After months of anticipation and build up, the 11th ICC Cricket World Cup began at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on February 14. With the inaugural match began a truly global event with 14 cricket-playing countries playing as many cities in New Zealand and Australia for the covered trophy.
The first stage of Cricket’s pinnacle event was a closely fought affair.
Contrary to the fears of some sceptics that the participation of the emerging nations would dilute the world-class event, some of the newcomers demonstrated that they could be serious contenders.
Ireland continued its giant killing spree at World Cups, beating twice Champions West Indies at Christchurch by 45 runs. This has opened up Group B, with Ireland, a strong contender to make the Cup quarters.
The Irish team that beat the West Indies had eight players of experience on the English county circuit. Afghanistan made its World Cup debut with inspired performances against top teams, led ably by an effective fast bowling attack.
It is imperative for cricket’s growth that non-test playing nations get more opportunities to play against top ranking cricket nations.
Black Caps are going from strength to strength in this event.
Strong leadership and flying starts at the top of the batting order by skipper Brendon McCullum make the team serious title contenders.
The convincing eight-wicket win over England at Wellington, top-lined by the best figures ever by a New Zealander in international cricket – Tim Southee’s 7/36 made experts take notice of this perennial semi-finalist at World Cups.
The Black Caps have excelled themselves in fielding.
The most-widely watched match (approximately 1 billion watchers around the world) in the history of one-day cricket was played between India and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on February 15.
Led by Virat Kohli’s maiden World Cup ton, return of form by southpaws Shikhar Dhawan, and Suresh Raina, India went past 300 runs.
In spite of a brave half century by Captain Misbah Ul Haq, Pakistan lost by 76 runs.
What stood out in the game was the excellent sportsman’s spirit displayed by the two sides. The fans of both teams deserve a special mention, as their behaviour in the stadium and in Adelaide was exemplary.
After beating South Africa in the next match, Indian players looked set to put their recent bad form behind them, and top Group B.
What this World Cup has shown is return to the more traditional template of playing one- day cricket. With two balls used per innings and a maximum of only four players allowed outside the 30-yards circle at any one time in the innings, teams are looking for solid and steady starts.
The focus is on saving wickets for the final 15 overs.
The pitches (including the drop in wickets) look to be good batting tracks, thus ensuring a high scoring event.
As the World Cup reaches its sudden death stages, the team, which can hold its nerves and perform best under pressure, will claim the glittering trophy on March 29 at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds.