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Posts Tagged ‘world cup’

Up until today, Ireland were the only unbeaten team in the ICC World Cup qualifiers, and Afghanistan’s fairytale looked like it was coming to an end at the Super Eight stage.

Ireland, however, were bowled out for a mere 196, mainly thanks to Hamid Hassan‘s 5-23, four wickets if which involved breaking the batsman’s stumps. The journey that has taken a group of players from Division 5 of the World Cricket League to victory over a side which not so long ago humbled Pakistan.

Although the Afghans still sit second-from-bottom of the Super Eight table, they are only one win behind Kenya in third place. The odds are still stacked against them (especially with difficult matches to come), but there is hope yet for a fairytale ending.

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After five matches each, the wheat have been separated from the marginally more chaff-like wheat, and 12 teams have been reduced down to eight for the Super Eights stage, which it is to be hoped will be more than half well named. The teams eliminated, and therefore definitely not going to the finals (and also missing out on full ODI status for the next 4 years) are Bermuda, Denmark, Oman and Uganda.

  • Afghanistan only just edged through to this stage after losing three matches in a row, but their potential fairytale continues. Even if they don’t qualify, their success against the odds has been a rare good news story from their troubled country.
  • Canada look likely to qualify given their form in the group stages (including an impressive 131 off 99 balls from John Davison against Namibia), and their win over Scotland in the first stage puts them in a good position going into the Super Eights.
  • Ireland will also be well placed heading into this stage, with 6 points carried over from the group stage. Eoin Morgan’s England call-up, whilst unsurprising, will be a blow, but the as yet unbeaten Irishmen will be favourites to qualify for the finals with ease.
  • Kenya are also amongst the favourites to make it to 2011, with only one defeat in their five matches so far. Aging limbs may start to feel the strain at this stage, but they have enough quality to ensure qualification.
  • Namibia only made it to this stage by virtue of net run rate, and will not be expected to progress any further. One or two good results could see them sneak one of the six ODI places, but even that is a tall order.
  • The Netherlands, as expected, have done well so far, and are strong candidates for qualification if they can continue their form into this stage of the competition.
  • Scotland, on the other hand, have failed to live up to expectations so far, and their 148-run defeat to Canada will set alarms ringing. Their matches against the Netherlands and Kenya now take on ‘must-win’ status.
  • The UAE, a team of “baggage handlers and bursars” have exceeded expectations, finishing Group B with as many points as Kenya and the Netherlands, but will be seen as outsiders to beat those teams into the top four. Fifth or sixth place is, however, a realistic target.

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The final stage of qualification for the 2011 World Cup gets underway on Wednesday in South Africa, as 12 teams begin the battle for four places at the finals. Some have played at the finals before, whilst others have fought their way up from the obscurity of World Cricket League Division 5.

Canada’s build up to the World Cup Qualifier was severely disrupted when they were forced to cancel their tour of Zimbabwe following an outbreak of cholera, and they have their work cut out to qualify for the finals with a relatively weak side. If they are to make it, much will depend on emerging star Rizwan Cheema, who has made half-centuries against the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the last year.

Ireland made a big splash at the last World Cup in 2007, when they eliminated Pakistan and made it to the Super Eight stage, and the majority of the players involved in that success are likely to be involved again. Eoin Morgan, who has played for the England Lions, may be called up to the full England side before too long, so will want to put in some good performances in what may prove to be his last major tournament for Ireland.

Namibia will sadly be without the player who would undoubtedly have had the best name in the tournament in Kola Burger, but they come into the qualifier off the back of their best-ever performance in South African domestic One Day cricket. The Namibians have traditionally been stronger in multi-day cricket (they narrowly lost out to Ireland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup final), but batting under pressure in a 50-over game still seems to be an issue for them.

Oman isn’t renowned as a cricketing hotbed, and the majority of the side in South Africa will be subcontinental expatriates. Back in 2005 they lost every match in the ICC Trophy group stage, but beat Uganda and the USA in the play-off stages, and whilst they will be definite outsiders, they do have some players who are capable of winning matches.

Scotland emerged victorious last time this competition was held (when it was known as the ICC Trophy), and will be banking of the experience of -amongst others – Gavin Hamilton and John Blain to see them through. A number of the squad have had injury problems in the past, but if key players remain fit over the three weeks, the Scots will be expected to qualify for 2011 with relative ease.

Uganda have long been talked about as a dark horses in associate cricket, but have shown the sort of inconsistency that has brought wins over Kenya and Zimbabwe but also losses to Papua New Guinea. Bowling all-rounder Kenneth Kamyuka has the potential to make an impact, and making the Super Eight stage is a realistic target.

