Though the 2015 World Cup has come to a close, it will be remembered for a long time. It was a tournament of hope and belief. Ireland almost reached the knock-outs, South Africa broke their World Cup jinx and India burst through their summer slump with flying colours. It was also a tournament of tumbling records and unimaginable performances, from Kumar Sangakkara’s four consecutive tonnes to Martin Guptill’s incredible 237 against the West Indies.
Had the ICC removed the associate nations this year it would have been a very different tournament. Some of the most thrilling games were between the smaller nations. Turnout might not have been what it was at India v South Africa but for true cricketing fanatics they were some of the most exhilarating matches. Ireland and the UAE fought tooth and nail until the very end and Afghanistan’s Samiullah Shenwari rallied the lower order to beat Scotland by one wicket. Not only did the associates test each other, they challenged the top nations. Afghanistan gave Sri Lanka a run for their money and only a classy century from Mahela Jayawardena helped Sri Lanka pull through. Scotland gave New Zealand a big scare as they picked off seven wickets defending 142 and Ireland chased down a massive 304 against the West Indies. It was a huge step towards breaking down barriers between the test playing nations and the associate members.
The pinnacle of the group stage matches however was between the two host nations Australia and New Zealand. It was not about the chase. It was not about the batsmen. It was the bowlers that stole the show. Something all too rare in modern one day cricket. The entire match lasted the length of one innings. 80-1 was a great start for Australia but it was a collapse from there as the next eight wickets fell for 26 runs. Australia reached a mere total of 151 with Trent Boult picking off five wickets. However an astounding bowling performance from Mitchell Starc brought the game down to the last wicket.
This World Cup will be remembered for more than just nail-biting games. It will be remembered as the year of triumph for many teams. For Bangladesh it was beating England to make it to their first quarter-final. For South Africa it was winning their first knock-out game and for New Zealand it was making it to their first World Cup final. Bangladesh.
Though England had lost to Australia New Zealand and Sri Lanka, it was never expected that they would not qualify for the knock-outs. They had been going through a rough phase in all forms of cricket but in particular, ODI cricket. Eoin Morgan was only handed the captaincy just before the start of the tournament. However unlike Jason Holder who led the West Indies from the front, Morgan was unable to marshal his troops. Nevertheless Bangladesh deserve full credit for the win. They were a young a passionate team and they showed that heart and belief can breed dreams.
The quarter-finals brought out some phenomenal cricket. It was almost clear which teams would pull through the games but that didn’t make it in any way dull. Martin Guptill scored the highest individual score as he racked up 200+ runs alone within 50 overs. Wahab Riaz put on one of the most phenomenal bowling spells in history. It was possibly the most captivating 10 minutes of the World Cup until Rahat Ali dropped that pivotal catch.
The game of the tournament was not the final. The final was in fact it was a fairly anti-climactic end to the spectacular tournament as Australia bowled out New Zealand for 183 and chased it down with seven wickets to spare. It was the first semi-final that upstaged both the other semi-final the final itself. The game between New Zealand and South Africa reminded the world exactly why it loves cricket. It was an unbelievable performance with both teams pouring their hearts into the game. It was one of the most captivating games of cricket where the game went down to the second last ball of the final over. For cricket lovers there was a small hope for a Hunger Games finish where both teams could pull through together. However it was New Zealand with the help of Grant Elliot that made it through to their first final. It was a beautiful end to the game as Elliot gave a hand to help a broken Dale Steyn up off the ground.
Australia won the 2015 World Cup to make it their fifth ever title. They initially had a choppy start as their team changed on one too many occasions. However they pulled together as a unit just at the right time to beat Pakistan, thrash India and swoop in to claim the cup.
The semi finals of the World Cup 2015 showed the world both faces of cricket. The ugliest side and the most beautiful.
South Africa were facing New Zealand on the 24th of March in Auckland. Neither team had ever made it to a World Cup final and they were here facing each other in an attempt to make it their first. Both teams knew they could not both make it through to the finals and that this would be a fight to the last second. Considering the pressure on both teams to make it through to the finals, it was possibly the cleanest and purest game of cricket ever. It was also the most heart-breaking.
