At the fifth time of asking, we finally got a good game in the shape of Bangladesh versus South Africa. It’s been an interesting response to it from some quarters, Bangladesh’s victory treated as a major shock, which it surely isn’t. A small surprise perhaps, and maybe a hangover from the view of Bangladesh from years past. They’re a reasonable enough side, and more recent quarter finalists than England for a start. But it was an entertaining, enjoyable game throughout, and one that the tournament needed. South Africa were rather poor, and are now in a bit of trouble.
England and Pakistan start their second round of matches with India still yet to play, having apparently negotiated a three week gap between the end of the IPL and the start of their World Cup campaign. It’s a remarkable thing that the World Cup can be manipulated according to the needs of another tournament and constituent country, and while in itself it doesn’t overly matter, it’s indicative of the weight of power that can be brought to bear. Equally, India have five matches at the weekend to England’s two, which makes no sense whatever in terms of promoting the competition in the host country, but perfect sense financially and in terms of the TV audience. Strictly speaking, in purely ticket selling terms, it is logical (if counter-intuitive) to have the less attractive games at the weekend, given England matches will likely sell out whenever they’re being played, and others might not. But it isn’t how it would be done if thinking from a promotional or public relations perspective, to generate momentum within a tournament location. As ever, there’s the choice between imagining this things happen by accident, or being deliberately planned. Given how India and Pakistan amazingly always manage to draw each other even if there are groups, there can’t be many who think it’s the former.
As for today’s game, England’s domination over Pakistan in the warm up series (“It’s not a warm-up game. It’s a bona fide series between England and Pakistan in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup” – Tom Harrison) means that sod’s law suggests this is the one that England will stuff up, naturally. But Pakistan opening game was not remotely reminiscent of the weaker, but competitive side that managed to score heavy runs against England only to have to concede to a stronger batting line up, it was one that was timid and fell apart in the face of hostile West Indies bowling (1983 says hello). Assuming England play Jofra Archer, and maybe even Mark Wood having seen the West Indies game, it can surely be imagined that they’ll be facing more of the same today.
For England, it’s all pretty serene. A second win today, and they’re well on their way to the semi-finals.