15 March 2007

Okay, so I was wrong again.

I really should stop sticking my neck out so. Anyway, the Windies had to play a really tight game to wrap the game. Not that thtey were run close, but when Youhana and Inzamam started to look a bit threatening, I am sure a lot of people were wondering how the limited West Indian attack could win them the match. Because quite clearly, they were going to have to bowl them out. And then Dwayne Smith put his hand up and the West Indians can take a lot of heart from that. This performance comes as no surprise to those who have watched them closely. Over the last year or so, some relatively new players have been able to take the focus off Lara-Chanderpaul-Gayle-Sarwan. Bravo and Marlon Samuels may be the most talented - and both contributed against Pakistan - but Jerome Taylor, Dwayne Smith, Bradshaw, Collymore and Ramdin have also stood up to be counted in the recent past. But yes, 'chronic' problems with the batting and a bowling attack you could only describe as 'hardworking' means that they will have to keep playing out of their skins to become world champions.

Anyway, as I am writing this, Cricinfo informs me that Srilanka are well on their way to breaking a few batting records. Chaminda Vaas, as ever, will lick his lips at some fresh minnow blood. And there will be yet another mismatch of "Sluggo" proportions. Was not the ChampionsTrophy scheme more attractive? It struck a more-or-less-correct balance between the competing needs of giving the minnows a shot at the big prize, and ensuring that the value of the one-day game is not devalued. Perhaps the top four teams should get an automatic entry into the next round without having to play their way through the minnows?

And what about tomorrow's match, an apparently confidentEngland team that no one except the team itself will back for the trophy will face the trample-the-Aussies-one-day-lose-to-Bangladesh-the-next Kiwis. Since the disater run in 2003, Stephen Feling has regrouped forces. The emergence of Peter Fulton and Ross Taylor, and the increasing dependepality of Oram and
McCullum has helped matters. But the biggest shot in the arm must have been a SuperSauravesque comeback by CraigMacmillan - forcing his way back into the team after being rejected as a marketer. But barring the presence of Fleming at the top of the order, the New Zealanders seem to lack solidity. Mc Millan, Taylor, Oram and Fulton can all hit the ball out of the ground, but without Nathan Astle in the team, the Kiwis might crumble under pressure. The bowling albeit overdependant on a fit Bond and the wise Vettori, is more than competetive. Tuffey is a bit of an unknown entity, and Patel's performance could make a difference in the Caribbean and Vettori's certainly will. On the other hand, England's bowling is clearly undercooked. Barring Flintoff, there is no real venom in an attck comprising Anderson, Plunkett and Mahmod. However, all three have shown some class at the international level without being consistent. Everyone rememebers Anderson removing Inzamam and Youhana in the 2003 edition. But not much else.

England don't lack firepower in the batting. Flintoff, Peterson and Loye are the big guns and Vaughan, Bell, Collingwood and Strauss can all score significant knocks under pressure.

Both teams will also feature two leading practitioners of left-arm spin bowling. While Vettori has been the premier left arm tweaker in the world for a while now, Monty Panesar has shown a knack of taking good wickets. And his transition to one-day cricket, with his earnest fielding and embarassing batting, has not been as topugh as people expected it to be. Both men will be bowling during the turgid middle overs and will liven up that period of play.

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