Both teams were coming into the semi-final from unbelievable wins. South Africa had smashed through Sri Lanka and beaten them with nine wickets in hand. New Zealand with an unbelievable performance from Martin Guptill had beaten the West Indies by 143 runs. South Africa were batting first at the Eden Park ground. They got off to a fairly slow start and Trent Boult who has been New Zealand’s key this tournament picked off the openers cheaply. Rilee Rossouw and Faf du Plessis slowly built back up. At 114 it was Corey Anderson who got the break through and removed Rossouw. Next in was AB de Villers. The man who could completely take the game away from New Zealand. It was a wonderful partnership from du Plessis and de Villiers. They ran well between the wicket and picked up the run rate. The two built up a 100 run partnership before the rain came to New Zealand’s aid. It wasn’t the first time rain had interfered with a South African World Cup knock-out game and it had never ended well for them especially when Duckworth-Lewis came into play. The game was reduced to 43 overs and South Africa needed to push on quickly with roughly six overs to go. Unfortunately du Plessis was removed almost immediately after play restarted and de Villiers found it hard to get going straight away. However David Miller came to their rescue as he smashed 49 off 18 balls and pushed South Africa up to 281.
Duckworth Lewis changed New Zealand’s target to 298 from 43 overs. It wasn’t an easy target but it was easier than the one South Africa were heading for before the rain. McCullum set off in true McCullum style, without any inhibitions he bludgeoned 59 from 26 off South Africa’s World Class fast bowlers. It was just the start that New Zealand needed to begin the chase. He brought down the required rate to a mere six per over. South Africa however continued to pick off wickets and pushed ahead. Kane Williamson was removed early and just as partnerships began to build up, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor got out. It was looking as though New Zealand might finally crumble under the pressure but a brilliant partnership between Corey Anderson and Grant Elliott kept the game alive. They put on a 103 run partnership before Anderson was removed. The game was still in the balance, both teams fighting with all their might. New Zealand still needed 46 from the last five overs.
The final over came and New Zealand needed 12 runs off the last 6 balls. It was not an easy ask with Dale Steyn bowling. Both teams were still well in the game. The intensity grew and New Zealand needed five from two when Elliott smashed a six out of the ground. As the ball crashed down it brought the dreams of the South African’s down with it. Dale Steyn fell to the floor and Grant Elliott went over to give him a hand before going to celebrate. There was an unbelievable amount of respect shown by both teams and it was possibly the most bitter-sweet ending to any cricket game.
The second semi final however was all but that. It was however, a game of sheer aggression in the wrong way. Both teams had faced issues with each other in the past and India’s new and younger side were much more ready to give what they got from Australia. The crowd atmosphere was almost mucky in places and tainted with bitterness of Bangladeshi supporters who had come specifically to boycott the Indians. This was India’s biggest test of the tournament. They hadn’t faced a significant challenge in the group matches or the quarter-finals.
It all began well with India removing David Warner early. Bowling Australia out was always going to be their biggest issue. In particular Steve Smith who had played so brilliantly against India over the summer. Smith and Aaron Finch put on an incredible 182 run partnership. India looked like they were back in the test series, unable to pick up a wicket. Smith was finally removed and Glenn Maxwell was sent in early to keep the momentum going and as always he got off to a flyer before he was removed by Ravi Ashwin. Two quick wickets fell as Finch and captain Michael Clarke fell leaving Australia 248-5 at 43. It wasn’t a great start but India had pulled it back from what could have been a 350+ run total. The game still got away from India however as James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson put on great cameos to bring Australia up to 328. An incredibly tough ask.
As the game went on it just got more sullied. India got off to a flyer with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The pair put on a great first wicket partnership of 76 runs from 13 overs. There were some loose shots and some lucky misses but the openers had taken some pressure off. Once the Australian’s broke through that first partnership, India could just not get another one to stick. Virat Kohli got out for one. Had Kohli stuck around he was likely to be the man to get the brunt of it. However it all fell on the in-form Suresh Raina who had pulled India through on more than one occassion this World Cup. Mitchell Starc attacked Raina and on one occasion threw the ball at the stumps to hit Raina before appealing for obstruction. The atmosphere changed from there. The Indian fans had gone silent. There was no fight left. No one put up a fight except the captain MS Dhoni but he could not finish the game by himself. India fell 94 runs short of the total. It was a weak fight from them that left everyone disappointed. They had the ability to win, or at least make Australia really sweat but their run finally came to an end.
Australia had bowled beautifully to restrict India but it was a bitter end to the game.
