CWC 19: The five worst efforts (so far)

What have been the moments in the tournament that have been memorable for the wrong reasons?

The World Cup has had some amazing performances, but also a few times that left fans scratching their heads at the lack of effort shown. When the game was on the line, and risks needed to be taken, a few times players and teams just simply couldn’t be bothered. Here is my pick for the five worst:

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(5) Gulbadin Naib for Afghanistan against Pakistan

The match was set up with Pakistan sitting on 6/182 off 45 overs, still needing 46 off the last five. Afghanistan had five overs left from the spin bowlers who had taken all the wickets but Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib decided to bring himself on to bowl some pace.

It was the most bizarre decision that led many to question whether he had perhaps been bribed by someone in the Pakistan camp to do it. His over went for 18, leaving a much more manageable 28 off the last 4.

Then, when 6 runs were required off the final over.

Gulbadin Naib put the nail in his own team’s coffin by bowling himself again, ensuring Pakistan’s victory. His days captaining Afghanistan look numbered.

(4) Carlos Brathwaite for West Indies against New Zealand

Chasing 292 for victory, West Indies were in huge trouble at 7/164 inside the 27th over but Brathwaite refused to lie down, producing one of the greatest solo acts in history. Getting to his century off 81 balls and, with just 6 runs to win off the last 7 balls, it looked like West Indies would get there.

All Brathwaite needed to do was to hit a single off the last ball, bowled by part-timer James Neesham and he would have just 5 to get off the last over. Bowled perhaps by Matt Henry, who had already been tonked around for more than 7 per over, or perhaps part-timer Colin de Grandhomme would get the over.

Either way, West Indies were favourite to win. But, rather than do the hard work of looking for the single, Brathwaite just went for glory, tonking one into the stands, and it would have been great had it paid off. Instead of going into the stands it was caught on the boundary in a brilliant catch by Trent Boult.

In fairness, it actually did go over the boundary by the time it was taken, but the catch was able to be brought back inside the rope. As he sat on his haunches he wasn’t just thinking how unlucky he was to be caught. He was also thinking how stupid he was not to have done the less glorious thing and hit the single to set up the win. Sometimes boring stuff is better than glory. Oh dear.

(3) David Warner’s go slow for Australia against India

India had set a difficult 353 to win but a Warner-less Australia had chased down an even bigger target of 359 just a month earlier and it was thought that, with Warner and Smith in the side, they were more likely to get there. But Warner scored just 56 off 84 balls, for a strike rate of 66.66, against his career strike rate of 95.38.

Everyone else scored at a run a ball or better, as Australia got to 316, bowled out off the final ball to lose by just 36. Had Warner had scored at his normal rate he could have got them himself. 92 off 84 would have been enough for Australia to win. He has been working on a new technique to try to make him a better test player, one with less risks, a better average but lower strike rate, which is working, but this perhaps wasn’t the game to use it.

His old self, pre-ban, would have got Australia home, or died trying. The old Warner would have been out for 20 off 10, but the new Warner got 56 off 84. It was so inappropriate that some fans were claiming Warner was match fixing. The lack of effort was enormous.

(2) MS Dhoni’s go slow for India against England

338 was a big target and by the time Dhoni came in at number 6 India needed 112 more off just 65 balls, a near-impossible task, but one which Dhoni has managed before. But instead of going for the big shots and going down in a blaze of glory, Dhoni simply patted it around. Waiting until the final over, when there was more than 40 required, before he finally started hitting sixes, as India lost by 31 runs.

Dhoni still scored 42 off 31, so it doesn’t look bad but under the circumstances he needed more like 72 off 31, and he just didn’t seem to care. He was preserving the net run rate, we were told, making sure that India weren’t knocked out. Perhaps it was a nod to how Pakistan were knocked out.

It ultimately didn’t matter to India but it sure looked awful to watch, with some fans going so far as to claim that Dhoni was match fixing. It looked to me like yet another World Cup manipulation, aimed at making sure that India qualified. It sure was dirty, though.

(1) Pakistan’s lack of effort against Bangladesh

The margin had to be at least 309, assuming that Bangladesh were out for 0, or 311 if Pakistan scored 350, and most experts suggested 400 or 450 was the minimum. It was a tough ask, to say the least, considering that Pakistan’s highest ever score is 399, the highest ODI score is 481 and the highest ever margin is 280. Records were going to need to tumble.

But, instead of going for broke and risking losing the match, Pakistan’s batsmen shut up shop and went for the win, scoring at just over 4 runs per over for the first 20 or so overs. They finished with 315 with Bangladesh’s target, to rule them out of the semi-finals, being seven. Pakistan ended up winning by some 94 runs, a pretty big win, indicating that, had Pakistan qualified for the semi-finals, they would have had a genuine shot at winning the World Cup trophy itself, but they just never bothered.

Perhaps the most they could have got was 350 and in trying to get that many they may have been bowled out for 200 and lost the match. But in the circumstances where you’ve got a possible World Cup trophy at stake, most fans would have been happy if they had at least given themselves a chance.

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