In case readers of my blog haven’t noticed, I am a cricket fan, and have been ever since playing it for endless hours, in the park, as a lad. But I am selective in what I follow these days. I like Test cricket (and follow my own county, Essex, who right now are doing well) but not so much the one day, limited overs, stuff (ok, I admit it, I am a traditionalist snob). But I make an exception, I am following the Cricket World Cup right now, even though I don’t have patience to watch for long periods of time, finding things to do at the same time.
My interest is despite it not being televised on free TV in the UK, a real travesty! I am a great fan of TMS, which I regularly follow live on the Internet and through its podcasts. As it happened, I recently spent a month in India when part of the evening entertainment was to follow several of the group games on television, making me realise what I had been missing. Except for the irritating commercials of precocious kids in-between overs, the coverage was superb. But now I am home, it is back to TMS, and I have earlier in the week been following the semi finals, along with its surprising outcomes.
I remember the first Cricket World Cup in 1975 and watching the final (now reflecting how the game has developed – for once it is for the better – more strategy and runs for starters) mesmerized that the two best teams in the world around that time were playing each other – West Indies and Australia. The best team won in the end, West Indies, in an exciting, close fought game and again four years later, when they played England. Four years after, India managed, against expectations, to beat West Indies in the final, and led the way for other Asian teams: Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to win the trophy. Other than that, the dominant nation has been Australia, with England appearing in three finals and losing out each time. After the first three competitions, games were played in other countries besides England, but once again it is being played in England, with the final, like the first three, to be held at the home of cricket, Lords. All this is nicely set out in this Wikipedia article.
One thing the English can be proud of is its staging of this year’s competition has been superb, and while rain occasionally threatened (it is England after all) it has been a fantastic spectacle, played in a good spirit, with much excellent cricket. I like the way games were arranged: a group stage (of ten teams) with every team playing each other, with the top four going onto the semi finals, followed by this Sunday’s final. Again Wikipedia has come up trumps by setting out the final group table and summarizing the result of each game played. As a cricketing connoisseur purist, I like to see the cream rise to the top with the best team winning, even if it is not my own. Given margins between teams’ abilities etc. are tight and luck does play a part, I believe this format virtually guaranteed this. I am always mindful that it is not the best team at the start who win competitions like this but rather who can peak at the end, gel together as a team and ride their luck e.g. regarding injuries.
The top four to go forward to the semi final were India, Australia, England and New Zealand, and in that order. I had little doubt they were the best teams, again in that order. The surprise was the top two were then beaten by the bottom two, England and New Zealand, in the semis, who will play each other in Sunday’s final, when we will see a new champion. Great teams of the past: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies, all fell by the wayside although all showed glimpses of what could have been, but frankly all lacked all round consistency and fire power needed to prevail. Bangladesh will be disappointed, although they performed creditably, as did newbie, Afghanistan, who despite losing all their matches did impress.
Reflecting on the two semi finals, I was expecting the two best teams based on earlier performances, India and Australia, to go through. It was not to be. New Zealand, who some saw as the surprise package toward the start of the competition, but then suffered a hiccup later on, did well to overcome mighty India. Not the prettiest team or the one inundated with lots of big guns, but impressive none the less. I would have liked India to win, not just because it is my second home, but based on earlier performances they were the best team in the competition. A similar story emerged with England. They began as favourites, and started well, but with defeats against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia, exposing frailties, in temperament as much as anything, were in danger of elimination. But they came good in the end with some impressive performances, and that momentum continued against the old enemy, who were literally blown away.
All that is left is the final on Sunday, which I look forward to and will keenly follow on my beloved TMS, as well as on, for this time only, Channel 4, and hopefully will see an England win, although as an Englishman who supports fair play, only if they are the best team.
Update 14/07/19: I write this with four overs to go in this final game and it can go either way, but New Zealand have got to be favourites. It has been a great final and all credit to New Zealand. It looked like in batting first they may not have got enough, but this was not a big score wicket as became evident when England had to bat. I was impressed with New Zealand pressure bowling resulting in early wickets and all pressure on England. England have fought valiantly with good performances from Stokes and Butler but can they get 11 per over in the last 4 overs with 4 wickets remaining. 24 of the last two overs and all is tense and it is all thanks to good old TMS. 15 from 6 with 2 wickets left – miracle needed! 6 and a fluke 6 – 3 from 2 – amazing! A tie! Super over! Not ideal for such a tremendous game. England first – 16 of their over – if NZ beat this they win the world cup. Last ball – NZ need 2 to win. They get 1 – a tie but lose because less boundaries in the match. It has been a fantastic final. Well played NZ. England – champions at last – wow!