Two of the strongest teams coming into the World Cup, the game on Thursday the 26th of March is going to one of pure intensity. India, unbeaten in the group stages are coming in strong with contributions from each of their players. Virat Kohli kicked off the season smashing a century against Pakistan. Shikhar Dhawan pulled off two centuries with Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma also jumping in on the century bandwagon. Batting was never the big question for India, it’s their bowling that has let them down in the past. However with a fit Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami they have pulled out 70 wickets from seven games. The spinners have also contributed massively towards India’s success with Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja also taking wickets.
Australia have had a more interesting run up to the semi-final. They had lost their game against New Zealand as their batting line-up crumbled. It was only an incredible bowling performance from Mitchell Starc that helped them save face. The quarter-final against Pakistan also highlighted the chinks in Australia’s armour. Wahab Riaz bowled as if he was reading from a manual of how to pick off the Australian batsmen. He should have had four wickets had Pakistan taken their catches.
The fact that the game is being played at the SCG is a huge factor. It is almost a dream pitch for India, as good a pitch as they could ask for in Australia. Ravi Ashwin will be key in India’s bowling attack. Imran Tahir bowled phenomenally against Sri Lanka at the quarter final and backed up by JP Duminy they picked seven out of the ten wickets. A number that may unnerve the hosts. They have so far only used a specialist spinner once in Xavier Doherty and if they choose to change their team dynamic again to suit the pitch it may work against them. India have used the same 11 throughout the tournament, with Shami resting for one game only. They have settled as a unit and they compliment each other well.
Australia are likely to continue with their brand of aggressive cricket in an attempt to wind up the Indians, in particular Virat Kohli. They will look to throw him off his game from the start. However as with Riaz, Kohli can change the game in an instant. If he gets fired up and gets into the game, India will be flying back to the MCG for the finals against New Zealand.
Pakistan had made it into the quarter finals after more than just a rough start. They had been crushed by their arch rivals India and then fell to an embarassing 1-4 facing the West Indies before collapsing for 160. It was not unexpected that Pakistan would suffer with three of their front-line bowlers being injured or barred from the competition but their performance had been well below par. However they came back to beat South Africa who had just posted back-to-back 400+ totals. It was a low scoring game where Pakistan defended 222. They bowled South Africa out for 202 and the game brought back painful memories of the 2011 quarter final between New Zealand and South Africa. In doing so, Pakistan scraped into the quarter finals and pushed Ireland out.
Even though Pakistan were missing some key players, they still had a decent bowling attack. It was their batting had let them down on more than one occassion and this day was no different. Had they been able to reach 250-260+ they would have been in with a real chance.
Both openers were removed cheaply once again. Haris Sohail and Pakistan’s saviour Misbah Ul Haq came together at the crease and put on a decent partnership. The pair batted well and built up the innings again. However on 97 Misbah was caught in the deep. From then on, the innings began to collapse. The Pakistani batsmen got out to rash shots and bad placement of the ball. Umar Akmal smashed the ball straight down Finch’s throat. A few metres either side and it would have been a boundary. Four of the Pakistani batsmen were caught out in the field. They used the batting powerplay poorly and even though a small cameo from Shahid Afridi kept the spirit of the fans up it was not enough to push the team up to a defendable total.
The Australians lived up to their name as the aggressors. They taunted the tail-enders, in particular Wahab Riaz. Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson mockingly explained what a cricket ball was and that he should try and hit it. They fired up Riaz, a decision Watson would later come to regret. Had someone put a thermometer anywhere near Riaz it would have burst. The hosts finally plowed through the tail end and Pakistan finished on 213 runs.
The fact that Australia won by six wickets does not do the match justice. Pakistan bowled masterfully. The opening bowlers pulled off great lines and lengths and Sohail Khan had Finch lbw early on. However that wasn’t going to be enough. Pakistan needed a big breakthrough. They needed a gamechanger, and that’s just what they got. At the first bowling change, Wahab Riaz was brought in. Still fired up from his encounter with Starc and Watson he was ready to take on the entire Australian team single handedly. Riaz bowled with the aggression of Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson togehter in every single delivery. He took down David Warner with his 3rd delivery and bounced out Michael Clarke with his 10th. Australia were 59-3 and Riaz was not finished. He peppered Watson with the short ball and Watson could not get away. The tension between the two was explosive. Steve Smith was playing well at the other end but nothing else was relevant when Riaz came steaming in to bowl at Watson. He finally cracked under the pressure playing a release shot straight to Rahat Ali. Australia were about to be 83-4. Then Rahat Ali dropped the catch. There are no second chances when you’re defending 213, each chance and half chance needs to be taken. Even at 83-4 it would have been difficult to win but it was a knock-out game and Watson’s return to the dressing room could have thoroughly rattled the hosts.
