Afghanistan v West Indies World Cup ODI

It wasn’t quite as hot as Saturday but yet again Afghanistan flirted with the idea of causing an upset at Headingley only to fall short one more time. Three times in this competition they’ve could’ve achieved seismic victories but failed to do so.

West Indies were solid if unspectacular with the bat but still finished with enough to leave Afghanistan requiring in excess of a run-a-ball. Evin Lewis (58) was regaining his form, Shai Hope (77) was Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer (39) and Nicholas Pooran (58) upped the tempo and Jason Holder (45) with Carlos Brathwaite (14*) lifted the score to 311-6

After captain Gulbadin Naib’s World Cup horror show continued, Afghanistan were cruising courtesy of a 133-run partnership by Rahmat Shah (62) and Ikram Ali Khil. Never did I convince myself that they were actually going to win though. Every time the big screen informed those in the stadium that Afghanistan were ahead of where West Indies had been, you still knew that they needed to put their foot on the accelerator.

Shah was horrendously dropped by Sheldon Cottrell but fell soon after. I witnessed Ikram make a career best 24 (Previous best was 11) on Saturday and today, having been promoted to no. 3, he bested again with 86.

Cottrell, having not originally picked up that earlier drop, later claimed a very good catch and Fabian Allen, who’d already claimed one to silence the crowd, sealed the match with a stunner running backwards. The less said about his bowling or his career stats the better and the same goes for Hope’s atrocious wicketkeeping. Brathwaite claimed 4-63 but Kemar Roach (10-2-37-3) was the pick of the bowlers.

For the record, if I understood correctly from the multiple cries, the Caribbean colours draped West Indies fan sat next to me is not convinced by Jason Holder as captain. He got the blame for a no-ball when too many fielders were outside the circle, which seems fair enough. He also got the blame for Pooran’s run out!

As for the overall standard in the field…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cricket/48876706

West Indies were going through the motions waiting for wickets and they predictably came. Perhaps I expected too much of Afghanistan at this tournament. They’ve come a long way and only lost this one by 23 runs.

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8039/game/1144524/afghanistan-vs-west-indies-42nd-match-icc-cricket-world-cup-2019

Too many of their players including the big names, notably Rashid Khan, haven’t stepped up though. Gulbadin Naib may have contributed to their journey but isn’t meriting a place in a losing team let alone being the captain.

West Indies have a potentially powerful batting unit if the hierarchy can keep them all interested and not lose them to more and more global franchise gigs. Afghanistan need to meet in the middle between the heroic generation that got them this far and the youngsters coming through.

Afghanistan v Pakistan World Cup ODI

I’ve just returned from a scorching Headingley where Pakistan’s senseless top order batsmen did their best to throw the match away but Afghanistan’s captain did instead!

To say that the atmosphere was vibrant would be an understatement… and that was just outside the ground!

Afghanistan ground their way to 227-9 and though Pakistan lost an early wicket they soon looked in command. Both Imam and Babar got out though when trying to force the pace even though the required rate was far less than a run-a-ball.

Needless run outs also contributed to Pakistan’s demise but Imad Wasim seized the initiative while Afghan skipper Gulbadin Naib conceded 18 in a torturous over before absurdly still bowling the final over. Though Hassan was injured and I’m not sure what happened to Rahmat who seemed set to come on at one point, any other bowler (Player even!) who bowled anything slower than Gulbadin would’ve been a more sensible choice.

It was the hottest day of the year but my three bottles of water and big hat helped me through. I still managed to get burnt and had to buy a t-shirt just to protect my legs!

The match went to the wire and for England and romantics out there, a Pakistan victory is disappointing but they scraped through in the end. Fair play!

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8039/game/1144518/afghanistan-vs-pakistan-36th-match-icc-cricket-world-cup-2019

This will take some coming back from for Afghanistan who also let victory slip away from them against India. It also leaves England likely needing to defeat both India and New Zealand to progress to the semi-finals.

Carlos Goes Crazy!

Not for the first time on the international stage, West Indies’ all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite demonstrated his immense talent…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/scorecard/ECKO43672

Unfortunately, if not for the first time, it was only about the second or third time he’d done so in 79 international appearances…

http://m.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/457249.html

This can’t be another bi-annual flash in the pan for the thirty-year-old. With age and experience must come consistency.

As for criticism of the tournament structure, it’s misguided. Yes I’d love more nations to be a part of the WORLD Cup but as it is, the set-up is correct. Quite simply, everybody plays everybody and the best four teams qualify for the semi-finals. Call it predictable but isn’t this how it should be?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/world-cup/table

Smaller groups with less teams lead to one shock effecting the whole tournament. Don’t get me wrong, I’m truly a sporting romantic and love the underdog to prevail but the structure of the 2019 Cricket World Cup is fine. Some teams just need to play better and unfortunately teams like West Indies, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka took too long to do so!

Weather or Not!

What a shame that the atrocious weather has already washed out a record number of matches at this summer’s Cricket World Cup.

Last year there wasn’t a drop of rain to be seen. Our lawns were yellow and our reservoirs running dry. Now our gardens are lush green and the water banks are being encroached upon, people are even having to evacuate their homes!

I’m all for a bit of precipitation, we need the stuff but hopefully it’ll hold off a little to let the fans who’ve paid and travelled from afar to witness some cricket!

Dawson and Vince Hard Done by ECB not ICC!

Following on from my latest audiocast where I touched upon the subject of Liam Dawson and James Vince being unable to represent Hampshire in the One-Day Cup final, I feel that it’s necessary to look into things a bit further.

It’s a huge shame that these two players, both of whom are likely to more often than not be sub-fielding and carrying drinks for England (But you never know what can happen?!) can’t play in the domestic season’s marquee showpiece. It is of course only appropriate in the interest of fairness that they can’t. It would be unfair for them to be getting match practice, keeping their eye in, staying in form and gaining confidence when the players of the other World Cup participants can’t do so. You do have to question the ECB’s structuring of the English county season though as it is they who should’ve seen this coming and prevented it from happening. The One-Day Cup was played in an exclusive block up to a couple of weeks ago so why on Earth did we then return to First Class cricket for a couple of weeks before the One-Day final randomly slots in to the fixture list?

It’s a shame for the players in question and a kick in the teeth for devoted fans of a county game that in most people’s eyes is seriously struggling as a spectator sport. Remember that Vince is Hampshire’s captain and Dawson has been their star player this year.

Regarding Dawson, there are rumours that he’s been courted by Warwickshire but also that he may have hinted to Hampshire that he only wants a white-ball contract in the future. I’m disappointed to hear that but realistically he’s probably struggling to play Test cricket again. He’s been mightily effective in the PSL for a couple of years and if he can get IPL and CPL gigs as well as playing One-Day and Twenty20 cricket in England then there’s just about enough cricket to occupy him in the summer. This is before we consider the PSL, BPL and Big Bash etc in the winter time, not to mention the Hong Kong Blitz, Global T20 Canada and whatever pops up next! The riches of these gigs are far greater than the county game and a lot less gruelling so the appeal is understandable but it’s also confirmation that the standard of the four-day game in England in particular will continue to decline. If the best players desert it when still in their twenties, we could be left with only young players pre peak and old players post peak to fill the teams.

As for Vince, his appearances in an England shirt this summer have been exactly what everyone expected of him. Pretty but unsubstantial. Not out of his depth but not excelling. How will bench warming for England help him press his case for a top three Test vacancy come the Ashes?

Hopefully Dawson and Vince will get some game time at the World Cup. I’m a big fan of involving the whole squad when it comes to major tournaments but whether or not the structure of the 2019 competition and England’s results will allow it only time will tell.