That's a tough one
Any team planning to stop Australia had better find a way to dismiss Steve Smith. In his enforced absence caused by the ball tampering controversy, teams haven't solved the riddle of his eccentric, but successful technique
The 2019 World Cup has lived up to the expectations of an elite tournament, what with some tight finishes, a couple of upsets and individual batting and bowling highlights. Contrary to expectations it has not been a batting exhibition and the bowlers have done an excellent job in restricting totals. The predominant tactic has been the short-pitched delivery used in liberal doses. Despite the success achieved with the short-pitched delivery it comes with a warning; the bouncer must be well directed otherwise it can be costly.
Unpredictable Pakistan provided the perfect example of this warning; bounced out for a miserable 105 by a buoyant West Indies pace attack, they rebounded to flout an England bowling unit that attempted a similar tactic. However, the bowling hasn't been all fire and brimstone. Yuzvendra Chahal provided a wrist spin masterclass in demolishing the hapless South African middle order and Mohammad Nabi brought the admirable Afghanistan team back into the contest with Sri Lanka, by showing you don't have to spin big to outwit batsmen.
Both India and Australia made ideal starts and their clash at the Oval should provide more clarity on their likely progress. The West Indies unmasked the fragility in Australia's top order against short-pitched deliveries but they didn't have the bowling versatility to finish the task. It was the Indian pace bowlers who unravelled Aaron Finch's technique in Australia. If India do plough through Australia's top-order they then have the variety to keep the pressure on throughout the innings. Nevertheless, any team planning to stop Australia had better find a way to dismiss Steve Smith; in his enforced absence, teams haven't solved the riddle of his eccentric but highly successful technique.
There is no doubting England's batting power. Jos Buttler amply displayed his ability in blasting Pakistan's attack to all parts but England's attack also leaked runs at a concerning rate. England may have to revise the thought that they can chase any target and become a bit more frugal with the ball. In a World Cup tournament teams are constantly facing good opposition. It's also a different coloured outfit each game in the round robin stages and this requires a change in strategy from playing a series of matches against the same opponent.
The big three
The big three, India, England and Australia are still the frontrunners for the trophy with New Zealand doing what they do so well; successfully chugging along almost unnoticed and taking advantage of a friendly early schedule. With South Africa not waiting for the knockout stages to effect a painful, self-inflicted exit, New Zealand look the team most likely to fill out the semi-final quartet. Their biggest dangers are a typically unpredictable Pakistan and a robust West Indies outfit that finally looks like it's capable of regaining the threatening status in more than just the T20 format. The other conclusion to be drawn from the early stages of the 2019 World Cup; the 50-over game is worth preserving. The ODI is a good game of cricket whereas T20, for all its public appeal, lies somewhere between a sporting contest and a good night's entertainment. For those administrators who seem to believe cricket can survive on T20 alone, they need to have a re-think.
They should consider whether they want to be part of a group that deprives the future youth from playing a worthwhile form of the game. They should also ponder on a game that provides the contrast of Joe Root's exquisite touch and the timing and brute power of Buttler in scoring centuries in the same innings. And consider a game with the variety provided by the swing and lethal yorkers of Mitchell Starc, the blistering bouncers of Oshane Thomas and Andre Russell, along with the guile of Chahal. The 2019 World Cup has been a timely reminder of how the ODI is a really good and entertaining game of cricket when teams are constantly on the lookout for wickets.
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