With the dropped catch it was as though the fight had been drained from the team. Riaz bowled one too many overs in the hope to recreate Watson’s mistake but he began to tire and Watson finally got away. Along with Smith they breezed through to 148 before Smith was caught out lbw by Ehsan Adil. As the partnership broke Riaz was brought back for one final fight. Another catch off his bowling went down, luckily for Glenn Maxwell, which could have left Australia 154-5. It was not meant to be. It appeared only Riaz was in the fight against Australia. Watson and Maxwell finished off the innings and with it pushed Australia into the semi-finals.
No matter the result, the game will be rememebered for Wahab Riaz’s unyielding spell. A spell that would go down in history as one of the greatest.
On Saturday the 28th of February, India were playing the UAE. No one expected the UAE to beat India but they hadn’t gone down without a fight thus far and were still supposed to give India a proper game. 80% of the crowd appeared to be India fans as they had all arrived early in anticipation of the India vs West Indies game on Friday the 6th. The UAE had posted 285 and 278 against Zimbabwe and Ireland respectively in their first two games. That may not sound impressive considering their oppositions but Zimbabwe had taken South Africa’s top four batsmen out for only 83 runs in their last game.
However it all unravelled for the UAE as their batsmen dropped like flies. They were only just able to muster 102 in 32 overs with the help of Shaiman Anwar who top scored with 35. Even the Indian fans were cheering when Anwar smashed a few boundaries. It looked all too easy for India as they picked off the UAE and then went on chase the total in 19 overs only losing one wicket. Tea was taken with 15 runs to go to try and extend the game for the fans but the stadium slowly emptied in the half hour as the result was inevitable.
The whole game lasted 50.2 overs. It was over before it had even started.
The day however had a stark opposite match going elsewhere. Australia were playing New Zealand. The two big dogs of the tournament. It was an epic low-scoring game of top class bowling. It may have been one of the shortest games of the tournament but it was the most thrilling.
The kiwis had been having an incredible run so far, their bowling attack had ripped though Scotland and England and they were hungry for more. Australia had only played one game in the tournament so far but had shown their worth in the Carlton Tri-series against India and England.
Australia were batting first and they got off to a blinder. Aaron Finch and David Warner smashed 30 off the first two overs. The start however, was unsustainable and Finch was bowled. Australia did not lose all their momentum though, Warner and Shane Watson continued and reached 80 runs before Watson was removed. Even at 80-2 from 13 overs it looked good for Australia, it looked like they were headed for a big score and that it would be an incredible chase from New Zealand. That was not the case. Daniel Vettori’s removal of Watson sparked something in the New Zealand bowlers and kicked off a chain reaction. Within nine overs, Australia had gone from 80-2 (a respectable start) to 106-9. It was an incredible collapse spearheaded by Trent Boult who picked off five wickets and only gave away 27 runs. Brad Haddin and Pat Cummins played through another 10 overs to bring Australia up to 151 before Haddin mishit one straight into the hands of the sub fielder. It was almost unbelievable to watch Australia’s power hitters crumble to good old fashioned swing bowling. It showed just how ready New Zealand were to claim the title of World Cup champions.
The game wasn’t over though and chasing 150 can almost be as tough as chasing 350. New Zealand had already had a little trouble chasing down a small total against Scotland. New Zealand’s innings began in a remarkably similar way to Australia’s. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum looked like they were out to prove something as they smashed fours and sixes all over the place. McCullum caused some panic as he took a ball from Mitchell Johnson to the arm, just to add to the drama of the day. The pair were going at 10 an over until Guptill was removed in the fourth over. McCullum and Kane Williamson continued just as Warner and Watson had until McCullum was removed after making his 50. At 78-2, New Zealand would have still been happy. However, another collapse was written into the story as Ross Taylor and Grant Elliot followed McCullum in the next over. New Zealand were now at 79-4. Still they had nothing to fear with Kane Williamson at the crease and a target of only 152. Williamson and Corey Anderson came together to bring New Zealand right to the brink of victory. They built up again and at 131 it all looked all too easy, but the story wasn’t over. There was one final twist as Corey Anderson was removed. New Zealand somehow ended up going from 131-4 to 146-9 with eight runs needed and one wicket in hand. Boult the hero from the firt innings was the last man in to join Williamson who was there throughout to watch the whole Kiwi innings unravel. Boult came out to face a pumped up Mitchell Starc who had picked off six of the wickets with some phenomenal bowling. Bowler against bowler, Boult faced two balls from Starc and survived. He gave Williamson the opportunity to finish the game off and Williamson finished it in style. The winning runs came from a six off Pat Cummins. The Kiwi’s had won by one wicket.
