The alternative half-time analysis
Posted in ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
So England’s mission to single-handedly light up the World Cup rolls on.
The tournament has reached the halfway stage and Andrew Strauss’ side have done more than any other - by a considerable margin - to bring drama to the grandest stage.
Considerable margins have been conspicuously lacking in their five group games thus far, with a four-wicket win over the Netherlands in their opening match a cakewalk compared to what has come after.
Defeat to Bangladesh yesterday was the latest dip in a campaign that has had more ups and downs than a moody teenager at Alton Towers, and the only thing of which we can certain ahead of England’s meeting with West Indies is that Strauss’ fingernails must be non-existent by now.
They indisputably remain the team to watch - as my Dad would say, bloody good value for money - and only the cast of Pineapple Dance Studios can top their apparent appetite for the limelight.
Yet there have been no shortage of stellar individual performances in this World Cup, and the beauty of a competition lasting six weeks is that, like any good Scandinavian crime series, it allows characters to shine and storylines to evolve.
So, as we enter the second half of this global showpiece, what exactly have we learned?
- The distinction between Sachin Tendulkar and God is becoming less clear by the day (Have they ever been seen in the same room? Have either of them watched Mrs Doubtfire?) and the biggest danger to him scoring his 100th international century in the final appears to be him reaching the landmark beforehand.
- Virender Sehwag surely has the meatiest bat in world cricket; his leading edges carry further than my full-blooded drives.
- Shahid Afridi has been attending the same school of choreography as Andrew Flintoff.
- Jonathan Trott is the cricketing equivalent of a Volkswagen: reliability personified.
- Ross Taylor quite likes the leg side.
- Graeme Swann doesn't like bowling with a wet ball.
- Zaheer Khan looks younger than he did at the previous World Cup, thanks in no small part to a blonde streak that brings to mind the ringleader of the naughty Gremlins.
- Kamran Akmal is prone to the odd howler behind the stumps (on second thoughts, that’s not news).
- Technology is not the cure to all umpiring ills. Just ask Gary Wilson.
- Whoever is dressed up as Stumpy must have a sweat on by now.
- Ravi Shastri is currently pipping Wasim Akram in the competition for the World Cup’s biggest and shiniest sunglasses.
- Only a masochist would want to captain a one-day team in the field. (Unless you’re Darren Sammy and your team is playing Bangladesh, a game so one-sided it reminded me of the time my under-11s side bowled our opponents out for 13 - then asked them to bat again to make an evening of it.)
- You are never too old to be a mascot on the sub-continent. Middle-aged men in ill-fitting kits are apparently better suited than enthusiastic young kids dreaming of meeting their heroes.
As for questions still to be answered: Which England will turn up in Chennai on Thursday? How long will Australia's unbeaten run last? Will Kenya pass 50 against them tomorrow?
And, most difficult of all, just how does Sachin do it?