentum in the middle overs. His 79-ball 89 — including nine fours — helped England to 311/8.

South Africa folded for 207; Stokes claimed two wickets to finish on a high.

In effect, Stokes owned the World Cup 2019 opener with bat (89), ball (2/12), the stunning catch and a hand in the run out of Dwaine Pretorious to hand SA a 104-run defeat at the Oval.

The scores: England 311/8 (B. Stokes 89, E. Morgan 57, J. Roy 54; L. Ngidi 3/66) in 50 overs beat South Africa 207 all out in 39.5 overs (Q. de Kock 68, R. van der Dussen 50; J. Archer 3/27) by 104 runs. Player of the Match: Ben Stokes.