The title of this article is not a reference to the condition or health of the surfaces that have been utilized in the sub-continent more especially the ones inducted to replay the eponymous David to Goliath outcomes that had England on the receiving end of some seismic upsets. After winning the Ashes series things have gone quite pear shaped for Andrew Straus’ men. After an emphatic drubbing in the one day series by the mighty Aussies down under, They have come to the World Cup and they have been plagued by injuries to some of their key players and the team’s strength has been subsequently depleted. Losing to their United Kingdom counterparts after posting 300 would have immensely dented their confidence but their victory against the Proteas would have reinstated their belief in themselves.
Losing to Bangladesh though because of an eighth wicket stand that they allowed to surmount 50 runs certainly would have left their World Cup belief quite incorrigible and if they didn’t come out victors against the Windies one wonders who would have been lambasted for this torrid period for them. The praises adorned on Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss just over a month ago would have easily been replaced by less savoury descriptions as the queen’s men would have had to return home earlier than just after the 2nd of April.
England just as their soccer counterparts did last year would have bowed out before the knock out stages of the World Cup having come in to the tournament amongst the favourites. Group A was less predictable than the Group B because of Bangladesh and Ireland victories over you know who. These two pugnacious teams gave themselves a chance to make the quarterfinals though the Irish team stood a better chance of repeating their World Cup 2007 antics of reaching the Super 8 stages at the mercy of a test playing nation as they only had to win against the Netherlands who are not entirely a walk in the park themselves especially to a side in Ireland’s caliber. Ireland have proved themselves quite a formidable side but it would be useful to have them as a test playing nation and have them play more games and tours. Some of the players are involved in County Cricket and them big so close to England poses a challenge because there is always that dangling carrot of playing for the Three Lions for the crème de la crème.
Eion Morgan who came into the tournament to replace the injured Kevin Peterson is an example of a fomer Irish cricketer who has been cajoled by the English. England seem to have a penchant for scooping up every good cricketer who seems to be eligible to play for them as most South Africans don’t forget that Kevin Peterson, Jonathan Trott,Matt Proir and Andrew Strauss belonging here and there is also Craig Keiswetter who was raised here. That being said England could have their eyes on the likes of Kevin O’Brien who was a protagonist to the Ireland victory. Kevin O’ Brien bludgeoned the English attack to obtain the fastest 100 in World Cup history coming in only 50 balls. Hopefully Irish luck can play a role in their case in being a test nation cause it would do them a world of good. Cricket fans in the country have been having their mouths quite a few times courtesy of the nail biting games, the social networks have been the medium for airing their views. Many people seem to be of the opinion that the loss to England is a blessing in disguise.
The reasoning behind this dubious optimism is that the lads usually win round robin games but when it comes to the crunch they never quite cut the mustard and they choke. The opinion is flawed though because the only time this happened was in ’96 because in ’99 the boys actually lost to Zimbabwe which eventually affected the net run rate which eventually led to their unforgettable exit. 2002 was 2002 and all of us know they didn’t make it past first round losing to the Windies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka and in 2007 well they lost to the Aussies twice so losing to England doesn’t guarantee they won’t choke. Their humdinger against India perhaps wasn’t as great a performance as everyone seems to think and I guess the euphoria of the victory seems to make people forget some of the flaws. In fact, if Dhoni did not make the huge mistake of bowling Ashish Nehra instead of Harbhajan Singh South Africa would not be sitting at the summit of Group A.
The middle order still has not given any reason to galvanize any confidence. To win a World Cup though one requires quite a fair amount of luck and to win this one the Proteas need beards like Jacques Kallis and Hashim Ahmla are spotting which are supposedly lucky charms. The victory against the hosts seemed to have luck in it and two specific occasions that come to mind and those are Gautam Gambhir’s slip/drop catch that went for four and Robyn Peterson shot that missed the stumps to go for four. The resilient Aussies haven’t been tested and unfortunately the one side that could have been litmus to indicate where exactly they stand in terms of form is Sri Lanka and their game wasn’t played because of rain. As we prepare for the knock out phases and eventually the winners will be engraved on that trophy hopefully Graeme Smith’s men will do it. Smith has has had some remarkable achievements and this would be a way for him to bow out as captain.