India's MVP

Virat Kohli goes for the jugular and declares before the end of the second day and the tired South Africans lose three quick wickets. Kohli, likely, sacrificed his triple-century. That was sensible given the fact that the Indians had already made a mountain of runs. He has now put himself in some exceptional company:

7 - Double-centuries for Kohli in Tests, the most among Indian batsmen. He has gone past Tendulkar and Sehwag who had six double-centuries each. Now only Don Bradman (12), Sangakkara (11) and Brian Lara (9) have more double-hundreds. Hammond and Mahela Jayawardene also made seven.

Kohli will turn 31 next month. He has the time and the talent to break the double-century record of The Don.


Marching towards greatness

Were he to retire today, he'd finish with more ODI hundreds than any Pakistani bar Saeed Anwar and Mohammad Yousuf. No Pakistan batsman in history boasts a superior ODI average, while only Amla scored 3000 ODI runs in fewer innings. The numbers suggest he is on track to perhaps becoming the greatest Pakistani ODI batsman, and while this may be an era friendlier to run-scoring than the ones his counterparts played in, Pakistan can ill-afford to talk down a prospect that bright.

Babar Azam is the best batsman Pakistan has produced in this decade. He has that one rare quality that all greats possess: he makes batting look so easy! His performance in the World Cup was excellent. Though, sometimes, he did get flustered. For instance, he tried to force the scoring rate by taking unnecessary risks: attempted a six and missed, and then immediately attempted another and got caught.

Anyway, as the article mentions, he'll likely captain Pakistan in the next World Cup. Let's see if his sharp batting mind translates to shrewd leadership.


So many wrongs

Cricinfo: What has gone wrong for Pakistan cricket this century? A story in 16 graphs.

One very interesting point about the poor quality of batsmen:

[...] a player performs really well in the domestic game, takes that form into ODI cricket, where it carries him for a while before his technical deficiencies are highlighted by opposition think tanks; he then gets dropped, returns to the domestic game, and continues to score there without ever needing to change what made him fail at the highest level.

I instantly thought of Babar Azam. His value to the team is absolutely immense. The management and other players should be asking him about his unusual success at the international level. Even then, they can copy his hard work but the talent can't be duplicated.

The writer couldn't ignore him either:

Considering that Babar Azam is the only player who made his debut this decade who has actually become an elite middle-order player, the summary quite simply is that Pakistan's team managements have failed emphatically.


The Ashes are Alive!

2019 will be remembered as the Year of Benjamin Andrew Stokes. England won the World Cup last month thanks to the magnificent performance of Ben Stokes. Today, England made their highest fourth-innings run chase in history to win thanks to Ben Stokes.

The entire England cricket team was out for 67 runs in the first innings. Stokes hit 135 runs in the fourth. The talent and audacity of this man was absolutely jaw-dropping as he smashed 19 runs off Hazlewood's last over. Who the hell hits 8 sixes in the fourth innings of a Test match!?!

When Lyon fumbled that run out, it must have really hurt the Aussies. That was their clear chance to win ... by 1 run! Instead, Leach got the most applause anyone has ever gotten for scoring only 1 run when he got Stokes on strike in the very next over. Of course, Stokes finished it with a safe boundary.

Whatever England is paying Ben Stokes is not enough.

Lots of incredible stats from the game like this one:

67 - England's first-innings total. There are only three instances of teams scoring fewer runs in an innings, in a Test match they ended up winning, and they were all in the 1880s.

In other words, nobody alive today has witnessed such a stunning cricket match before.


Clown World Down Under

The world keeps getting crazier by the day:

New guidelines released on Thursday mean transgender cricketers will be allowed to play community or grassroots cricket only by “demonstrating commitment to their gender identity”. There is no requirement for players to have undergone treatment or transition surgery, while clubs are banned from requesting a player undergo a medical examination for the purpose of gender verification.

In an exclusive interview with Macquarie Sport Radio‘s Cam Reddin, Blackwell urged women and girls who did not feel comfortable playing or changing alongside trans players to play something else.

What, exactly, is the point of women's sports then?

These are simple truths: men are faster, bigger, stronger, and faster than women. However, when you have shit for brains, then these are the words that come out of your mouth:

Blackwell rejected suggestions some female players may feel disadvantaged under these rules.

“Whenever a policy like this is put to the broader community – it is the broader community that has the problem, not the participants,” Blackwell said.

Of course! The issue isn't asshole men who want to compete against women and then disrobe in their locker rooms. No! The problem is all these horrible women who don't want to get their skull fractured by a bouncer and then have to deal with a creep with his balls hanging out.

Meme of the day:


The poor wicketkeepers

We just had one of the craziest Test matches in history.

4 Number of times a team has won a Test after making a first-innings score less than England's 85 in this Test. All the four instances occurred more than 100 years ago.

For the first time, both wicketkeepers got out for zero twice

Bairstow: 0 off 6 balls and 0 off 6 balls. Those are some mighty elegant ducks! That must be one rude deflation in spirits after winning the World Cup.

Again, quite a stunning match:

England have completed one of the great comeback victories in Test history after bowling out Ireland for 38 in the fourth innings at Lord's.

Not since 1907, when England defeated South Africa in Leeds despite having made just 76 in their first innings, has a side won a Test having made such a low first-innings score. But despite England being bowled out for 85 before lunch on the first day, a devastating spell of new ball bowling from Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad saw Ireland bowled out in just 15.4 overs to leave England the victors by 143 runs. It is the fifth lowest first-innings total in history to have resulted in a win and the first Test since 1887 in which two sides have each been bowled out in a single session.

