As the World Cup meanders through its first week we can look back on what this cricketing behemoth has already given us. There have been one sided matches, upsets that weren’t upsets, umpiring incompetence, massive three wicket victories and debates about format. Endless, long-winded, protracted debates about format.
The biggest issue under discussion is how many teams should be involved. In 2019 it is going down to 10, but the plan was for this event to be an invite only affair for the 10 full members as far back as 2011. The ICC announced its plans to close the door on associate involvement almost as soon as the engravers had finished putting India’s name on the trophy last time. But for uproar and alleged threats of legal action we would have had cricket closing its doors on any further expansion for the foreseeable future. They are still doing it, but at least they are now attempting to look like they care about the expansion of the sport.
So it is with this backdrop that Ireland took the field against a beleaguered West Indies side in the first associate versus full member contest of the event. Even those names themselves are slightly ridiculous. When the football World Cup takes place there is no hierarchy of participants. You have qualified therefore you take part. There are strong sides and weak sides, but there is not a modern day equivalent of the Gentlemen and Players distinction that cricket still perpetuates.
Ireland started brilliantly against the West Indies, having them five wickets down for just 87 runs. Thanks to a brilliant partnership between Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons the West Indies managed to set a target of 305. This was a lot more than it could have been and those who were supporting Ireland were worried. The same could not be said for the Irish players. They took on this target with absolute contempt for the supposed difference between the two sides. They won and they won easily. Some called this an upset. It wasn’t. The better, and more motivated, side won.
Away from the battle for recognition for those outside the full member cartel we had the game that gets the money men’s juices flowing. India took on Pakistan and well over a billion people watched the game. It was a pretty one sided affair in the end as a Virat Kohli hundred and a Suresh Raina half century helped India reach 300 from their fifty overs. Pakistan made a decent fist of the chase until they lost three wickets for just one run in the middle of their innings. From there they never really recovered despite yet another brilliant rear-guard effort from the fantastic Misbah-ul-Haq. There are people that still don’t rate his contribution to his side. Those people are idiots. Or Afridiots if you will.
England took on Australia and for the 16th time in the last 15 games they lost. Mitchell Johnson left them looking clueless, Aaron Finch flayed their bowlers, Glenn Maxwell finished them off. The gulf between the two sides has not been this large since the days of Warne and McGrath. It is difficult to see England winning a game against them anytime soon, although Tests in home conditions this summer may even things up.
That Poms vs Aussies clash saw one of the great umpiring cockups, in fact if it had impacted on the result it might have been the best of all time. As it was the game had been long over as a contest before James Anderson was run out. The dismissal came about as Aleem Dar gave James Taylor out LBW while the diminutive right hander was on 98 not out. England, nine wickets down at the time, elected to review the decision. Hawkeye showed us that the ball was missing leg stump. The decision was overturned.
Just after umpire Dar raised his finger Glenn Maxwell had thrown down the stumps at the wicket keepers end. For reasons only he will know, Umpire Dharmasena referred the run out appeal by the Australians to the third umpire. Everyone knew the ball was dead when Taylor was dismissed. In essence the game was over, the last England wicket had fallen. The only people that didn’t seem to realise that you couldn’t have a double-play in cricket were the four umpires and match referee, the people who are paid handsomely to know the laws of the game.
Elsewhere Scotland managed something quite rare, they got absolutely hammered by three wickets. Normally a real shellacking sees a side chasing down the target with one or two wickets down. Here New Zealand only required to score 143 to win and they decided that they would go hard and get an early net run rate advantage. The tactics were right, the execution was poor, but they won with more than 25 overs of their 50 still left. Seven wickets gave Scotland a scrap of respectability but they had their backsides handed to them on a silver platter in this game.