World Cup 2011 needs to have third and fourth places decided, with the winner progressing to challenge India for first place.
I hesitate to barrack for Sri Lanka whose prominence since the early 1990s is based on one of the most flagrant & shameless cheat acts in the history of all sports. But they are playing England. A thumping victory in the Ashes followed by a World Cup victory achieved via a dramatic combination of their hiding in the Australian one day series, continual player turnover, sporadic rubbish cricket and a shed-load of get out of jail victories would be a bitter, bitter pill to wallow in. What's the bet England win tonight's match via a dodgy Duckyloo calculation.
The other day I suggested Australia might pinch tonight's match, but really, we do not look capable of pulling off any great theft. We have been batting as though stuck in a bog. Forget any oddball reports about intentionally slow run rates, or any completely outrageous conspiracy theories about us playing our way into the tournament, our batting has been misfiring. Our bowling has been toothless. As soon as the opposition batsmen knuckle down to see off any potential threat we do not look like taking a wicket. On the upside, we've actually managed to conjure the odd run out, which is fortunate since that is one of the few ways we have taken wickets. We will need a lot of run outs to roll India, even though India are not playing particularly well and are ripe for a beating. In short, we have been playing filthy cricket, which is a pity, since India losing big matches at home is good for cricket. I would not go so far as to say we do not "deserve" to win, or India "deserve" to win, because, as the pundit Munny once observed: "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."
Good article by Richard Hinds:
Inevitably, the Australian batsmen were no more adept at conquering an impressive Pakistan attack than the Fox Sports make-up department was in conquering guest panellist Doug Bollinger's ''hair''. And so one of the most impressive (clothed) streaks in world sport came to an end.
The reaction after Australia's 35-game, 12-year unbeaten run at the World Cup hit the wall? Just ever-so-slight relief.
How long can we tolerate Ponting cracking the shits on the field? At some stage someone has to tell him to pull his head in, or pull the pin. He has been a great batsman, inspirational skipper-by-example with the bat and was a fine fieldsman before he started crouching to catch. But he has never been a good leader by demeanour; his tactics are managerial, not instinctive; in short, he lacks class. In this era of professionalism, where the pressures on a captain must be immense (especially as a captain of a declining power), is a cool, in control, good humoured skipper too much to ask for?
But this is just silly: campaign reached a flashpoint?
AUSTRALIA'S World Cup campaign reached a flashpoint last night when skipper Ricky Ponting reacted angrily after colliding with rookie Steve Smith as cocky Canada took the fight to the Aussie attack.
Nevertheless, did Ponting contravene Law 42, Clause 3, The match ball: Changing its condition? Players have been warned about returning the ball on the bounce, so it is reasonable to assume they have also been implicitly warned about smashing the ball into the ground.
Allow me to allow you to draw your own confusions:
Sammy to Wilson, OUT, Sammy might have done it for WI. LBW appeal given and referred. This seemed adjacent. Or did it? Sammy lands this outside off and moves it in off the seam. Wilson has pushed outside the line and gets the pad outside the line. Wilson should be safe. Or is he? Asoka, as always has a surprise up his sleeve. He says the original decision stays. Wilson is flabbergasted after seeing the replay on the giant screen, and implored Asoka to check again. He was offering some kind of a shot at it, the late dab that he's played all day. Asoka is unmoved. Sammy puts an arm on Wilson's shoulder, but can't calm the agitated Wilson. Eventually Asoka checks again upstairs. And in the end, after a review of the review of the original call, he's given it out. UDRS continues to confound. Asoka apparently thought Wilson wasn't playing a shot. If Wilson wasn't playing a shot there, then I am Bill Gates.
Wilson tried to glance a ball which clipped his pad, Asoka gave him out. On review it hit him clearly outside the line, and was umpire's call on whether it was hitting. Asoka gave him out again. Wilson cracked a justifiable spaz. Asoka had a big long chat, and gave him out wrongly for the third time.