It was an extraordinary performace and one that both teams will learn from. If the World Cup final is as competitive as this game was, it will be incredible.
Over the past week the warm-up matches have shown exactly why this world cup is going to be an exciting one. Of the last 14 pre tournament games there have been some expected wins but more importantly there have been some surprising wins and some very close games! The World Cup title is very much still up for grabs.
The warm-up games began with Australia beating the 2011 World Cup champions. As expected, India’s bowling attack were not up to scratch. They conceded too many runs and did not seem to challenge the Australian batsmen at all. Both David Warner and Glen Maxwell (who performed incredibly with the bat in the 2014 IPL) scored centuries and led Australia to a score of 371 runs. In response India were only able to muster 265 all out. However it was a great start for Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and especially for Shikhar Dhawan (who had been out of form) as they all scored half centuries. Luckily for India the only really troublesome pace attack they will face through the group stages is South Africa’s and so they have a chance to improve before facing the hosts.
The next match went down as expected with South Africa beating Sri Lanka, however they only won through D/L and were five wickets down for 188 chasing 279, it could have gone either way. Match four however was where the interesting things really began. England bowled out the West Indies team for 122 runs, and then went on to beat them with nine wickets and 163 balls to spare. Despite this crushing win, England then went on to lose their second warm-up game to Pakistan.
The biggest surprise of the warm-up though, came from Scotland. Not only did they crush Ireland by a margin of 179 runs, but they went on to score 310 runs chasing West Indies’ score of 313 in their second game, an incredible start from an associate nation. Though they have done extremely well in the warm up games, Scotland will find it extremely difficult to qualify. Being in pool A they will face both host nations who are in great nick along with England and Sri Lanka. Expectations of Ireland were not diminished fully even after their crushing loss to Scotland though. They went on to bowl Bangladesh out for less than 200 and chased down the runs in 47 overs. With the pools in favour of Ireland, we could still see them in the quarter finals.
Unfortunately once again South Africa’s World Cup antics continue as they lost their warm up game against New Zealand, they very much missed the pace and aggression of Dale Steyn and the stability of Hashim Amla. New Zealand who seem to have peaked at the perfect time piled on the runs scoring a total of 331 runs. South Africa then went on to score a total of 197 all out with only JP Duminy making a significant contribution to the batting. Regardless of two key players being rested, considering the quality of the rest of the team and their recent form it was extremely surprising they ended up 62-6 from 14 overs. If South Africa rely so heavily on these two players they will have a serious problem if one of them gets injured during the tournament.
Once again, Australia appear to be on top and ready to take the title but it could well end up being an epic clash of the hosts in the finals.
After the controversial exclusion of key players by boards, the removal of some prominent spinners for their bowling action, fielding changes to make life even harder for the bowlers, removal of the super overs, the reinstatement of super over for the final, the blocking of associate nations and the reinstatement of them, the ICC 2015 World Cup is finally ready to begin.
A few new associate members will be joining the 14 in this year’s World Cup. Of those in the 2011 World Cup, only Ireland remains to fight another day. Hopefully they will cause a few more upsets this year to make the group stages just that little bit more tantalising. Ireland will be fired up especially after they weren’t even given the chance to qualify even though they had scored more runs than England in ODIs when the squads were announced. As unlikely as it might be, Ireland could make it past group stages if they play well and have a little luck, especially with West Indies missing three key players including Sunil Narine and Pakistan missing their top ranked bowler Saeed Ajmal. Also with the associates in question for the 2019 World Cup, Ireland have nothing to lose.
