10 Things We’ve Learnt from this World Cup so far

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Tom Maston of Maston in the Middle reflects on the tournament two weeks in

The World Cup is now two weeks old, and has recovered from a slightly below-par start to become one of the most talked about editions of the tournament ever. Thus far the competition has had everything from amazing tied matches to shock results for the associate nations, and that’s just England’s story.

But what have we learnt from the great festival of cricket that is the World Cup…

1. England are the most unpredictable team in the world. Granted, most people already knew this, but the performances that Andrew Strauss’ side have put in during their three matches so far have been so different from each other it has to be seen to be believed. After a workmanlike but unremarkable victory over the Netherlands, the tie against India in Bangalore was one of the greatest batting performances by an England one-day side in living memory. However, after being talked up by almost every commentator and pundit in the sub-continent, the defeat at the hands of the Irish has brought Andy Flower and his players back down to Earth with a bump. They still should qualify from the group stages, but I would not back them to go much further after their opening performances.

2. James Anderson is not a world-class one-day bowler. Anderson has struggled in England’s first three matches and is fighting for his place in the team heading into the tomorrow’s match against South Africa. His 28 overs in the tournament have been hit for 212 runs, whilst he has only picked up two wickets. His performances have reflected those of the whole team, and he must aim for much more consistency if he is to resurrect the form that saw him become the leader of the attack in recent years.

3. Kevin Pietersen could become an opener. When it was revealed that KP was going to open the batting, many asked whether his game would be suited to taking on the new ball. However, he has shown glimpses of the temperament and intelligence that he would need to continue as an opener in the one-day game.

4. India aren’t as good as everyone thinks. It is without doubt that MS Dhoni’s team have one of the best batting line-ups in the world, but this is only half of what a team needs to win the competition, and currently their bowling and fielding is coming under fire. Zaheer Khan’s burst during England’s batting powerplay has been the only highlight in the field for the hosts thus far, and the likes of Munaf Patel, Sreesanth and Piyush Chawla are not proven international bowlers. If India are to win the competition, their bowlers will have to step up to the mark, as their batsmen cannot be relied on for the whole tournament.

5. The quicker, the better. When teams go to the sub-continent, they tend to pack their bowling attack with spinners. However, it has been the quicker bowlers who have been most impressive in the opening two weeks of the tournament. Kemar Roach and Lasith Malinga have both taken hat-tricks, whilst the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait have fired Australia to two victories wth their full and fast approach. This World Cup could very well surprise a lot of people and be the tournament where the world’s best fast bowlers are the main stars.

6. The good Pakistan have turned up. Whenever an international competition comes around, many people ask which Pakistan are going to turn up, and this year it looks as if they are at their brilliant best. Despite a shaky batting performance against Canada, they have emerged as genuine contenders, and with an inspired Shahid Afridi leading from the front, they could easily find themselves lifting the trophy for the second time.

7. The World Cup needs the associate nations. Ireland’s victory over England has shown to the ICC that the associate nations have a place in world cricket’s premier events. The performance brought about one of the greatest ever World Cup shocks and lit up the tournament, something which those that govern the game cannot ignore if they want to keep people watching future tournaments. Despite weak performances from Kenya and Canada, I for one feel it would be unfair if the likes of Kevin O’Brien and Ryan Ten Doeschate did not get the chance to show off their skills on the world stage.

8. Chris Gayle is cooler than anyone thought. As always, Chris Gayle has been the epitome of cool throughout the tournament. However, he proved just how cool he was as he took time out from dodging rocks on his team bus to tweet to the world. Many would have concentrated on their own safety, but not Gayle. He wanted to let his 39,000 followers what was going on outside the ground. The man is very cool.

9. Not even his teammates like Sreesanth. After India’s first game of the tournament against Bangladesh, opening batsman Virender Sehwag was quoted as saying everyone had played well apart from Sreesanth. It is well known that opposition players and supporters aren’t particularly fond of the young bowler, but Sehwag’s comments shed light on what the Indian dressing room thinks of their outspoken contemporary. It seems that the only person who likes Sreesanth is the man himself.

10. No one knows who is going to win the tournament. Unlike the last few tournaments, it does not seem as if it going to be a non-event of a tournament that ends predictably with Australia holding the trophy aloft. In fact, it would be somewhat of a surprise if Ricky Ponting’s side even made it to the final. Any number of teams could be celebrating victory at the end of the tournament, and I for one would not like to be the person to predict who that will be….     

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