The Ashes should be very competitive.


The Hall welcomes the Master

The Indian cricketer is inducted in to the Hall of Fame:

Former India captain Sachin Tendulkar, former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald and former Australia Women's fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick have become the newest additions to the ICC Hall of Fame. The trio were inducted in a ceremony in London on Thursday.

I watched tons of Tendulkar on TV in the 90s. It was always a pleasure to watch his shots race to the boundary with not a single fielder in the frame. His timing and placement was so precise, that the opposition had zero chance of stopping the ball. He made it look so easy.

Tendulkar's victorious battles against Warne and Akhtar make him the greatest of his generation. For me, only Brian Lara and Saeed Anwar came close in elegance and pure entertainment value.


The Divine Deflection

My father had setup the receiver for new TV channels. He wanted to watch the Cricket World Cup as it happened. The New Zealand team had done well but they stumbled at the end. England had earned a spot in the final match but they were set to chase a tricky total. They fought hard for glory but wickets kept falling at regular intervals.

At the end, England lost. Pakistan won. That was the first live ODI cricket match I had ever watched. My dad provided his colorful commentary and cheers. I was familiar with veterans like Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. He talked of a new, chubby kid who had dismantled the undefeated Kiwis in the two prior games; some guy named Inzamam-ul-Haq. Of course, there was also the greatest bowler Pakistan had ever produced -- the Man of the Match of the 1992 Cricket World Cup final: Wasim Akram.

That was the third World Cup final for England and their third defeat. They had been set imposing totals to chase on each occasion and they failed every time. The country that invented the game still hadn't won the ultimate trophy. After the loss in 1992, England waited 27 agonizing years for another appearance in a World Cup final.

****

England crushed Australia, the defending World Champions, in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup. New Zealand punched above their weight and beat the mighty Indians to make it to their second successive finals appearance.

After 44 long years of failures, this new, powerful, energetic England side had the chance to become champions. They had beaten New Zealand before in the same tournament. Surely, it won't be so difficult this time. It should be a simple, straightforward, and a sensible victory for England as they are ranked number one in the game. Right?

The Kiwis won the toss and, of course, decided to bat. The weight of history was against England. Chasing sides often lost in this tournament and England had lost all their previous finals while chasing. The pressure built up right from the start. Pakistan scored 249 in 1992. The Kiwis managed 241 this time; a very tricky and competitive total. Nothing exciting or fancy so far.

Then, England started the chase. Matt Henry was getting excellent movement and Jason Roy edged and got out for a slim 17 runs. England 28/1.

After a few quiet overs, the best batsmen in the English side couldn't handle the mounting pressure. His body language clearly signaled his increasing frustration as he shockingly tried to charge and hit the ball but missed! He again attempted a strike but, like Roy, edged and got out for a painful 30-ball 7. England 59/2.

Bairstow was playing quite well. He tried to hit a four but chopped the ball back on to his stumps. England 71/3.

Morgan, the captain of the side, couldn't control his shot selection and hit the ball in the air, only to shout a NO! as the ball flew to Ferguson who took an extraordinary catch. England 86/4.

New Zealand had the momentum. Their fans were making a lot of noise. They needed only two more wickets and England would fall for the fourth time at the biggest stage of cricket!

The sixth man to walk out and bat for England was Jos Buttler who played the most significant and stunning innings of his life. He had made 59 runs off 59 deliveries before he got out to another spectacular catch. The game was truly alive. Either team could win at that point. England 196/5.

Only one man stood between New Zealand and their first World Cup triumph. Ben Stokes had been batting for nearly 22 overs. He had five overs to get 46 runs. It was all on him. He was fatigued. He looked shaken. The pressure on this man was unimaginable.

The Kiwis had choked the second-best team in the world a few days before. Now, they were utilizing their bowling talent to squeeze the top side in the world. "What a thrilling match! This game is going to the very last delivery," I thought and I was super right.

Over 46.1: Woakes hits the ball high in the air and the wicket keeper calmly collects it. England 203/6.

Over 48.3: Plunkett wants to hit a much needed six down the ground. Instead, it finds a fielder. England 220/7.

Over 48.6: Jofra swings the bat and the wickets are rattled. He leaked wides with his bowling and then: a golden duck. England 227/8.

England needed 15 runs off 6 balls for victory in the World Cup final. Few batsmen in history have felt the absolute maximum pressure. Ben Stokes had reached that level.

Over 49.1: Dot ball.

Over 49.2: Another dot ball. 15 from 4 balls. Advantage: NZ.

Over 49.3: Stokes gets down on one knee and smites the ball into the spectators. 9 from 3.

Over 49.4: The drama hits the stratosphere. The jaw-dropping moment of this final had arrived. The teams will swap the emotions of hope and despair. Stokes is running for his life to get back for two. He extends his bat and dives to make the crease, the fielder throws the ball which hits the bat and then runs away, and away, and away to the boundary. God must have looked down and said: Not today, Kiwis! No one who watched this match will ever forget The Divine Deflection.

The stadium erupts. England need 3 runs from two balls.

Over 49.5: Stokes isn't hitting any more sixes. He wants to run and reach 242. He gets one run while the other guy is run out. England 240/9.

Over 49.6: Stokes, again, wants two runs but the other guy has no chance. Run out! England 241 all out.

