Every Nation’s Cricket World Cup Start, Ranked
June 12, 2019
In a month-long group stage between ten teams, there are bound to be ebbs and flows. The Cricket World Cup started with some one-sided thrashings but has slowly eased into a largely engrossing battle on the field. There has been plenty of short balls and not many 300+ scores as expected. Unfortunately, rain is already playing spoilsport – the result of scheduling games in England in June – but if there is enough cricket played, that will only add to the competition in the latter end.
Here’s a look at how each of the ten teams have fared:
New Zealand are top with three wins out of three. They have also won the toss and elected to bowl first in all three games. And they’ve played three Asian teams that aren’t expected to qualify for the semi-finals. It’s fair to suggest that they’ve played well and yet have not proved themselves to be genuine contenders just yet. When they bowl first, they have the bowling to rattle any top-order side; even India were undone in the warm-up match. The pace of Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson, along with Boult and the slower Neesham, has been impressive. Their batting, however, remains to be tested: Sri Lanka was a comfortable chase, while they toiled against Bangladesh. They took their time vs Afghanistan in another stroll. Whether their reliance on Williamson and Taylor will bolster or hamper them remains to be seen.
Needing three wins to realistically qualify for the semis, they’ll back themselves to qualify from the remaining six games.
England have underlined why they are one of the favourites to lift the cup. They have now racked up a 300+ total for the seventh ODI in a row, a new record. And it is the power and depth of their batting that is their strength. Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Stokes and Buttler are the most balanced top six in the competition: there is power at the top and in the middle order, with Root and Morgan providing stability. Their ability to score runs quickly, even in the middle orders, ensures they can take away the game with the bat alone. And they have also found their X-Factor in Jofra Archer, whose pure pace makes him a frightening prospect. If there is any weakness, the Pakistan game has shown runs can be scored against England’s bowling. Given that you can’t out-bat England, games will have to be won with the ball.
Once known for their batting, India’s strength is now in their bowling. Jasprit Bumrah might be the world’s most consistent pace bowler, while the leg-spinning duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav can strangle teams in the middle overs. Not that their batting is to be trifled with: a top three of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli embody dominance in a nutshell. With Dhoni and Pandya there to apply the finishing touches, any team would be worried. Sharma hit an excellent 122 against South Africa, followed by a 57 against Australia, while Dhawan hit 117, Kohli 82 and Pandya a swashbuckling 48. However, Dhawan is set to be ruled out for three weeks due to a fracture he sustained in the last game. That means KL Rahul will have to set up, and might well balance the field just a little bit. How India deal with Dhawan’s absence will be crucial.
Australia always seem inevitable in a Cricket World Cup, given they have won it five times. While more focus has been on England and India, you just can’t write them off. But they haven’t hit third gear yet. They were satisfactory against Afghanistan, yet they were fortunate to beat West Indies, and lost to a superior Indian team on Sunday. They required heroics from Nathan Coulter-Nile to get to a decent total, that they defended in part to umpiring and West Indies’ errors. Against India, they were unable to find solutions with the ball (granted, pitch was flat). Adam Zampa has continued to prove ineffective. Warner’s lack of urgency cost them momentum, as did sending Khawaja at No 4. But the fact that they got to 36 runs short of victory despite some batting struggles and against a good bowling attack is proof of their ability. If they can find balance, you have to fear them. Maybe Mitchell Marsh, who is likely to replace the injured Marcus Stoinis, might help.
It appears that two-time champions West Indies have found their swagger and mojo. They dismantled Pakistan with some quick and brutal pace bowling courtesy of Oshane Thomas and Andre Russell. They then proceeded to take out the Australian top-order, reducing them to 38/4. But then they offered Coulter-Nile some generous bowling to hit, allowing Australia to recover to 288. With the bat, Gayle was undone by a poor decision, while the rest of the team had starts but failed to take the game home. Their third game was washed out, not before they had South Africa at 29/2. If they can get it right with the bat (and that would be spectacular), they can surely make it for the top four. If not, they’re still a must-watch for Sheldon Cottrell’s celebration.
