Two mediocre teams played bad cricket

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 19, 2011 04:18 hrs

It was a close and exciting match at Chennai but not a very good one skillwise. Two mediocre teams played bad cricket. West Indies did well to make the match so close, but overall it was a sloppy game of cricket.

England and West Indies were very average and guilty of making the same mistakes they've made throughout the tournament, and they both have issues to deal with. They should both qualify for the quarter-finals but have a lot of work to do to advance any further.

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Nevertheless there were positives for both team, and each came in the form of fresh faces on either side. For West Indies, Devendra Bishoo and Andre Russell put in good performances. I thought young Bishoo bowled very well on debut to pick up three wickets, and he showed impressive control. Russell bowled very well and scored good runs down the order.

I don't think anyone expected him to come out and bat so well and his batting put the West Indies back into a position from which they should not have lost. As a bowler, he did his job. He was successful because he bowled fast and straight, two key assets any fast bowler must have to do well, and all the more so in the subcontinent.

For England, James Tredwell was very good and when you consider he had been just an observer all tournament, his achievement really stands out. Luke Wright also came into the team and did reasonably well, bowling and batting pretty decently. But these were just a few positives in what was otherwise a poor game of cricket.

I cannot understand Darren Sammy batting at No 3. If you see it as a tactic of taking advantage of power play overs and him batting the way he did then maybe but the run-rate required did not warrant that approach. If England had posted a score of over 300 runs, again maybe that could  theoretically be thought as a legitimate tactic. Such tactics smack of instability in the side and highlight the management's uncertain thinking.

And why did West Indies drop Shivnarine Chanderpaul? You cannot bench your most experienced player. He is a crucial performer in the middle order and someone who can absorb pressure and bat a lot of overs. West Indies missed Chanderpaul yesterday chasing that total.

The question might be asked, then who should he replace, the answer to me was simple. Devon Smith might have made a century against Ireland but that doesn't mean all of a sudden he is a better batsman than someone who has been doing that on a regular basis against better teams.

Similarly, batting Ramnaresh Sarwan so far down the order made no sense. After the match, Sammy gave the explanation that Sarwan had been indisposed, apparently in the washroom when the wicket fell, but why send Devon Thomas?  Is he the next best batsman in the dressing room? If Kieron Pollard is supposed to be a great one-day batsman, why didn't he go? What has Thomas done so far to indicate he's capable of batting so high in the order?

All this gives the signal that West Indies aren't sure of their thinking. They lack frontline batsmen and then opt to drop Chanderpaul and send Sarwan in late. It was ridiculous and their tactics dumbfound me. In the end we saw Sarwan run out of partners and if Russell hadn't surprised us with his batting the game would have been over a lot earlier.

I'm not sure what West Indies were thinking sending Sammy and Thomas up the order. Proper batsman help you win matches, not pinch-hitters unless as I said before you require higher than normal run-rates in a chase.

Group B has been very tight, and now West Indies and England will look at the Bangladesh vs South Africa game very closely. Bangladesh did well to beat England, and as we all know anything is possible in one day cricket. A Bangladesh win will really change how Group B looks; that will leave West Indies needing to beat India on Sunday.  

If Bangladesh lose, England and West Indies will progress. Bangladesh have played some spirited cricket, but South Africa are a far superior team. They do need to get a lot more out of Jacques Kallis, who has been ordinary this tournament so far but he's the world's best allrounder so watch out.

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Luckily for South Africa, Kallis' average run and the poor form of Graeme Smith have been smoothed over by the likes of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy in the middle order. South Africa haven't been reliant on one or two players because others have done well and they have a well rounded and balanced team, which is encouraging from their perspective.

The Australia vs Pakistan is a match of purely academic interest as far as qualifying for the quarter-finals are concerned but the winner will win the group and that's important as to who you play in the next round. There are some issues Australia need to sort out, such as the form of Ricky Ponting and the striking ability of their spinners and they have not been as dynamic as in previous tournaments but this match will tell us a lot about where they stand going forward.

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