England needed 242 runs to win. They managed 241. This most epic of epic failures makes this the greatest World Cup final in history. After 100 overs of the most intense and thrilling cricket, we witness a tie!

We got Super Overs at the grand stage. Each team scored 15 runs each in their over. It's another tie! England hit more boundaries. The trophy comes home! England fought till the very end and with unbelievable luck won their first World Cup. Ben Stokes is the man. Williamson, the New Zealand captain, earns the Man of the Tournament award for his exceptional batting and captaincy. The Kiwis didn't let the opposition score more runs in the final but then they went home without the ultimate prize. It was just not their day.

The historical context, drama, pressure, intensity, emotion, the double ties, and that deflection makes this the greatest ODI match of all times.


Final: England vs. New Zealand

2019 Cricket World Cup Final: the country that invented the game, the country that I thought deserved most to win, won in the end. England lift their first World Cup.

New Zealand scored 241/8. Just like their semi-final against India, they'll need another spectacular bowling performance to win this match.

This is England's fourth World Cup final. They have built the strongest team in the world over the past few years. Today, they need to make 242 runs under pressure to finally lift the ultimate trophy. England has defeated New Zealand in this tournament before. Now, just once more.

The pressure gets to Root who goes for an ugly 30-ball 7. The Kiwis are playing very well. England needs to play sensibly and not take risks.

Bairstow edges it onto stumps. England needs a partnership. 71/3.

Spectacular catch by Ferguson. Morgan out. England unraveling at 86/4.

Finally! England build a fighting partnership. Stokes and Buttler are keeping England alive. Buttler's strike rate is very impressive given the context.

Jos Buttler stands and delivers for England. A magnificent half-century. 50 for Buttler, 50 for Stokes, and a 100+ partnership, all in the same over.

Buttler out for 59. The World Cup final is going for a thrilling finish.

The most thrilling 100th over of cricket in World Cup Finals history! After three bloody Final losses, the most powerful England side of the generation gets a fucking tie!

Now, comes the Super Over nonsense to decide the champion. Sigh. If you thought the pressure and drama couldn't possibly increase.

15 runs in the Super Over and then ... 15 runs in the Super Over! The Kiwis have fewer boundaries. Therefore, England wins the most thrilling World Cup final of all times.

New Zealand was ranked fourth in the tournament when the semi-finals started. They defeated the mighty Indians in the game before and today they tied TWICE! against England. However, their weak batting efforts got them in the end. The low number of boundaries became the deciding factor. They definitely punched above their weight and fought hard. There is no shame in making two World Cup finals in a row. Spare a thought for Kane Williamson. He scored close to 600 runs and took his team to the finals only to tie, tie, and lose. Williamson is the Player of the Tournament.


Good for Cricket

This four-day-old article aged really well: An Australia-India final is likely and that's not good for the game.

(Laughs.)

The disappointing aspect of the 2019 World Cup is the predictability of the final four. Australia, India and England were always favoured, and solid New Zealand were most likely to be the other semi-finalist. That's exactly the way it has turned out after more than a month of scrapping.

A few paragraphs later:

The redeeming feature of this World Cup is that the best four teams of the tournament reached the knockout stage. However, the most likely outcome is an India versus Australia final. That is a fairly predictable outcome for a tournament desperately in need of a jolt - another India 1983, Pakistan 1992 or Sri Lanka 1996. And it needs that jolt pretty soon.

Ian Chappell is using the words "disappointing" and "redeeming" to describe the exact same cricket tournament!? Anyway, he should be very happy now that we definitely don't have an Australia vs. India final.


Australia vs. England

Cricket World Cup Semi-final: England crush Australia by 8 wickets with nearly 18 overs remaining! England and New Zealand have never won the World Cup. So, we'll have a brand new World Champion on Sunday.

Another semi-final, another catastrophic top-order failure! Australia reduced to 14/3 in under seven overs. The Aussies, the defending champions, are in danger of losing their first ever World Cup semi-final! Again, we'll need a spectacular bowling performance by the batting-first team to win this match.

England has been the strongest team for the past two years. The last time they made it to the finals was in 1992. They definitely have the firepower and the hunger to go all the way.

Aussies 166/7. If they can't crack 200 runs, then it'll be a T20 chase for England in an ODI match. Can't imagine the pressure on Smith.

That Smith run out was sick! The ball went between his legs to hit the stumps! Doesn't look like Australia's day. They're all out for 223 runs in 49 overs. England chased down scores of 340+ multiple times in May this year. Now, they have a smaller target but with infinite pressure. Again, just like India yesterday, this is England's game to lose now.

Wow. Roy smashes a six off Starc! England means business. 31/0 off only six overs. A safe and sufficient run rate of 5 from England. 40/0 off eight overs. Seven boundaries so far. Excellent start. Roy is playing very aggressively. No need for that reverse sweep. That six was enough damage for the over.

Starc comes back to bowl and gets taken apart! 15 runs off one over. England 95/0 after 15 overs. Only an epic meltdown of the England batting is going to save Australia.

Finch is out of ideas. He brings on Smith to bowl and HOLY SHIT! Three consecutive sixes! Roy is razing Australia!

124/1. The injured Bairstow is LBW. England need exactly 100 runs. The openers have given them a dream start. Oh! Roy robbed of his hundred. Given caught behind when the ball never touched the bat. Very poor decision by the umpire.

