Two rounds down in the Champions Trophy, and for all the talk about the “arrangement” of the groups and the relative strengths therein, it is Group B that has been the surprising one. With one match to go, it’s now effectively in knock out territory, following Sri Lanka’s marvellous run chase to defeat India this afternoon and Pakistan obliterating the South African top order yesterday.
The last two days have been when the tournament has come to life. There has certainly been endless whining about the weather from some quarters apparently unaware that firstly Britain is an island located in the north Atlantic, and secondly that rain is not unknown elsewhere either. But the incidence of the poor weather has also been somewhat unlucky, and there’s no reason to assume that the rest of the tournament won’t be absolutely fine. For this is the point about the location – no one really has any idea what the weather will be like next week.
England are sitting pretty, the only team definitely though to the semi-finals (remarkable in itself that only one has qualified thus far), and almost certain given the net run rate equation to be playing either Pakistan or Sri Lanka in Cardiff. The game against Australia for them has little on it, except that knocking Australia out would certainly aid their chances of winning the trophy, and there’s the no small matter of the pleasure that would be derived from doing so. With a sense of timing that Giles Clarke could only dream of, Cricket Australia chose the build up to the match to send out their latest divide and rule attempt concerning players’ pay and conditions, prompting David Warner to publicly ask if they were attempting to undermine their challenge. It’s doubtful that it will have the slightest impact when play gets under way, but it’s unhelpful timing to say the least. Of course, the more cruel types might enjoy the prospect of the game being rained off, just so Australia might go home without actually completing a match.
For New Zealand and Bangladesh, they must also hope England win, for they cannot go through if they do not. It’s a trifle harsh on New Zealand, who were strong favourites to defeat their trans-Tasman rivals before the rain came, but that’s the nature of tournament cricket, and their defeat to England was in their own hands.
The real interest though is in the two matches between South Africa and India, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The first two nations were thought to be the ones likely to go through at the start, and now one of them will be going home. Uncertainty is the key to any competition, and while the ICC will certainly be gnashing their financial teeth at the prospect of India not making the semis, jeopardy is essential for any tournament to be in any way meaningful. It’s why the Champions Trophy is a far better watch than the World Cup, where missteps are recoverable. Not here. Calling the outcome of these matches is a fool’s game, and the one thing to be hoped is that they are at least played and don’t suffer weather related disruption.
And finally a housekeeping note: I’m off travelling (work!) from Saturday for the best part of a month. It’s Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and India this time, and as usual you can follow the trip on my other blog I use for those: http://www.thoughtsonatrip.com
Enjoy the rest of the tournament, I’ll pop in from time to time and see you all when I get back.