Bangladesh would be most aggrieved by the washout against Sri Lanka. Underdogs for the top four, they have shown they can compete with both bat and ball admirably. Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim took them to 330 vs South Africa, that they impressively defended. They coped much better against New Zealand in a first innings than fellow sub-continent teams, scoring 244, and then ran them close in the chase, losing by two wickets. The only aberration was England, but a failure to break the opening partnerships until the 20th wicket had doomed them. To their credit, they played to limit net run rate damage, scoring 288. While Shakib had scored 260 from three games, what they lack is a wicket-taking leg-spinner. Nevertheless, expect Bangladesh to run teams close for the rest of the tournament.
Unpredictable is the buzzword, as always. Dismantled by the short balls of West Indies in the first game, they bounced back to put up 348 against West Indies, and then keeping England down to 334. Pakistan remain a wildly entertaining outfit; after getting hit all game, Wahab Riaz bounced back to take two wickets in two balls in the 48th over, hence swinging the game back in their favour. That was a complete performance, but there are still areas of concerns. They may not get away with a fifth bowler combination of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik against other teams. Hasan Ali has proved generally ineffectual. But the England lineup was their best batting, and if Mohammad Amir is at his game, Pakistan cannot be written off. In fact, Pakistan can never be written off. Expect them to qualify with some unlikely wins and the help of rain. Rather admirably, there can be no other way.
Sri Lanka have lost only one of their four games so far. Unfortunately, two have been washed out. They were blown away by New Zealand’s Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson, with only captain Dimuth Karunaratne providing any sort of fight with the bat. They looked strong with the bat against Afghanistan until Mohammad Nabi took three wickets in an over. The top order once again contributed the bulk of the runs, with Kusal Perera scoring 78. That they won was due to their pacers, but also due to the Afghans’ inexperience in pacing an ODI chase. With two relatively winnable games against Pakistan and Bangladesh washed out, you’d say its curtains for them. They have a decent lineup on paper, but it’s just not good enough.
Where does one start? With the injuries to Lungi Ngidi and Dale Steyn? The loss of Duanne Olivier and Kyle Abbott to the Kolpak rule? Or to AB de Villiers’ retirement in 2018? While the country has always dragged misfortune to Cricket World Cups, they started on a bad note from Game 1 this time, and it hasn’t gotten better. They were second-class against England, Bangladesh and India, and it hasn’t gotten better with the washout with Sri Lanka. Hashim Amla’s injury in the first game threw a spanner in the batting lineup. Beyond Quinton de Kock and FAF du Plessis, there isn’t much to trust in the batting. Aiden Markram has been in and out, while JP Duminy has been hugely ineffective. With the bowling, only Kagiso Rabada and Andil Phelukwayo look like wicket-takers. If you add the de Villiers controversy regarding his inclusion, there’s a camp in chaos. They’d have to win all five to have a chance of qualifying: it’s probably curtains. The hope is they can salvage the campaign and move on.
The Afghan tactic of burning bright but shortly doesn’t quite translate to ODI cricket. They were entertaining vs Australia, were close against Sri Lanka and had a solid platform vs New Zealand. Unfortunately, that doesn’t count for much. They struggle to pace an innings over 50 overs, consequently losing wickets in a heap. Hashmatullah Zazai sums up that approach best: wildly fun to watch with little footwork, but viewers know he will not last. What the batting needs is some application. Mohammed Shahzad’s injury (the legitimacy of which has added further controversy) has allowed the more sedate Noor Ali Zadran to take his place. Perhaps, if all clicks, they will manage to get a total that their capable bowling attack can defend. They may well target Pakistan as the team to beat (as they did in the warm-ups).
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Author: Rahul Warrier
Rahul is a freelance football writer, having delved into writing in 2015. Based in Singapore, he is a senior writer at These Football Times. His work has also been featured on FourFourTwo, Yahoo Sport, IBWM and MEN among others. He's a football fan, but a cricket enthusiast first.