The lead-up to the World Cup is really heating up as we had our second day of warm-up matches, and the first officially featuring Australia (though they had a bonus match against West Indies, which doesn’t count).
Match 1: India vs New Zealand
India are 2nd favourites while New Zealand are 5th and yet this match went a long way from those predictions as India were bowled out cheaply for just 179 and New Zealand had no problems reeling it in with 4 wickets lost off just 37.1 overs. Virat Kohli failed, with 18 off 24, but even a recovery from number 8 Ravindra Jadeja (54 off 50) was nowhere near enough. For New Zealand, the 2015 World Cup joint player of the tournament Trent Boult was back in form with 4 for 33, though it was Colin de Grandhomme who took Kohli’s wicket. The only positive for India was Jasprit Bumrah’s 1 for 2 off 4 overs, an economy rate of 0.5. Yeah, you read that right, 4-2-2-1. Wow.
Match 2: England vs Australia
England were so confident that they’d win this one that they left out captain Eoin Morgan, test captain and best player Joe Root as well as their latest player, West Indian born and bred Jofra Archer, who somehow qualified to play for England just in time for the tournament (he also could have played for West Indies, and his appearance in the BBL led some to believe he might play for Australia). Archer wasn’t in the initial squad but with the ban of drug-addled Alex Hales, he jumped in. As for the match itself, it was all about the booing, as David Warner scored a solid 43 off 55, but by his standards he was said to be out of form, then Steve Smith pummelled a huge 116 off 102, not out, to much booing. England had not one but two bowlers break down, Mark Wood after 3.1 overs and Liam Dawson after 9 overs, while fielding. Australia’s 9/297, buoyed by Alex Carey’s 30 off 14 balls at the end, was claimed to be 20 runs too short against an England side confident they will be the first to score 500, but when it came time to bat they were never quite there. Steve Smith dropped Jason Roy on 0, but there were just too many chances, the bowling just too good, and in the end England fell just short. It was close but England just looked in disarray. The big positive for England is that if they can nearly beat the 3rd favourites while looking horrible, then how well will they do when they look good?
Five things we learned:
(1) India aren’t all that
If you had believed the hype from the world’s largest cricketing nation, you would think that this World Cup was in the bag, but all out for 179 says otherwise. Virat Kohli failed, and that was about the end of that. It wasn’t even close.
(2) New Zealand aren’t bad
The title of 5th favourites suggests that New Zealand will be challenging for a semi-final position, either just making it or just missing it, but this win, albeit in a practice game, was huge. It was a team effort too, with Trent Boult’s 4 wickets, solid scores from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor chasing a small total, and good performances all around. It will be interesting to see if New Zealand can beat India this easily when they face in the tournament proper, but they have at least shown that they can beat the big teams, and they are not quite easy beats.
(3) David Warner and Steve Smith are kind of awesome
43 off 55 is out of form, apparently, at least if the player is David Warner, and Steve Smith’s 116 off 102, not out, was also criticised, and that speaks volumes as to just how good they are. Smith dropped a catch and also fumbled a ball too, and that was what people focused on, not his match-winning century. They looked every bit Australia’s two best batsmen, head and shoulders ahead of the rest. Their doubters will be eating their words after this, or should be at least.
(4) England are kind of all over the place
Two injuries would hurt in a proper match but in a Warm-Up, where you can replace them from your squad, it shouldn’t matter. Why weren’t Root and Morgan playing? Why was Jofra Archer coming out at number 11? It was just all over the place, as they seemed more keen to hide their true ability than they were interested in winning the match, and as a result they lost.
(5) If this is England at their worst, what are they going to be like at their best?
England looked horrible here, but still only lost by 12 runs against the reigning champions and 3rd favourites for the tournament, who were playing near to their peak, albeit that Australia weren’t playing Maxwell, Cummins or Starc either. Perhaps they were underperforming on purpose or perhaps they were having a bad day but either way if they have a narrow loss on a bad day then what are they going to do on a good day? We’ve seen the top 6 teams play now and, other than Australia and perhaps New Zealand, only South Africa are looking up to England’s standards, and that was in spite of this loss. They are still very much on target to win the World Cup.