Just over a week ago, India’s chances in the World Cup looked slim, as did those of West Indies, whilst England looked a stronger contingent than the holders after the Tri-Series. Nevertheless, a week is a long time in sport, as India have won their first two games against arguably their toughest opponents in the group in Pakistan and South Africa, and West Indies have been revitalized by the first ever World Cup double-hundred from Chris Gayle against Zimbabwe to gain their second win of the tournament following their victory over Pakistan. Neither does England’s future in the tournament seem so bleak anymore despite heavy defeats to Australia and New Zealand, as a comprehensive win against Scotland has brought a few smiles back to England fans’ faces.
England have so far failed to impress in the World Cup, however the daunting task of facing both hosts in the first two games has surely contributed to such an early demise. Particularly concerning was the performance against the Black Caps. Trends can often be identified in major competitions, and in this one the side that wins the toss usually builds psychological pressure on the opposition by setting a target in excess of 300. Whilst Eoin Morgan had the rub of the green with the toss against New Zealand, England’s batsmen failed to construct an innings to exert further pressure on the co-hosts as they were bowled out for a tame 123 in less than 35 overs. This disastrous batting performance was compounded by New Zealand, and in particular Brendon McCullum’s ability, to chase the score down within 13 overs. Amongst the gloom, the encounter with traditional rivals Scotland did effectuate some positivity, with Moeen Ali demonstrating his importance to England’s top order with a sparkling 128. Moeen was similarly impressive with the ball; achieving figures of 2-47, whilst Woakes, Anderson and Finn was also amongst the wickets as Scotland were bowled out for 184. A closer analysis of the performance though does highlight a need for improvement, especially in the batting. Ian Bell was far too cautious as the other opener, demonstrated by his 85-ball 54, and Gary Ballance yet again failed in the number three position. In addition, England failed to capitalise on an impressive platform of 172-0 after 30 overs, only just managing to break the 300 barrier by ending on 303-8. While credit must be given to Scotland’s bowlers for bringing their side back into the game after a dreadful start, the warning signs are in place for England that they must take advantage of such opportunities against stronger opposition which they will no doubt face later on in the competition.
England are not the only side to have suffered at the back end of the innings with the bat. Holders India only made 83 and 80 respectively in the last 10 overs against Pakistan and South Africa, with the likes of MS Dhoni Ravindra Jadeja failing to capitalise on the centuries made by Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. However, this is the only criticism you could have of the Indian team at present. Hundreds from the aforementioned Dhawan and Kohli have propelled India to scores
A team that may be joining India from Pool B in the knockout phases are West Indies after their Duckworth-Lewis method defeat of Zimbabwe. Chris Gayle has unsurprisingly received all the headlines after he scored the first ever double-hundred in the World Cup to lead West Indies to 372-2. Even though the left-hander smashed 16 sixes and 10 fours in his 147-ball 215, Marlon Samuels’ 133 not out in support of Gayle only helped to underline the strength of their batting. Set a revised target of 363, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 289, with Gayle claiming two wickets. The Jamaican had been under increasing pressure before this spectacular innings. After scoring just four runs against Pakistan, the West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron retweeted a fan who suggested the 35 year-old should be given a “retirement package”. Although later removed, the tweet seems to have wound Gayle up to fire his team to the top of the pool, on the same points as India, and therefore the South Africans should be wary of him during their encounter on Friday. beyond 300 in both games, something England could surely learn from. However, it has been the efficiency of India’s bowlers which has most caught the eye. With India’s most senior bowler, Ishant Sharma, out of the tournament, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma have undoubtedly raised their game. Shami was excellent against Pakistan, collecting 4-35 in nine overs, whilst Yadav came back well after an expensive first spell to dismiss Ahmed Shehzad and Sohaib Maqsood in quick succession. Mohit was impressive against the Proteas, taking the vital wickets of Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis at a time when his side were in desperate need of them. Although they have bowled well as a unit, their fielding as one has been equally remarkable. Particularly against South Africa, their agility and speed in the deep was put to detrimental effect, as Shami caught Amla’s hook shot when backtracking towards the boundary rope, whereas Mohit and Yadav were heavily involved in the run-outs of AB de Villiers and David Miller. The confidence will be high, but India will truly be tested when they face one, if not both, of the co-hosts in the knockout stages.