Yes, the umpiring in Siddey was terrible and was probably the root cause of all the drama. It has been well enough documented save for one incident: Dravid's dismissal in the second innings. No, not the fact he didn't hit it. Everyone's been droning on about how Gilly is a cheat because he appealled, but what about Dravid's sleight of bat? The Wall was also having a lend of the umpire by pretending to play a shot. He wanted the umpire to think he was making a genuine attempt to play the ball so that he could not be given out LBW for leaving a ball outside off stump. If Dravid had shouldered arms, clearly removed his bat from where the ball might have gone, then he would not have been given out. And apart from anything else, he "didn't miss it by miles" as everyone seems to have hyperbolied, he only just missed it. Stop trying to con the umpire, Rahul. Get your bat well out of the way and you won't get "dudded".
Minnow is Swahili for minnow. Underdog is Swahili for underdog (although chini ya mbwa is Swahili for under dog). Bado wanaamini kuhusu Associates is Swahili for "get with the bigger picture, Rick":
Ireland's upset victory over England has not convinced Ricky Ponting that the Associates should be a part of future World Cups. Early in the tournament, Ponting said fewer teams would make for a better tournament. As his side prepared for Sunday's clash with Kenya, a team that hasn't had a significant win in eight years, he said his view hadn't changed.
The last book I read about Kenya.
This is not a prediction; more an observation; a "it would not surprise me" kind of fence sit.
As the World Cup currently stands the teams that were expected to go through look set to go through: New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, India, South Africa, England and the West Indies. Which of these looks best placed to win?
You can probably dismiss New Zealand, the West Indies and Pakistan. The Kiwis and the West Indians are not good enough; Pakistan are too Pakistan.
Toss a coin for the rest. A, ummmm, five sided coin.
One of the remaining five will need to win three matches on the trot. Which is most likely?
South Africa stumbled (with a "c") against England, but have been playing solid cricket otherwise. While they are South Africa and as such, have history when it comes to this tournament, they must be considered good things. But they have history in this tournament. Or did I just mention that?
Sri Lanka have two fine batsmen, a trio of spinners and a fast bowler who can all win matches. They were well set against Australia on Saturday night (despite Peter Badel's overambitious claims that the rain saved Sri Lanka). After the initial Tait burst the Aussie bowlers did not look like taking a wicket and and their trio of spinners would have been sitting in the dressing rooms rubbing their hands with anticipation. The Shrees are also good things.
India have not been convincing. They can bat, but can their bowling do the business three matches in a row? At this point in the tournament the Injuns are not playing like potential winners, nor are they showing signs they can crank it up against the best sides.
Australia cruised through the opening matches, but were sagging against Sri Lanka when the rain came. Before the World Cup I made this prediction at the Roar:
Australia is in a group with Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya. It is unlikely we would lose to Zim, Can or Ken, but eminently feasible we could lose to Pak, Shree and NZ. But even if we do lose to those last three we would still most probably (not certainly) make it through to the quarters. (Which kind of makes the group stage a bloated waste of time, but that’s another story.) That leaves a final eight of Aus, Pak, Shree, NZ, SA, Eng, WI and India. Any of those could win, but I don’t think Australia, without a core of players to pull them out of a tight spot, can win three finals against three quality teams. Someone is going to trip us up. Fingers crossed I am wrong.
That prognosis has not changed. Australia are, well, just not that good anymore. That said, we are famous for pacing ourselves into and through these tournaments, so you never know. But nor is it just South Africa who stumble with a "c". In the last year or so Australia has made a habit of not closing out games. It only needs one late order partnership (probably the 8th wicket) to derail Australia. Don't be surprised if Australia gets pipped in a close one.
That leaves England. The Poms have been ordinary, giving up big scores and struggling to bowl sides out - until the last match, prior to which they deserved to go home. Nevertheless, they will still make the knock out stage, and on the back of tough matches. That makes England the best fit for my patented Get out of Jail theory. Sides that win tough and/or close matches in the early stages of tournaments often go through to win. Coincidentally, they have lost Broad, just as they did when their Ashes campaign was cranking up, which means the replacement, like Bresnan in the Ashes, is bound to star. O'Morgan is bound to star in place of Pietersen, too.
Should you opt to exploit the volatile investment opportunities offered by your nearest gambling outlet, have a crafty flutter on England.
Today, with a spin-friendly minefield predicted, we get a chance to see if Tim Nielsen and the subby at The Age have jumped the gun:
THE unresponsive subcontinent pitches that were supposed to thwart express-pace bowlers are instead tending to play into their hands, Australia coach Tim Nielsen believes.