Bar the small possibility of Ireland qualifying, there is no room to question the other nations. Australia and New Zealand both have home advantage and are coming into the tournament on a high. South Africa have been smashing more and more records and as usual are expected to fly through the group stages with ease. India will need to work a lot harder than they did for the 2011 World Cup, their bowlers lack the pace required in Australia and with the new fielding rules their front line bowlers will have a much harder task. Dhoni’s men will be relying heavily on their batsmen who though are all match winners, will need to step up if they want to retain the Cup. Especially Shikhar Dhawan who appears to be completely out of sorts. However it is never so easy to rule India out when it comes to a World Cup. Sri Lanka have the experience and skill to get through the group stages but if Lasith Malinga’s fitness keeps him out, they are not likely to make it through the quarter finals unless Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara can work some magic. England under the leadership of Eoin Morgan look fresher than they have looked in a while. Their bowling side looks invigorated and they have had a chance to get a feel for the Aussie conditions. Though overall this year there appear to be three main contenders for the title.
The 2015 World Cup is probably the best shot New Zealand have ever had of winning. Led by the vastly skilled and experienced Brendon McCullum, the black caps could easily be heading to the MCG on the 29th of March. For the first time in a long time, New Zealand look like a competitive team. For once, when talking about the squad there is more than one name worth mentioning in both bowling and batting, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson are both at the top of their game and the side has been blessed with a solid middle order who could each take New Zealand over the line. However, they haven’t had the easiest of rides, nerves have played a huge part in the past and if the team don’t start fresh and push those memories out of their minds, the may end up on the same path again.
Australia under the leadership of Michael Clarke most definitely have what it takes to win the Cup. With David Warner in full form and explosive players like James Faulkner they wont have much to worry about, especially with bowlers like Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood to back them up. With the home side advantage, it would have been easy to say this would be Australia’s year. However, there is one major problem Australia face, Michael Clarke’s hamstring. The entire outcome of the tournament could well change from this one muscle of this one man. In his absence, Steve Smith who played superbly during the India series would captain the side. Smith captained Australia through the Test series against India and has shown his skill as a batsman but under tight pressure situations, he showed cracks and became agitated more than once. With the pressure on through the series and the fiery nature of the Aussie side, Clarke’s calming presence might be necessary for Australia to win.
Last but by no means least, possibly the most entertaining World Cup side who have missed out on so many occasions due to dropped catches, run outs and rain rules. South Africa, the top ranked Test team, with some of the best batsmen and bowlers in the world right now will always on paper look competitive. However, that is just not enough, South Africa have made a habit of getting themselves into situations where one minor slip knocks them out of the tournament. It is surprising that haven’t ever won an ICC World Cup especially with batsmen like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers who just recently broke roughly four records in one match and bowlers like Dale Steyn. Though this time round, South Africa look much more settled with their side even through the middle order. If they can hold onto their catches and if de Villiers can avoid any run outs, South Africa may have more than a chance of claiming their first title.
Overall, Australia seem to have a slight upper hand though. Even without Michael Clarke the hosts appear to have found a well balanced team with a lot of fire and they could well pull it off.
The entire cricketing world stopped spinning on the 25th of November. It remained frozen in time as Australia and the rest of the world mourned the loss of Philip Hughes until the first test between India and Australia began at the Adelaide Oval on the 9th of December.
The opening ceremony of the test was a beautifully dedicated moment towards Hughes. 408 was painted onto the pitch, Hughes was named 13th man and the crowd applauded for 63 seconds in honour of Hughes’ final score.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, David Warner was clear from the start on his intent. He smashed three fours from both the second and third over and seemed to be in as great form as ever. It took until the fourth over for a bouncer to be bowled by a brave Varun Aaron and cricket finally started to feel normal again. India removed Chris Rogers and Shane Watson fairly quickly but fell behind as Warner continued to score at more than a run-a-ball. By the 25th over, he had scored 77 runs and raised his bat twice at 50 and 63 to once again commemorate his teammate .
David Warner and Michael Clarke dominated the Indian bowlers through the day. They seemed untroubled and Warner reached his century with ease. Clarke’s injuries flared up again and he retired hurt on 60 with Australia at 206-2 giving India the chance to break through with a new unsettled batsman. Steve Smith who has been in great form continued in the place of Clarke and pushed the score on. Australia went on to score an immense 517 runs with three centurions including Smith who ended on 162 not out, Warner and Clarke who came back out to play after retiring hurt.
517 seemed like a daunting total in itself but appeared almost laughably unattainable considering the very young Indian team, their performance in England, and the fact that they were playing away against the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris under the stand-in captain Virat Kohli.
