Thursday, 2 April 2015

5 Features of the Cricket World Cup

by Oliver Wright

1. The Final

As an England fan, I would have quite clearly liked to be sitting here, writing about New Zealand, the maiden finalists, overcoming their now 5 time World Champion neighbours in an epic finale, one befitting the world's two best teams. However, what I was greeted with on the dim Sunday morning, was an unbelievable display of pace bowling, followed by an unfazed run chase, where you would have believed Australia were playing in a friendly, not in front of 93,000 fans on the biggest stage in the world.

Setting the tone for the rest of the innings, Mitchell Starc opened the match, and within 4 balls, had dismissed the New Zealand talisman and captain Brendon McCullum with a sensational yorker for no score, beating his wildly swinging bat with the other two deliveries. After this, New Zealand clung on without really progressing, with wickets falling at almost regular intervals, so inevitably, they were bowled out for 183, with only the ever present Grant Elliot, echoing his match winning semi-final performance this time scoring one less with an impressive 83.

Unfortunately, there was only ever one way this match was going to turn out, and despite losing Finch early, Clarke, Warner and Smith ensured that Australia came out on top, knocking off the runs quickly, in 33.1 overs.

When Aaron Finch edged an early ball onto his pads to be caught and bowled by Trent Boult, it looked as though the Black Caps poor showing with the bat was to be reciprocated by the Australian line-up. However, after a lively 45 from David Warner, the less than sizeable chase seemed to be nearly set in stone. Yet the next subplot of the game could hardly have played out any better, with Michael Clarke hitting a match winning 74, in his final one day international for Australia, fighting off some strong New Zealand seam bowling before cutting and driving his way to a final half-century, before dragging the ball onto his stumps, receiving a standing ovation from the packed MCG. Steven Smith also provided some unsung support, playing his way to a record 5th consecutive world cup 50, eventually pulling Matt Henry for four to score the winning runs.

2. The Associate Countries

Usually, the countries Scotland, Ireland, Afghanistan, or Zimbabwe don’t scream out cricketing class. However, that was not the case from this tournament, as the ‘underdogs’ provided packed stadiums and some of the best entertainment, challenging full members of the ICC for their usually guaranteed quarter final slots. The prime example of this being Ireland, who beat the West Indies, and Zimbabwe, both test playing nations, demonstrating the improvement and expansion of cricket in general. Unfortunately for these teams however, the next world cup in 2019 has had 4 of the 14 teams cut from it, with the ICC claiming it will improve the quality of the future world cups, as the weaker nations will be able to play more fixtures to qualify, improving their standard. Fortunately, the board has also stated that they “must ensure Ireland and Afghanistan get more resources and play more full members on a more regular basis."

Personally, I strongly disagree with this move, as nail-biting fixtures such as the Scotland versus Afghanistan showed the diversity and entertainment the associates can bring to this tournament. The match in question involved two superb innings, and a tense finish ending with Afghanistan winning their first ever world cup match, with scenes similar to the final.

3. The Batting

There is no denying that this World Cup was dominated by the batsmen, as records were being set almost every match. The unmistakable culmination of this was Martin Guptill’s stunning 237 against the West Indies, in front of the man (Chris Gayle) who mere days prior to this broke the record for the highest score with a bludgeoned 215. There were also memorable innings from the now star players being hit everywhere, like AB De Villiers hitting the fastest 150 (162 off 66 balls), or Kumar Sangakkara’s final World Cup yielding him a stunning 4 centuries, proving that even after an international career now spanning 15 years, he can dominate on the world stage.

This increase in the bat dominating the ball, has nonetheless, been greeted with some claims that an increase in bat size has just caused a drop in skill throughout the game, with players repeatedly relying on power over finess. Even if this is the case, there is still innovation and intelligence in the shots being played. For example, the usually six-hitting Glenn Maxwell ducked away from a straight short ball, playing an absolutely stunning cut shot in the process. Or there is AB De Villiers, who whilst on his way to his brisk 162, swept Andre Russell, the West Indian pace bowler from outside off-stump for six, pushing the limits of what is seen as possible in the game.

4. The Fielding

One thing that this World Cup has proven, is that cricket is slowly becoming an athlete's sport.There is no question, that times have changed since international cricket culminated in a drink and a meal with the opposition after the game, with now professional training being given to improve performance and speed on the pitch, and it is quite clearly, having an effect on the players.

This has been proven through some stunning catches and run outs from the likes of Glenn Maxwell, AB De Villiers, and Craig Ervine, with team fielding outfits saving tens of runs a match, more than often edging matches in their direction. However, possibly the best catch of the tournament came from a man whose body was supposedly creaking. Daniel Vettori leapt an inordinate distance to pluck a Marlon Samuels cut out of the air on the boundary rope, with an unbelievable indifference.

5. England’s failures

On an unfortunately final note, what would any World Cup be without Englands’ shortcomings. Once again before this World Cup I was filled with unrealistic hopes that Eoin Morgan would heroically return to his adopted home, trophy aloft, and with the England set up no longer in such disarray.

However, the tone was quickly set after our, admittedly tough, first two games. Australia and New Zealand, the eventual finalists, both quickly dismissed our batting order and Australia were only briefly hindered by one substantial innings that was compiled by James Taylor, who narrowly fell short of a maiden World Cup century with 98. Following these drubbings, it was naturally difficult to pick ourselves up again, however, Scotland were an easier challenge and fortunately were brushed aside quickly by some superior bowling and batting. For a short while, it looked as though we had regained whatever confidence we had begun with, as we scored our second score over 300 in as many games against Sri Lanka, providing what seemed like a suitable platform to win consecutive matches. Sadly, the ever professional Kumar Sangakkara and his partner Lahiru Thirimanne each scored centuries as our bowlers were taken to pieces. This set us up to bow out of the tournament with a predictably dismal 15 run defeat to Bangladesh, meaning we lost against every test playing nation in our group, a fact that caused England players to describe their efforts as ‘embarrassing’. Later beating Afghanistan in a meaningless encounter, England were left defeated and confused, as to what went wrong.

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