Mark down Wednesday 11th February 2015 as the day the World Cup finally became interesting.
Up until this date, everything was in a state of beige. Everyone waiting for the quarter finals, because that is when the real matches started.
But then the warm up games happened.
If you looked carefully enough, these raised more questions they they answered.
For India, it earlier meant their first win of the Australian tour against Afghanistan. However, it doesn’t really count because both sides fielded 15 players.
The Australia versus UAE match may have appeared quite non offensive and predictable. However, a look under the skirt of Australia’s batting effort of 304 reveals some dilemmas.
Firstly, Clarke opened the batting in an effort to appease his bosses that his troublesome back and hamstrings were ok. He top scored, but this overlooks the fact he was dropped on 2 and wasn’t very fluid between the wickets.
However, unless something dramatic happens between now and Saturday, like for example he elopes with Lara Bingle, then Clarke is sure to feature in Australia’s World Cup opener against England.
So, what does that mean for the Australian batting order?
Does vice captain Bailey miss out? His form has been poor, but just as we were about to sign his release papers, he bobs up with a timely 46 (52) before holing out playing a cross bat shot. If he plays, that potentially pushes Maxwell down to as low as 8 or 9 in the batting order. It also only then leaves room for two quicks.
Not quite ideal, is it?
In a massive upset, Zimbabwe beat Sri Lanka.
One must be careful not to be too hasty writing off the boys from Africa, given they also beat Australia last year. They are capable.
However, it was the ease in which Zimbabwe won the match that has astounded all who saw the game.
Keeping the Sri Lankan batsmen to 279 is no easy feat. Chasing those runs down in 45 overs against Malinga, Herath and co is a brilliant result.
Zimbabwe will be unlikely starters in the quarter finals, but Sri Lanka should be there.
What does this game tell us about the island nations preparation and mental state?
To be fair, Angelo Mathews did not bat. But if their bowling attack cannot hold the 10th ranked ODI side, then they look to be in serious trouble.
Perhaps the biggest point to come out of the England and Pakistan warm up game is that the Poms have some batting woes.
Captain Eoin Morgan’s last three ODI innings have netted 0,2,0. This is ironic, given the guy he replaced was dropped for horrible white ball form.
Of even more concern is Ravi Bopara.
He was selected as England’s mainstream all rounder. However, both with bat and ball, he has looked putrid. 11 (25) before being bowled all ends up by Yasir Shah will not instill any confidence that he can turn it around. England’s issue is that they don’t have another batting all rounder in the squad. This could force them to play Jordan and Woakes in the same team, severely weakening their run scoring ability.
Finally, we come to what many predicted would be a semi final preview. South Africa versus New Zealand.
As Kung Fu Panda said in the 2008 movie, ‘There is no charge for awesomeness… or attractiveness’
And that is exactly what New Zealand brought to the match at Christchurch.
The Kiwis plundered 331 from an attack featuring Philander, Morkel and Tahir. Granted, Steyn was rested, but I’m not sure he would have made too much difference.
With a top order boasting so many inform players such as McCullum, Williamson and Taylor, New Zealand have stamped the words ‘bona fide’ on their travel papers.
The issue for South Africa is that in reply, they managed only 197 from 44.2 overs. Only three players passed 20 runs, and one of them was Vernon. This raises alarm bells, as prior to this match, many pundits judged the Protea team as having the strongest and most settled bowling and batting lineups.
This is a team that has never won a knock match at a World Cup. It is also a team that oozes ODI class with Amla, de Kock, ABdV, Faf, Duminy, Philander, Steyn, Morkel and Tahir. That’s a strong spine in anyone’s language.
Boult, Southee and Vettori are good, but not that good. Well, maybe Boult is. He’s like a left arm version of Dale Steyn.
So, Australia don’t know what its best lineup is and will now need to make allowances for Clarke. That concept in itself is bizarre.
Sri Lanka come into the tournament in the worst possible way.
England can’t bat and their Irish captain experiment is not working.
New Zealand can bat. They are also decent with the ball.
South Africa have just opened the door to self doubt.
Thought this World Cup was going to be boring?
You were wrong.