India’s innings got off to a much slower start than Australia’s and Shikhar Dhawan fell early chopping one onto his stumps. Cheteshwar Pujara steadied the innings scoring 73, he seemed much more comfortable here than in England. Murali Vijay fell on 53 to bring Virat Kohli out. On the first ball, Kohli was hit on the helmet from a bouncer by Johnson and the entire Australian team which had a reputation for being aggressive and intimidating rushed to his side. It seemed that Australia had changed.
Kohli, like Pujara, appeared much more comfortable here than in England, he went on to score an incredible century. With contributions from Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma, India ended on what was a respectable total of 444. Except for Kohli, four of India’s top batsmen appeared to settle into the innings with three scoring half centuries and yet they all got out without converting their figures into big scores.
Australia still had a 73 run lead and built up their lead on day four to 363 runs with David Warner scoring another century in the test. This was the second time Warner scored two centuries in one test this year. Only five other batsmen had ever achieved this. Tensions rose during his innings as Warner was given out to a ball and then recalled after it was deemed a no ball. Warner taunted Varun Aaron as he came back having been given a send off by the bowler and captain. Dhawan also got involved and cricket appeared to be recovering to its fiercely passionate self once again.
Day 5. Target for Australia: 10 wickets. Target for India: 364 runs.
The target for India would have been a draw had it been an older team or a different captain. In fact a draw would have been the target for most teams. Virat Kohli however, had his sights set on the win. At no point did India look like they would attempt to bat through the day to draw the game.
Dhawan and Pujara fell early, the pitch was a truly intimidating day five pitch and no team would have liked to be chasing a 300+ total on it.
Kohli came onto the pitch to join Vijay and the game changed. The first debut captain to score two centuries in an test. He appeared to be floating above the ground, he did not put a foot wrong. On a pitch that would have had any batsman second guessing himself, Kohli had reached his zone. Vijay was at one end playing on the day five pitch and scored an admirable 99 whilst Kohli was playing as though it was day 1 again and India were batting first.
Another twist in the match occurred again just as India were cruising as Vijay fell to Nathan Lyon. Rahane and Sharma couldn’t hold on either as Lyon bested them with his sharp turn and bounce. On 141, Kohli appeared to momentarily come out of his trance as he mishit one straight to Mitchell Marsh. Possibly the most gut wrenching moment for Kohli who had brought India within 60 runs of what could have been one of the most incredible wins ever.
The final three wickets fell quickly and Australia had won the first test by 48 runs with Nathan Lyon taking a seven of the wickets in the fourth innings.
The match was truly competitive game that brought in every aspect of the sport. Through its aggressiveness, passion and record breaking cricket it was the perfect way to get the cricketing world spinning again.
The ODI series started very much the way the test series began, with India looking strong and competitive. England should still feel like they have a chance considering their performance against India in the Test series and Virat Kohli still being out of form even in the format he thrives in.
It’s a shame that India are able to get more in one 50 over match than they are able to get in two innings during a test match. In the fifth test, India could only muster 242, scoring 62 runs less than they did in the ODI. They have some very skillful players with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar but their attitude and mindset towards Test match cricket must change if they hope to become a competitive side.
Suresh Raina, the man who was brought out at number 11 during the warm-up game came in at number five to score his first century outside Asia, and his first since Jan 2010. Raina was left out of the Asia Cup in March so he had a lot to prove, especially outside India. His place in the ICC 2015 World Cup is still not secure though, he will have to continue to prove himself over the next few series’.
However, India were expected to do well in the one day format. A real thriller was going on in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare. South Africa and Australia were battling it out in their first head-to-head of the Tri-series.
Australia batted first and led by Aaron Finch who scored a century, posted a decent total of 327 with Phillip Hughes and Captain George Bailey also scoring half centuries. South Africa’s bowling was relatively poor and lacking in control, Wayne Parnell in particular appeared to be out of sorts ending up with an economy rating on 9.42.
However as always, AB de Villiers was the star of the show scoring 136. Alongside childhood friend Faf du Plessis, who scored his maiden ODI hundred, the two put on a partnership of 206. Once again, as he has done so often for South Africa, de Villiers displayed real strength and grit to see the match through even though he suffered severe cramp and needed on-field treatment. Benching Nathan Lyon might have been the deciding factor in the match, with figures of 2-45, South African spinner Imran Tahir was the most economical of the game.
Of the last five ODI losses Australia have faced, including yesterday’s game, four of them have been 300+ scores. It seems Australia have a lot of work to do on their bowling.