Big scores, poor chases continue
Incredibly, all four teams batting first so far at the World Cup have posted 300-plus scores…but all four chases have come up well short. South Africa overcame a scratchy start to post 4/339 in Hamilton, eventually beating Zimbabwe by 62 runs. India racked up an even 7/300 at an electrified Adelaide Oval, before dismissing Pakistan for 224 in 47 overs. The matches to date have delivered on the excitement and atmosphere scales, but the tournament is already crying out for a thriller.
India stake their claim
It’s been a tough summer Down Under for India, but the cricketing powerhouses proved they are not going to give up their World Cup crown without a fight. Shikhar Dhawan (73), Virat Kohli (107) and Suresh Raina (74) propelled India to a big total, which their bowlers defended superbly, Mohammed Shami finishing with outstanding figures of 4/35 off nine and Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav picking up two wickets each. Archrivals Pakistan were disappointing overall – Misbah Ul-Haq (76) was the only batsman to top 50 in their reply of 224 – but that should not detract from India’s polished all-round performance. The match was a winner for the ICC, with a bumper crowd at Adelaide Oval creating an extraordinary atmosphere; it could have just as easily been Mumbai or Lahore, such was the noise the delirious throng created.
India did little to alleviate their status as the villains of world cricket when they benefitted from a questionable DRS call that saw Pakistan batsman Umar Akmal given out caught-behind. Stubbornly refusing to play under the DRS system and complaining about umpiring standards when 50/50 calls go against them, India have been forced to adopt DRS during the ICC-run World Cup – and skipper MS Dhoni had no hesitation in using it when the on-field decision went against him. The team’s celebrations when Akmal was dubiously given out were galling, if not a bit hypocritical.
Nervous moments for South Africa
An upset was brewing in Hamilton as South Africa slumped to 4/83 in the 21st over against a spirited Zimbabwean bowling and fielding unit, before David Miller (138 not out off 92) and JP Duminy (115 not out off 100) snatched the game away with a blistering, unbeaten 256-run stand. But the Proteas could not rest on their laurels as Zimbabwe’s batsmen came at them, sailing along at six an over with only a couple of wickets down midway through the innings before spinner Imran Tahir took a couple of crucial scalps to slow their momentum. Skipper AB de Villiers, who made just 25 but later affected a brilliant run-out and came up with two subsequent catches, was happy with his team’s performance – but there’s a bit to work on for the tournament heavyweights.
It’s Miller time!
David Miller’s 138 off 92 balls will take some beating as the most swashbuckling innings of the World Cup. Coming in with the Proteas in a spot of bother, Miller plundered seven fours and a remarkable nine sixes in his sizzling knock. JP Duminy was more circumspect, but only slightly – he whacked nine fours and three sixes in his 115 off 100 balls as the pair notched 256 runs from just 178 balls.
Who would’ve thought Zimbabwe would be the best-performed beaten side of the first four matches of the tournament? Easily the biggest outsiders of the World Cup’s opening weekend, Zimbabwe’s 62-run loss is the smallest losing margin to date, while they outstripped the next best chase – Sri Lanka’s 233 – by 46 runs. Their bowlers did a splendid job early on before losing their way against the Miller-Duminy onslaught, while Chamu Chibhabha (64), Hamilton Masakadza (80) and Brendan Taylor (40) kept Zimbabwe in the hunt for far longer than expected. Zimbabwe will be eyeing off the likes of West Indies and Pakistan as beatable opponents on the strength of Sunday’s display, with a quarter-final appearance now a distinct possibility.
Ervine’s boundary brilliance
For out-and-out brilliance, Steve Smith’s catch against England is still the best of the Cup so far. But if boundary-defying efforts are more your cup of tea, then Craig Ervine’s dexterous display to get rid of South African superstar AB de Villiers is destined to be a tournament highlight.
Another Kiwi fan in the money
Two matches in, and two Kiwi fans are in line for a massive payday courtesy of Tui’s ‘Catch a million’ promotion. This magnificent one-handed grab, like the first at Hagley Oval, was achieved despite the interference of another hopeful crowd member – but this guy gets extra marks for doing it with a beer in the other hand. To clarify the criteria, fans must be wearing the Tui t-shirt and take the catch cleanly with one hand to qualify. The prize-money will be split by all successful catchers at New Zealand-hosted matches at the end of the tournament; $250,000 is in the pool now, which will increase as the Black Caps progress through the tournament – up to a cool $1 million if they win it all.
Stud of the day
Virat Kohli’s sizzling summer in Australia continued with yet another outstanding knock, holding India’s innings together with a controlled 107 off 126 balls, including eight boundaries. He held one end down while Dhawan and Raina played the big shots in a selfless, match-winning performance.
- Miller and Duminy’s 256-run stand was an ODI record for the fifth wicket.
- Misbah-ul-Haq’s half-century was his 39th in ODIs – a record for a batsman without a hundred to his name.
West Indies take on Ireland in Nelson on Monday; this is a danger game for the Windies – Ireland memorably beat them in the 2007 tournament, while they also rolled England in spectacular fashion in 2011. New Zealand take on minnows Scotland on Tuesday. India and South Africa square off in a mouth-watering heavyweight battle at the MCG on Sunday.