If Johnson, Lee & Tait can rattle Kumar at No.3 and his mateys like they rattled Zimbabwe and New Zealand (as well as handle the Shree spinners) then the gun jumpers might be on to something, but I am skeptical.
Spotto? Spot fixing at the World Cup?
The Australian team has rubbished a report that its two opening batsmen, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, have been scrutinised for potential spot-fixing in the cricket World Cup match against Zimbabwe.
Australian team manager Steve Bernard, who last week had to contend with false stories in the Indian media that Australia captain Ricky Ponting had smashed a TV with his bat, said the story was "the silliest thing I've heard this week - and I've heard a lot of silly things since I've been here".
"I've just heard the story a moment ago and I'm not sure how to respond, except to say it would make a cat laugh.
How do cats laugh? Mee, hee, hee, ow?
"A bouncing protector broke a TV? Now I would have like to have seen that."
~~ Dean Jones: Change room yarns revealed
Pretty much everybody agrees that throwing a tantrum in the rooms after you get out is a run-of-the-mill occurrence; to not smash up the rooms actually contravenes the Spirit of Cricket. Everybody also agrees that Ponting's "box broke the TV" excuse is a fiasco; a lame concoction most likely fabricated by PR tentacles, worried that Ponting smashing the telly with his bat was a worse look. (At least the PR hacks manfully resisted the temptation to scapegoat 'Joe the protector'.)
And yet... while I agree that smashing the rooms is an time honoured tradition and that Dean Jones' chronicle - Warnie & Bobby Simpson, Slatts & the dunny, Bevvo & the shower, Merv & corks, Cork and vengeance (not that the last two are particuly relevant to post-dismissal tantrums) - is rather entertaining, I can't help but wish the Australian captain would exhibit a smidgin more sang-froid. Heart-on-sleeve Ponting all-too often looks less than skipper-like on the field. Would you rather he cracks the shits, or would you rather he cracks a joke and inspires his troops? "Does nothing rattle this bloke?"
There has been touch-wood talk about how Zimbabwe beat Australia in the 1983 World Cup, but really, Australia should not lose tonight. That is not to say the current chuckle heads are incapable of putting in a shocker, but a loss would be a massive shock.
James Dunn has done a "Can the curse of Zimbabwe strike again?" post, but all I remember about 1983 is being told at footy training that Australia had lost, then shrugging it off with a mere "Yeah?". Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose; there was no TV of the World Cup where I was living in 1983. Wonder if I would exhibit a similar sang froid if we lose tonight.
Is/was Sourav Ganguly a master sledger? And why is an accurate appraisal described as a sledge? Is an Ian Chappell criticism of the West Indies a sledge? An Ian Botham critcism of New Zealand? It would appear that every time Ganguly makes a comment about Australia it will be characterised - caricatured, perhaps, with Ganguly as the go-to villain - as a sledge:
INDIAN master sledger Sourav Ganguly has taken a swipe at Ricky Ponting's team, labelling it worse than crisis-stricken Pakistan.
In summary: the days of Australian dominance seem to be over; this current team doesn't look as formidable; the performances in the two warm-up games have been ordinary; Pakistan are better than you think (the most stinging barb, allegedly).
Well, we'll see. But the revelation of that kind of common knowledge hardly constitutes a master sledge.
India Bangladesh, the first match of this here World Cup of Croquet, starts in under an hour. This post will serve as the AGB's one stop spot for all group matches not featuring Australia. That's what I meant by "Non-Australian Games" in the headline in case you are a little hard of, well, pretty much every faculty known to man. If you have anything to say about any of these group matches - what Jonathan Agnew called "a month of matches designed to knock out the minnows" - say it well, say it with spite, say it with sarcasm, say it any way you like, just say it.
International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat has slammed the appointment of banned former Pakistan captain Salman Butt as a television pundit during the World Cup.
So incensed are the global governing body, they have asked the lawyer who was chairman of the tribunal that banned Butt to determine whether his employment by Pakistan's Urdu language Channel 5 contravenes the terms of the opening batsman's 10-year ban, five of which have been suspended.
Australia v. India, M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore.
Interesting tit bit in yesterday's Age from Dean Jones who pointed out that the "first job for Australia's batsmen at this World Cup is to get their bats manufactured with a lower middle due to the low bounce in the subcontinent." Is this a new idea, or have Aussie batsmen always had their bats modified for matches on the subcontinent?