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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Two takeaways from the first week of the World Cup

The first week of the Cricket World Cup 2019, has given us a lot to talk about. Let us take a look at a few things that were not seen coming, have happened too within the first week of the 12th edition of the World Cup.

ND
Last updated: 07.06.2019
Two talking points of World Cup 2019 | Sports Social Blog

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All the pre-tournament build-up, excitement and anticipation have now settled down as we are past the first week of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and look forward to embracing the upcoming weeks at the marquee event, hoping to be thrilled by many more fascinating stories to follow.

World Cup cricket in UK has always been fun to follow and the first week at cricket’s greatest spectacle hasn’t disappointed us either. From Sri Lanka’s surrender against New Zealand to Bangladesh stunning the mighty Proteas to England’s upset at the hands of Pakistan, the first week of the World Cup has already entertained us with few interesting tales of unpredictability within the sport.

However, few things that were not seen coming, have happened too within the first week of the 12th edition of the World Cup.

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South Africa’s sensational derail in the first week where they ended up losing their first three matches including their agonizing defeat against Bangladesh was totally unexpected and equally shocking. Also, when everyone was anticipating a heavy batsmen centric, high scoring World Cup, to witness a fair competition between bat and ball in the first week of the World Cup was a refreshing change that we came across so far at the marquee event.

Let’s put into perspective the two takeaways from the first week of the World Cup 2019.

#1: A fair contest between bat and ball

In the series involving hosts England and Pakistan that concluded just a week and a half prior to the World Cup, we came across runs galore. Also, following a forgettable, dismal World Cup campaign in 2015, England, who underwent a complete transformation of their white-ball cricket, produced belter of pitches, extremely conducive for batting and stroke-making since the summer of 2015 in a bid to make themselves a batting powerhouse.

And the numbers tell you a story. From 2015 onwards in ODIs played in England, we came across a plethora of instances where batting units, with conditions aiding massive stroke-play, launched an onslaught right from the get-go and towering totals being put on the board was just a byproduct of England’s new strategy.

All these factors played a crucial role in the lead to the World Cup and made us believe, that an extremely high-scoring World Cup, an event dominated by the batsmen was well and truly on the cards.

We feared, that at the most glamorous tournament in cricketing calendar, are we going to witness a competition between the batting firepower of teams rather than a fair contest between bat and ball, denying the bowlers their due share, reducing them to be just like the spectators?

But, to everyone’s relief and for game’s good, the proceedings in the first week of the World Cup, restoring the balance between bat and ball have silenced our fears and World Cup’s possible nightmare, bringing about a refreshing, extremely needed change in the ways we approached ODI Cricket of late.

Statistically speaking, out of the 10 World Cup matches played so far, only two have witnessed both the teams scoring in excess of 300. Moreover, in 8 out of 20 innings, the teams have been bowled out and only on 5 instances so far, a team has recorded a 300-plus score.

In spite of small boundaries, sporting wickets and overcast conditions have helped bowlers immensely to have their say in the World Cup so far. Bowlers have managed to produce breakthroughs at regular intervals, thereby curbing the scoring rate and attacking instincts of the batsmen.

In a way, if one analyzes the scoring patterns of the batting side at this World Cup, they closely resemble the batting strategies of the early to mid-2000s, before the advent of T20 cricket. The batting units have managed to get quick-fire starts in the first powerplay. However, as soon as we approach the middle overs, bowlers with their variety have succeeded in stepping up by taking wickets and thereby putting the batting sides in a bit of stranglehold, controlling the flow of runs and making the life difficult for them. With an exception of few innings, the struggle of batting units in the middle overs has been a feature of this year’s World Cup so far.

An extremely high-scoring World Cup where batsmen would have plundered bowlers for plenty of runs would not have been fun and would have sucked the life out of the tournament itself. However, the start of the World Cup that has fascinated us with a healthy competition between bat and ball augurs extremely well for the rest of the World Cup.

#2: Is this the end of the road for South Africa at ICC World Cup 2019?

Three matches and three ignominious defeats so far, this has been an extremely sorry tale for South Africa at this year’s World Cup. Being comprehensively beaten not only by England but also by India and then being stunned by Bangladesh, would be severely painful to digest for the Proteas.

Dale Steyn has been ruled out of the tournament and South Africa were deprived of the services of their another first choice pacer Lungi Ngidi in their clash against India as the Proteas find themselves in dire straits following their three successive defeats right at the start of the World Cup.

However, injury concerns and their triple losses are just the parts of the big problem South Africa are facing as a plethora of other major issues hovers like dark clouds over the fortunes of Proteas at this World Cup.

Perhaps except the likes of their wicket-keeper batsman Quinton De Kock and skipper Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s batting of-late hasn’t looked convincing. Hashim Amla, once the pillar of Proteas batting at the top, now appears to be a subdued version of his old self. For another senior pro, JP Duminy’s recent numbers don’t justify his place in the side either and appear to be a rather emotional selection than a logical or performance based selection.

At this World Cup so far, most of the top order batsmen have got starts, but none of them have really gone on to convert their starts into a substantial, meaningful contribution. The inability of South African batsmen to carry on once they get in is heavily hurting their side’s fortunes.

In spite of their top order being a bit wobbly, they bat deep and lower order’s resilience bailed them out of a precarious situation against India.

Three matches are done and the Proteas have bite the dust so far at this World Cup. However, they still have six matches up against their sleeve and they virtually will need to win everything from here on if they fancy reaching the semi-finals of the marquee event.

Being led by an astute, confident and able leader in du Plessis, they would still believe in themselves to turn their fortunes in the next three weeks. However, as we know, a mathematical possibility of occurring an event is one thing and winning consistently on the field is totally another.

A semi-final spot is still not completely out of their reach, but it would need some inspired team effort from the Proteas to go a level one notch higher. With the opponents like West Indies, New Zealand, Pakistan and Australia lined up, the Proteas will need to play out of their skin if they wish to qualify for the semi-final.

Having faced triplet of losses in as many matches, is this the end of the road for 2015 semi-finalists at this year’s World Cup? Or will they rise from this crisis and disappointments to showcase a staggering comeback story to achieve something spectacular?

It would indeed be fascinating to follow South Africa’s journey from here on at this year’s World Cup!


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