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Cricket isn’t the sport it used to be.

Time was, even the most portly of players could find a place in most international sides (and judging by Jesse Ryder and Dwayne Leverock, many still can), and even chain-smokers were thought to have sufficient physical conditioning to bowl for England .

No longer – it seems it’s no longer OK to be an unfit cricketer. Samit Patel has been dropped by England for the forthcoming One Day matches against the West Indies, owing to ‘unsatisfactory fitness‘.

Where does this leave Rob Key? Joking aside (Key has actually slimmed down considerably since his, ahem, peak), the modern game – especially in its limited-overs variants – makes physical demands of players which were never made of the likes of Gatting or Grace, and there should probably be a minimum fitness requirement, even for spin bowlers.

I hope that this doesn’t herald the end of overweight international cricketers, though. In these difficult times, cricket fans everywhere are in need of a few players with the ‘XXL-factor’. Failing that,  I’ll settle for someone who makes the gulf in class between my own pathetic attempts at cricket and the real thing seem just a little less than it actually is. How else can I rationalise my dreams of taking the wicket that clinches the Ashes, or knocking off the winning runs in the World Cup final?

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Today’s shocking and sad events in Lahore are a cruel blow to many, but not least to Pakistani cricket. With cricketers themselves the targets, no international cricketer will want to travel to Pakistan for months, perhaps years, to come. Pakistan is in danger of becoming the cricketing equivalent of a pariah state.

It seems likely that the national team will return to the strange limbo of 2008, playing ‘home’ matches in the UAE, or perhaps England, and perhaps playing no Test cricket at all. Cricket at a neutral venue is preferable to no cricket at all, but as has been noted elsewhere, “Pakistan can play on as a nomad team, but they … cannot survive a wandering life”. There is a real sense that these events have brought about the end of an era. If cricketers are now terrorist targets, then the sport’s attitude to terrorism must, sadly, become less innocent.

There has been no official pronouncement that the 2011 World Cup will be reorganised to move matches away from Pakistan, but many players may not be convinced to travel if they fear being targeted. Where previously those who refused to tour Pakistan were criticised for not adopting the same approach to India, it now seems there is good reason for making a distinction.

For now, my thoughts are with the families of the dead, and with fourth umpire Ahsan Raza, reportedly in a critical condition after being shot in the back.

Also, my thoughts are with the people of Pakistan, who have lost so much recently, and now face losing their international cricket for the forseeable future.

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Cricket, compared to some other sports, has been under-represented on celluloid, but there are still a number of cricket-based films, not least thanks to the endeavours of Bollywood.

The latest cricket film is Victory (“this is not a tennis ball – these things crack skulls”, says Brett Lee), but before that, there was Lagaan, a film which I am at a loss to describe, mainly because my non-Bollywood mind simply cannot process the concept of a cricket musical.

Closer to (my) home, there was the British film Wondrous Oblivion, in which cricket helped to bridge the Jewish – Jamaican divide in 1960’s London, and the sport has made a few cameo appearances in Hollywood films.

There have also been a few feature-length documentaries on cricket, such as Breaking Boundaries, the Irish 2007 World Cup documentary, and Out of the Ashes, about the Afgan side’s attempts to qualify for the 2011 tournament.

Also, there’s a Hanse Cronje film on the horizon.

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The Asia Cup 2008 gets underway on Tuesday, with the ‘established’ Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and ‘semi-established’ Bangladeshi (no link because the official site ‘may harm your computer‘) teams competing against the ’emerging’ UAE and Hong Kongese sides.

Group A

  • Sri Lanka will be looking to recapture the One-Day form that brought victory over England, but which has been absent more recently. Ajantha Mendis, who I’ve mentioned recently, will be one to watch, and the six over-30’s in the squad will shoulder much of the responsibility as usual.
  • The United Arab Emirates are hoping that a blend of youth and experience will help to produce the kind of performances that suggest they have a good chance of qualification (following good results in the World Cricket League last year) for the 2011 World Cup. Obviously, the UAE will be looking for performances rather than results from this tournament, but they could give Bangladesh a scare if they play out of their skins. Saqib Ali has a first class average of 55, and is likely to be the main source of runs.

Group B

  • India showed both sides of their recent form in the Kitply cup, hammering Pakistan in the group stage, then leaking runs like nobody’s business in the final. Gambhir was impressive throughout the tournament with the bat, and RP Singh, amongst others, continues to show real promise with the ball.
  • Hong Kong, who will be taking part in the World Cricket League Division 4 in October, are almost certain to be unceremoniously crushed by both India and Pakistan. Courtney Kruger could make things slightly more respectable with a few runs, but any difference will be marginal.

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