The last time England beat Australia in a World Cup match was in 1992. The last time Australia lost a World Cup semi-final was ... never. This new and powerful England team storms into the 2019 World Cup final by absolutely crushing the defending World Champions. Just one more win next Sunday! I have wanted them to lift the trophy from the start. They have definitely earned the right after years and years of toil, hard work, and heartache.


India vs. New Zealand

Cricket World Cup Semi-final: New Zealand managed only 239 runs in their 50 overs. 158 dot balls! One has to feel for Williamson. That man dragged New Zealand kicking and screaming all the way to the semi-final match but the other batsmen around him simply haven't put up enough runs. Now, they need to unleash the best bowling performance of the tournament to win this match. India has a simple task. Don't lose wickets and score a boundary once an over. With veterans like Sharma, Kohli, and Dhoni, this is now India's game to lose.

Well, with that said, Sharma is out for a 4-ball one!

Kohli also gone for one! Wow. Over one billion people shocked!

That's the only way the Kiwis can win: get India out. And they've started spectacularly.

Holy shit! Rahul gone for ... one!

India 5/3 after 4 overs in a World Cup semi-final. Wow.

Old Man Dhoni walks out with India crumbling at 71/5 with 23 overs gone.

62 runs from 36 balls. Dhoni still there and Jadeja has played the best innings by a number 8 in a World Cup semi-final.

100-run partnership. One billion people have hope!

Dhoni run out! What a magnificent throw from Guptill! What a match!

The game goes to the final over but the Indian fans are dejected. It would have been an epic comeback from 5/3 if India had won.

What a two-day semi-final! New Zealand fought hard to take down the number one team of this tournament. They will go to their second World Cup final in a row.

Tomorrow: Australia vs. England. Australia has never lost a World Cup semi-final! Let's see if England can create history.


Australia vs. South Africa

These two teams have played each other five times before in World Cup matches. South Africa didn't win any of those games. Today, with ZERO pressure, the South Africans are coming close to making history.

The Indians will definitely be happy if Australia lose. That will make it India vs. New Zealand in the first semi-final. I would be very surprised to see the Indians lose that game.

The tenacious Aussies drag the match to the very last over. South Africa hang on to win by 10 runs. The Aussie middle order collapse doesn't look good.

1st Semi-final: India vs. New Zealand.

2nd Semi-final: Australia vs. England.

Australia has never lost a World Cup semi-final. England definitely has a tough, high-pressure game ahead of them. Let's see if my choice final game materializes: England vs. India! 


India vs. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is in the process of getting crushed. They made 264/7. You know you're in trouble when the other team has one guy who alone can score 264.

Speaking of that one guy, Rohit Sharma just became the first man in history to score five hundreds in a single World Cup tournament. Also, today, he got his third century in a row. Those three scores read: 102, 104, 103. Sharma is likely upset with himself for scoring those "small" hundreds. Maybe, he's saving a double for the last couple of matches ...

India at 203/1.

India 265/3 in under 44 overs. Sri Lanka take a few wickets but in the end it was an easy win for the Indians.


Bangladesh vs. Pakistan

Pakistan scored 315/9. They needed a miraculous 307-run victory to make the semi-finals. They'll be going home after this match. Their utterly miserable and mediocre performance against the West Indies cost them a spot in the semi-finals.

Their star batsman did as well as can be expected. The MVP, Babar Azam scored 474 runs, averaged 67.1, with three half-centuries, and one century. Fakhar Zaman, the man who owns the record for the highest ODI score by a Pakistani, failed to deliver. The top-order combined scored 491 runs. By comparison, the two mighty Australian openers have scored over 500 runs each in eight matches so far. No wonder, the magnificent bastards are number one in the tournament.

Anyway, Haris Sohail and Imad Wasim did their jobs well. Amir and the new Afridi took 16 wickets each. In fact, Afridi has the best figures for a Pakistani bowler in all World Cups. He's still a teenager! So, it wasn't all bad. They did fight and beat two of the four semi-finalists. They have the same number of wins as the Kiwis who made the final four. Again, the poor net run rate -- the deciding factor -- is their own doing.


England vs. New Zealand

England beat the Kiwis to go through the semi-finals for the first time since 1992. The vicious scoring rate of the top order was enough to seal the match.

It was just a few days ago when New Zealand was ranked number one in the tournament. After three straight losses, they're now number four. They've lost every quantum of momentum. Still, they will go through to the semis to likely face ... Australia! I already feel sorry for New Zealand. Their next match will be remembered as The Massacre of the Kiwis.

The other semi-final will likely be a re-match: England vs. India. Before the tournament began, I wanted them to meet in the finals with England finally getting the trophy. Let's see if they click and beat the tough Indians again.


Bangladesh vs. India

Rohit Sharma has had a phenomenal World Cup. Four centuries and one half-century in seven matches! On top of that the Indian bowling unit is too strong. The first delivery of the 44th over was an absolute gem by Bumrah. Bangladesh lost any chance of winning the match right there.

India has made it to the semi-finals. Australia is already there. This means that the winners of the two previous World Cups could meet for an epic final match. New Zealand most likely will reach the semi-finals as well. If England win tomorrow, then they will complete the final four. If England lose, then Pakistan can reach the semi-finals by winning their match against Bangladesh.

Let's see how England handles the pressure tomorrow.


England vs. India

Two things that were strange about this match:

  1. Sixes hit by England: 13. Sixes hit by India: 1 (!).
  2. England were at 160 runs at the end of the 22nd over. As wickets fell, they slowed down to finish at 337/7. India were 226/4 at the beginning of the 40th over. They barely accelerated to finish at 306/5.

Sharma and Kohli gave the rest of the team a significant platform to chase 338 but the lack of urgency was really surprising. The one and only six of the entire Indian innings came in the 50th over! The whole time I was thinking, "What are you guys waiting for?"

The match was awesome for 90 overs. The last 10 were just bizarre and puzzling.

India has two matches left. Winning only one of them would guarantee them passage through to the semi-finals. Today, what could have been the most epic run chase in World Cup history ended up as a slow, sad, and strange defeat.


Afghanistan vs. Pakistan

The Pakistani batsmen took utterly unnecessary risks and got out. Imam-ul-Haq's charge was the worst example as they were in total control with a "win prediction" of 94%.

Afghanistan's biggest mistake was their bowling of the 46th over. Gulbadin Naib brought himself to bowl and got smashed for 18 runs. That's when Pakistan won the game. When Gulbadin Naib decided to bowl the last over, it was truly over. Imad Wasim richly deserves his man of the match award. In the end, it was an ugly win for Pakistan since they made it so hard for themselves. But then, that's how they play: with MAXIMUM drama. 

Afghanistan fought hard but they don't have the batting or bowling firepower to really beat ... anyone. They've played eight matches and lost all of them.

Pakistan is now at fourth position in the tournament. Their fans will be praying for an Indian win against England tomorrow!


Pakistan vs. New Zealand

The Kiwis weren't tested against India because rain ruined the match. Today, they have a mountain to climb as Shaheen Shah Afridi steps up and takes three wickets through his subtle and consistent swing bowling.

Kiwis 46/4; their captain being responsible for exactly half those runs. If the rest of the wickets fall soon, then Pakistan will be chasing a T20 score.

100-run partnership for the sixth wicket for the Kiwis. That makes for a competitive match. Let's see which Pakistani batting shows up to chase this.

237/6. Pakistan has scored 300+ on multiple occasions in the past few months in England. Now, they have to do it in a match that matters.

110/3. 25 overs left. Hafeez walked down and tried to hit a six!? Why? Take singles, get a half-century, and finish the game.

Munro is bowling? He's the eighth bowler used by Williamson! Anyway, Babar Azam is playing really well. Excellent opportunity for him to get his first hundred of the World Cup.

Babar gets a century after a few minutes at 99 runs. The last time a non-opener from Pakistan got a century in a World Cup match was in 1987! The Kiwis are undefeated no more. Pakistan still alive in this World Cup after winning by six wickets against New Zealand.


1992 again?

The eerie similarities between 1992 and 2019 for Pakistan.

This made me laugh:

In 1992, Asif Ali Zardari, a former president of Pakistan and husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, was in jail.
In 2019, Asif Ali Zardari again is in jail.

In 1992, Aladdin was released as an animated musical film.
In 2019, an Aladdin reboot was released.

New Zealand should be very worried. They really haven't been pushed and tested in the past month. Their undefeated status in the tournament will be in danger tomorrow when they face Pakistan.


Australia vs. England

The two Aussie openers smashed 153 runs off 177 balls. They built an excellent platform but the rest of the team managed a poor 124 runs off 123 deliveries. Australia could've had a score close to 400 but they couldn't even reach 300. They got 285/7.

If Starc and Cummins don't take quick wickets, then England can definitely chase this.

Wow. 30/3 in 7 overs. Root and Morgan gone. Bairstow and Buttler are the two big batsmen left. Aussies in control.

England couldn't chase 232 against Sri Lanka last Friday. Now, 285 is a bigger ask. They're 54/4 after 14 overs. Unless Buttler produces an epic century, this game is lost for England.

England beat Pakistan 4-0 in an ODI series last month. Then, they lost against Pakistan in their World Cup match. England absolutely crushed Australia 5-0 in an ODI series one year ago. Now, against Australia, they're losing the match that actually matters.

The last time England had a strong enough team to make the World Cup finals was in 1992! It took them almost three decades to cobble together a powerful and potent team that, at this very second, is ranked number one in the world. Yet, in the grand tournament, they will soon lose their third match.

Anyway, it makes things interesting for Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Buttler gone for 25 runs. Stokes has a half-century but he's hobbling. Aussies need to target the lower order and it'll be over soon for England.

Beautiful yorker by Starc to get Stokes. England need 110 runs but zero firepower to get them. Australia (of course!) will go to the semi-finals.


Pakistan vs. South Africa

Pakistan finally dropped Shoaib Malik. The replacement? Haris Sohail! The man showed his class and top scored for Pakistan with a blistering 59-ball 89. That's man of the match performance right there. 308/7 for Pakistan. It should do the job.

Amir gets a wicket with his first ball. Amla: LBW. The big question: Will Amir get enough support from the other bowlers?

Having Hafeez bowl early was a bizarre choice. Bring in Riaz and see what he can do.

South Africa have built a decent partnership. 73/1 after 17 overs. Inzi's nephew takes an excellent low catch. SA 92-2 after 20 overs. Pakistan has the edge. Shadab gets another! SA 103/3. That was a very poor shot choice by Markram.

One captain hits it high and the other takes the simple catch. Amir, again, is the leading wicket-taker of this World Cup. What a golden tournament he is having so far.

The professor takes a catch and Shadab has his third wicket. 189/5. 10 overs. 120 runs needed. This is beyond South Africa. There's no Klusener. No de Villiers. SA out of the World Cup. It will be shocking if they win.

Yup. South Africa are out. They've lost five out of seven games with two more to go. Pakistan's next match is with the undefeated Kiwis on Wednesday. It should be very interesting.


Carlos vs. The Kiwis

West Indies vs. New Zealand. What a heartbreaking finish to an epic innings by Carlos Brathwaite. He smashed three consecutive sixes in the 48th over to make the Kiwis sweat. Next over, he brings up the first century of his career. Then, gets out for an unnecessary big hit with 6 runs needed off one final over.

India and New Zealand remain undefeated in this World Cup. They should have dominated their weak opposition today. Instead, we got two entertaining, nail-biting thrillers.

Tomorrow, we have, in effect, a knockout match: Pakistan vs. South Africa.


India vs. Afghanistan

That's the undefeated Indians vs. the winless Afghanis in this World Cup. 

I thought that India would smash 400 runs. Instead, India scored a shockingly low 224/8. Now, Afghanistan need 68 off 10 overs! This will be a stunning upset if India doesn't get a few quick wickets.

56 off 48 needed. Afghanis fighting hard with 4 wickets in hand.

40 off 30. Indians nervous. They need a wicket to upset the rhythm.

Rashid Khan out! What a thrilling match!

Nabi hits a clean six off Bumrah! 24 off 18.

16 off 6. Damn. It's Nabi vs. India!

Nabi out! Couldn't clear the six. Shami gets a hat-trick to finish Afghanistan. India win by 11 runs. Afghanistan fought hard. India had a mediocre batting effort. Dhoni's slow runs almost cost them the match.


Big trouble for England

How many matches have Australia, India, and New Zealand lost in the current World Cup?

Australia: 1. India: 0. New Zealand: 0. This doesn't look good for England.


England massacres Afghanistan

The number one team in the world took on the lowest ranked team in the World Cup. The result was predictable. England won by 150 runs.

A lot of records were shattered. Here's one:

17 Sixes hit by Morgan in his innings - the most by an individual in an ODI. Morgan hit one more than the previous record, which was jointly held by Rohit Sharma, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle. The previous World Cup record was also 16 sixes, Gayle's mark against Zimbabwe in 2015.

Morgan made a century from his sixes! Absolutely devastating.


CWC: India vs. Pakistan

Rohit Sharma unleashed an imperious display of batting today. A 113-ball 140 against Pakistan in a World Cup match. An excellent platform for India to push towards 350+ runs!

The Indians are treating Amir with respect and the rest with contempt. A simple and smart strategy. India have already won. Their batting was enough.

Update
Rain stopped play. It doesn't spoil the game since India has a 99.99% chance of winning. Yadav deserves a prize for his fantastic delivery to Azam. To get Zaman out in his next over was the icing on the cake. Pakistan simply don't have the firepower to recover from those two nails in the coffin.

Also: Shoaib Malik should have retired before the World Cup. He has managed a grand total of zero runs in two important matches. He's too old, too slow, and too scared. He's the only player in this tournament who started playing ODI cricket in the previous century! And it shows.

The only positive for Pakistan: Amir is the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup.


An easy win today

England showed West Indies why they're number one in the world. West Indies imploded and scored a miserable 212 runs all out. England didn't even sweat making 213 runs in only 33 overs. Even an extra 150 runs by West Indies would have been totally insufficient. Joe Root opened and made a very tidy 100 runs not out.

As predicted by many, the top four teams in the tournament are:

  1. New Zealand
  2. England
  3. Australia
  4. India

The World Cup is almost half done. The only team that can upset that ranking is Pakistan.

May 31: West Indies crushed Pakistan.

June 3: Pakistan fought hard and beat England.

June 14: England destroyed West Indies.


The rain spoiled it again

The two undefeated teams in the grand cricket tournament were to play against each other today: India vs. New Zealand. Instead of an awesome clash, the hundreds of millions of fans across the globe got an abandoned game. It must be sorely disappointing for those who bought expensive tickets and traveled from another continent to only get soaked in the end.

The really big game is on Sunday when India take on Pakistan. Even though Pakistan has an overall decent ODI record versus India, they've lost every single time against the Indians in a World Cup game -- six in total.

If Amir can conjure up another miracle and get support from the other bowlers, then Pakistan has a chance against the powerful batting lineup of India. Otherwise, it's revenge for the Champions Trophy final.


CWC: Australia vs. Pakistan

Australia had a fantastic first-wicket partnership of 146 runs in 22 overs. They looked like cracking 400 runs at that point but when Warner fell for his excellent 107, the rest of the team fell apart. The Pakistani bowling was poor with one exception: Mohammad Amir became the leading wicket taker of this World Cup by taking five scalps. He now has 10 wickets in 3 matches. It would be funny and sad if he ends up being the leading wicket-taker of the tournament while not even making the semi-finals.

Anyway, let's see if Pakistan batting shows up to chase this or if they crumble like they did in the sorry 1999 World Cup final.

Update
Pakistan scored 266 all out in 45.4 overs. The failures of Zaman, Malik, and Ali hurt them in the end. Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz showed the middle order how to take risks.

"We probably made more mistakes," was Sarfaraz's candid and accurate assessment of this error-ridden game. "We won a good toss. The pitch was helping fast bowlers. We didn't bowl in the right areas. Until 30 overs, we were just not up to the mark. Batting, little, little mistakes. There was a partnership between Babar and Imam, Babar got out soft, Imam, Fakhar [Zaman] also, the entire top four got out to very soft dismissals."

That's it really and it leads to the simplest truth. You can't afford this many mistakes at any level of any sport, let alone at a World Cup.

Yup. Also, when three batsmen -- Zaman, Malik, and Ali -- score 5 runs combined, then chasing 300+ is nearly impossible.

Next big game? India vs. New Zealand tomorrow.

Next really big game? India vs. Pakistan on Sunday. Big things are expected from Zaman. We know what he's capable of. Pakistan has five games left. If he goes supernova soon, then Pakistan still have a chance.


Rain, rain, go away!

The match is abandoned. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will split points for this one, as 2019 becomes the World Cup with the most abandoned games. Just to explain the distinction between 'Abandoned' and 'No Result', let me quote Varun Shetty here: "A match is called Abandoned if no toss happens - today will be the second instance in this World Cup, making it the highest number of abandoned games in a WC.

Horrible for the spectators and even worse for the weaker teams who needed the points to have a chance of making the semi-finals. The weather has now spoiled three games in only five days!

New Zealand benefits the most as they are undefeated with 6 points. It would be utterly shocking if the Kiwis didn't make the semi-finals.


CWC 2019 - Favorites clash

The two winners of the previous two World Cups collided today. India scored a mammoth 352/5 and then Australia had a bizarre batting display. The run rate just kept on climbing till Maxwell was sent out but then it was too little too late. The Aussies should have sent Maxwell at three or four for his much needed firepower.

Australia had a rather sluggish start; Warner laboured to his slowest ODI fifty. Fifty of Warner's 84 balls were dots. Smith made a more fluent fifty and Carey hit Australia's fastest World Cup fifty, but the rapidly rising asking rate was simply too much to overcome.

50 dot balls out of 84 when chasing 353! That built up way too much pressure on the rest of the team. Let's see what happens on Wednesday when the disappointed and likely furious Aussies take on the mercurial Pakis.


World Cup points table

The match today between Pakistan and Sri Lanka didn't happen because of rain. This means that both teams get one point which puts them in the top four in the table!

Given the performances so far, Afghanistan, South Africa, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka won't make the semi-finals. So, the real battles come down to England, India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and West Indies. I think that Pakistan and West Indies will likely not make the cut. However, they are capable and unpredictable. Not to mention the rain factor.

Australia, as usual, looks like the strongest side. Their ability to thrive under pressure is absolutely stunning. The magnificent bastards have won four of the last five World Cups. They are, again, the team to beat in the grand tournament.


Pressure vs. Nothing to lose

In the third ODI of the series on May 14, 2019, Pakistan smashed 358/9 in 50 overs. That's a very respectable score in the modern cricket game. Plus, Pakistan are known for their bowling riches. Surely, such a high score was sufficient for a win.

Nope. England won. It was shocking just how comfortable it was for them. Pakistan could have built a mountain of 400 epic runs and they would have still lost. England's batting firepower is immense. They bitch-slapped Pakistan repeatedly and won the series 4-0. The last game was played on May 19.

And then the World Cup started. Today, it was England vs. Pakistan. England is ranked number one in the universe. Pakistan had lost eleven consecutive matches. Their worst losing streak in history.

Pakistan scored 348/8 in 50 overs. No team has ever successfully chased over 300 runs in the World Cup. Root and Buttler scored fantastic centuries but it just wasn't enough from England. In fact, they became the first team to lose a World Cup match with centuries from two players. The entire bowling unit of Pakistan showed up. Amir now has five wickets from two matches. Riaz took three today. If they keep firing, then Pakistan will be responsible for a few more upsets. At least, the World Cup has become a lot more exciting.


T10 Cricket World Cup?

Pakistan 105 all out. They fell 300 runs short.

Now, it's the Chris Gayle show. He just got his blistering half-century as Pakistan get absolutely crushed in their opening game.

Seriously? 105 runs!

Update
West Indies annihilated Pakistan today:

218- Margin of defeat for Pakistan in terms of balls remaining in their Word Cup opener against West Indies. This is their biggest defeat in World Cup history. In fact, in ODI cricket, they have suffered only one bigger defeat, which also came against West Indies, in Cape Town in 1993.

Another nail in the coffin:

11- Number of consecutive defeats for Pakistan in completed ODIs. They lost four ODIs to England, five to Australia and one to South Africa before heading into the World Cup. This is their longest losing streak in ODIs. The previous worst was 10 losses in a row between October 1987 and March 1988.

Hard to believe that the same team won the Champions Trophy two years ago.


Cricket World Cup

England, the favorites, beat South Africa very convincingly by over a 100 runs. The best part is the English batting: four players scored half-centuries. Then, the bowlers, er, choked the South African scoring.

Oh, how it could have been different had the magnificent AB de Villiers not retired last year. All the teams play nine matches before the top four go forward with the semi-finals. This would have been an excellent stage for a dynamite player like de Villiers. 


Gritty but inadequate

Afghanistan has a spirited team but they are no match for the number one side in ODI cricket. Today, they were utterly destroyed. England ruthlessly chased 160 in 17.3 overs. It would have been entertaining but cruel to see what would have happened if England batted first.

Afghanistan is going to be thrashed by powerful teams like Australia, India, and New Zealand in the next month. Let's see how well they fight.


The Great One agrees

What I wrote in February:

I expect to see these four teams in the semi-finals: India, Australia, England, and New Zealand.

I wrote this just a few days ago:

In the World Cup, Pakistan can beat the minnows and they might even take down a contender. However, they won't be getting anywhere near the trophy because their bowling is bizarrely weak and their batsmen can't handle pressure. [...] They will probably be ranked #5 in the grand tournament when it's done.

Today, Sachin Tendulkar made his prediction:

Who are your probable semifinalists?

India, England, Australia should be in the semis. The fourth could be one of New Zealand or Pakistan.

Cool. Based on recent strength, it would be nice to see an India vs. England final with England finally winning a Cricket World Cup.


ODI no. 4140

Chris Woakes destroys Pakistan in two overs by taking three wickets and conceding zero runs! Now, Pakistan at 6/3 chasing 352. Unless Babar Azam plays the innings of his career, England will crush Pakistan by a 4-0 margin.

Yup. England won convincingly. The last five Pakistani players played shots and each scored in the double digits. The tenth wicket partnership was a shocking 47 runs. For contrast, the four main batsmen -- Zaman, Ali, Hafeez, and Malik -- scored a combined total of nine runs. That's how you don't chase 351 in ODI cricket.

In the World Cup, Pakistan can beat the minnows and they might even take down a contender. However, they won't be getting anywhere near the trophy because their bowling is bizarrely weak and their batsmen can't handle pressure. Azam is the best batsman in the team but his strike rate is not high enough to shift the balance. They will probably be ranked #5 in the grand tournament when it's done.


ODI no. 4138

The current ODI series between England and Pakistan has been a batting paradise for all players. A few figures:

1st ODI
England 373/3
Pakistan 361/7

2nd ODI
Pakistan 358/9
England 359/4 (in 44.5 overs!)

3rd ODI
Pakistan 340/7
England 341/7

Today, Pakistan became the first team in history to score 340 or more in three consecutive ODI matches. Then, just a few hours later, England became the second team to do so!

  • Pakistan's bowling is utterly mediocre. They likely would have failed to defend 400 in the 2nd ODI. Akram and Younis wept.
  • England's bowling isn't that great either. They haven't managed to get Pakistan out in three games. The Indian batsmen are going to give them serious trouble.
  • The pitches are made for batting. Never in history have two teams scored 340 or more in three successive innings and there's still one more match to go!

Conclusion: Quite a few batting records will be broken in the upcoming World Cup. Teams like England, Australia, South Africa, and India will likely smash 400+ runs against the weaker sides if they bat first.


The Aussies don't give up

Australia lost two games in the beginning but won the series 3-2 against India in India. To be fair, the Indians didn't have their full-strength team as they were experimenting with a few players. Still, the most worrying game for them must be the fourth ODI. They scored an absolutely mammoth 358 runs which should have won the series for them but the Aussies fought back and stunned everyone.

Virat Kohli was full of praise for their spirit:

"If you look at the overall scene, I think Australia deserved to win. They played with more passion, they played with more hunger and they played with more heart than us in the last three games. They were brave in the pressure situations compared to our side. The first two games we were on the mark but the last three games, the way they raised their intensity and the way they grabbed the pressure moments, they are deserving winners of the series."


Ireland murdered

Hazratullah Zazai annihilated the Irish bowlers today. Zazai smashed 16 sixes -- a new record -- and finished with 162 runs. It's astonishing that he didn't get out! Poor Ireland tried eight different bowlers. They all failed. Oh, another small matter: Afghanistan finished with the highest T20I total in history.

Now, Ireland start with a required run rate of 14.

Ireland lose by 84 runs. With one T20I to go, Afghanistan has a huge psychological edge.


June 16, 2019

The ICC and the 2019 World Cup organising committee remain confident that the tournament's biggest match, to be played between India and Pakistan on June 16 in Manchester, will go ahead despite the volatile situation between the two countries in the wake of a terrorist attack in Kashmir last week.

I'll be shocked if the match is cancelled.

With the World Cup starting in exactly 100 days, there are have been scattered voices that want India to boycott the group match against Pakistan. The fixture itself remains the biggest game of the tournament: nearly half a million applications for tickets poured in as soon as the ICC opened its ballot. Even the World Cup final, to be played on July 14 at Lord's, paled in comparison with about a quarter of a million applications.

India lost big in the Champions Trophy final. They have a score to settle. Pakistan has never beaten India in a World Cup match. They want to change that miserable history. The two teams will be fighting hard in front of a global audience of over one billion people. This means serious cash. It would be staggeringly stupid to boycott this match.


2019 World Cup

Can't disagree with this forecast:

Sachin Tendulkar believes India are "the favourites" to win the 2019 World Cup. Tendulkar's comments came two days after his former India team-mate Rahul Dravid, too, backed Virat Kohli's men to win a third World Cup for India.

Yup. India has the best batting line up in the world at the moment. Recently, their overall bowling has been uncharacteristically potent as well. I expect to see these four teams in the semi-finals: India, Australia, England, and New Zealand.

Pakistan can't win because they don't have the batting firepower and their bowling unit is weak. The South Africans are not bad but they have a habit of, er, dying before the finals.


T20I no. 734

South Africa scored an absolutely massive 29 runs in their last over which was crucial in making Pakistan crumble.

Babar Azam, the most valuable Pakistani batsman, scored 90 runs off 58 balls. That should be sufficient in a T20I chase of 189 runs. Unfortunately, the rest of the team combined scored 85 runs off 62 balls. That's how to lose a match and the series. With one game left, it's likely that the talented Azam will be the highest scorer in this series while his mediocre teammates lose every single match.