World Cup Match 32 – England vs. Australia.

Today saw another pretty one-sided, turgid affair with Bangladesh comfortably beating Afghanistan on a pitch that was well suited to their spinners. The pitch at the Aegeas Bowl has become consistently slow and low as the tournament has gone on leading to some fairly dull cricket for those watching. At least today’s game is the last one to be scheduled at the Bramsgrove Bowl as England certainly wouldn’t fancy batting on that pitch, which was similar to the one at Headingley and it is quite possible England would have collapsed in a heap for 150 all out playing silly shots and aiming for 330 when 260 is a par score on such pitch. It doesn’t look like this will be the case tomorrow after seeing George Dobell’s earlier tweet:

If England’s game plan is to have a pitch that does something for the quicks and if they do plan to leave some of the grass on this, then their plan is not without huge risks as the Aussie bowling attack of Starc, Cummins and company will be licking their lips at the prospect of bowling to a weakened England batting order with some help from the pitch. Even if they do take some of the grass off the pitch, then it would be a huge surprise if there is much turn for either of the side’s spinners, as England no doubt don’t want to be undone the way they were undone at Headingley. Is this particularly fair to both sides, probably not, but in a way, it piles more pressure on this English team to perform tomorrow in the hunt for a semi-final slot.

We now know that Jason Roy has once again been ruled out of this English side, so we get to have the pleasure of seeing James Vince open the innings, play a couple of pleasing cover drives and then get out at slip chasing a wide one for a pretty but ineffective 15. It was Shane Warne who said that Monty Panesar “rather than having played 33 Tests, had merely played his first one 33 times.” The same argument can be made about James Vince who it seems hasn’t learnt a single lesson in his time in an England shirt and is in the team not on merit, but because he has ‘the right values’. Either that or he has some serious dirt on Ed Smith, naturally the latter would be funnier to see. This absolutely has to be last chance saloon for Vince, another failure would surely make his place in the team untenable and anything less than a serious, match influencing knock should not be tolerated. The so-called ‘put up or shut up’ time has come for Mr Vince.

As for the rest of the side, if there is unlikely to be much turn or some grass is left on the wicket, then you would expect England to rest one of their spinners in favour of playing Liam Plunkett, who has the uncanny knack of taking wickets in the middle of the innings. One would suggest that Moeen is at greatest risk, especially after his performance with the bat in Leeds, where it was suggested rather kindly that he has dumplings for brains at times. Rashid is also bowling well, but as is often the case, England have a history of dropping a bowler every time the batsmen fall in a heap, so Moeen’s perceived superiority with the bat might elicit favour. The England selectors normally have a habit of making the wrong decisions, so expect Moeen to open and Root to be dropped!!

As for Australia, they are likely to stick with the same side that comprehensively beat Bangladesh with their hopes that either Warner or more likely Finch can get them off to a flier whilst the rest of the batsmen bat around Steve Smith who will hope to anchor the innings. I still think Australia’s bowling attack is a little weak, especially if you can see off Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins with the new ball, so ideally, they’ll want the pitch to be doing something or to bat first and put runs on the board to create scoreboard pressure for England.

Make no mistake, this is a massive game for England with a loss meaning that they are likely to need to beat India and New Zealand to progress to the Semi Finals. If England collapse in a heap once again, when the pressure is on, they’ll be a whole lot of red faces at the ECB’s headquarters and some pretty difficult questions coming their way. Not that Geoffrey Boycott seems worried with the upcoming game, after all we won 2 World Wars! What a complete and utter plumb!

What? Someone say he wasn’t talking about England’s chances at the World Cup? I must have misunderstood….

As always, please do leave your thoughts below…

World Cup Match 31 – Bangladesh vs. Afghanistan

After two hard fought and closely contested games on Saturday, which were a great advert for the game of cricket, it was all ‘after the mayor’s show’ yesterday as Pakistan outclassed a poor South African team who are now officially out of the World Cup.

Let’s be totally candid, South Africa have been playing outdated, insipid cricket for the whole tournament with their tactics more akin to those that England were rightly pilloried for after the 2015 World Cup. Once again, many of their batsmen got off to a slow steady start but none of them were able to convert their innings into something substantial, leaving the tail with the hopeless job of needing 12 runs an over plus when they came in. It’s a shame in many ways as South Africa have always been there or there abouts in major white ball tournaments, but a mixture of poor coaching, ponderous batting and strange team selections have left them massively behind the 8-ball. It would not surprise me if heads roll on their return to South Africa and we have probably seen the last of the likes of Duminy, Amla and Tahir (who has bowled pretty well TBF) in their white ball team. Even Graeme Smith was mystified at the approach his team took in trying to chase down Pakistan’s score:

As for Pakistan, this was one of their better days of the tournament. Haris Sohail came into the side and looked a class act with the bat, which has many of us scratching our heads as to why they stuck with Shoaib Malik for so long, with good contributions from the two openers and Babar Azam, who I’m a huge fan of. Their bowlers also offered a lot more control as both Wahab and Amir, the latter of whom is having a stellar tournament so far, bowled with pace and accuracy as well as their spinners bowling with control and good variations. Pakistan are not out of this tournament yet and if they continue to play like they did today, then they are a threat to any team; equally they are also able to fall flat on their face like they did against India, you just don’t know with Pakistan.

As for today’s game, we head back to the Kolpakshire Bowl for a strong Bangladesh team against an Afghan team that were so close to beating India on Saturday. Bangladesh will naturally start as favourites with their star all-rounder Shakib Al-Hasan lighting up the tournament so far, but it will be interesting to see if Afghanistan can maintain the same level of intensity that they showed against the Indians or whether they will be unable to shake the disappointment of Saturday’s result.

As ever, feel free to share your thoughts below: