What you may have missed this weekend: 7/12-7/14

Just like how there were three finals last weekend, there were three more this weekend, two of which were extremely close, breath-taking encounters. We’ll start off with the closing of Wimbledon in which both the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals took place as Simona Halep took on history seeking Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic fighting against Roger Federer in London. Also in London on the same day was the Cricket World Cup Finals, where both England and New Zealand were looking for their maiden World Cup titles. We’ll also cover a special night for the Los Angeles Angels in the MLB after they played the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. 

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Novak Djokovic by Kate Tann is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Wimbledon

Halep prevents Williams from making history:

Williams was on the verge of a record 24th Grand Slam title but it seems she will have to wait even longer. Unfortunately, it felt as if Williams was unable to compete against Halep as both sets ended 6-2. Halep smartly played risk-free tennis and out-forced errors for Williams 26-3 on her way to being handed the Wimbledon title by Princess Megan Markel.

Djokovic holds off Federer till final tie-breaker:

Three of the five sets in the final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were decided by tie-breakers but by the end of the second set, it seemed that Djokovic was no match for Federer. After Djokovic won the first set 7-5 on tie-breakers, Federer smashed his opponent 6-1 in the next set. The third set went to a tie-breaker yet again with Djokovic edging out his opponent 7-4. Federer then again won the fourth set comfortably again, this time 6-4. All the action was yet to come in the fifth set. After the two tied 12 all on rounds, Djokovic won on tie-breakers 7-3.

Cricket

England wins first World Cup title at home:

After losing three World Cup finals, England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup in perhaps the greatest One-Day International match in history. After England’s fast bowlers restricted New Zealand to 241-8 at Lord’s Cricket Ground, New Zealand bowled out England for 241 as well, forcing a super over to decide the winner.

In the first innings, Martin Guptill was rather unsuccessful with the bat again, scoring 18(19), but his partner, Henry Nicholls, went off to score 55(77). Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett were the picks of the bowlers with three wickets each. England was in trouble in the second innings, being at 86-4 until Ben Stokes came out to bat. Stokes and Jos Buttler held a 110-run partnership before Buttler was dismissed and England was bowled out for 241, Stokes being left on 84(98)*.

Stokes’ innings did not come without controversy though. After completing a single, a throw from Guptill was deflected off of Stokes’ bat and went for four. The umpire awarded six runs in total when in reality it was worth five, meaning England technically would’ve lost by one run. Stokes later said in a press conference that he would “Be apologizing for the overthrow for the rest of my life,” and that the deflection “was completely unintentional.”

England batted first in the super over. Buttler and Stokes both found the boundary and England set New Zealand a target of 16. After Jimmy Neesham hit a six, New Zealand needed two runs off the last ball with Guptill on strike. The two completed a single but Guptill was run out coming for the second, devastating the country of New Zealand and handing the win to England on boundary count, 26-17.

Stokes was named Man of the Match and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was named Player of the Tournament. The tournament’s best batsman was India’s Rohit Sharma with his five centuries and his 648 runs and the tournament’s highest wicket-taker is Australia’s Mitchell Starc with 27 wickets.

MLB

Angels dedicate win over Mariners to Tyler Skaggs:

After Tyler Skaggs passed away, the Los Angeles Angels threw a no-hitter game as the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 13-0. After Skaggs’ mother threw the first pitch, the Angels scored seven in the first three innings. There were also some other interesting connections to Skaggs as CBS Sports explains in this Instagram post that night. Our thoughts and prayers are present to Skaggs’ family, team and friends from us at Fourth Quarter Sports.

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Cricket World Cup Round Five preview

After a weekend of exciting cricket, let’s change things up. Instead of reviewing what’s already happened, why not look forward and start asking some questions? But if want to catch up on what you may have missed this weekend, don’t worry, RahimAli Merchant and I have that ready for you. 

After Monday’s match between South Africa and the West Indies was abandoned due to rain at The Rose Bowl in Southampton, fans turn their heads towards Bristol, where South Asian sides Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka tomorrow. The following day, Pakistan will be looking to continue their winning form against Australia and on Thursday, first-place New Zealand clash with third-place India. Finally, on Friday, England travels to Southampton to meet the West Indies. 

Teams, of course, will have to change and adapt some of their strategies and also work with some important players being out. It’ll be interesting to see how these teams will face their upcoming challenges in the bid for a semi-finals spot. Also, read to see some predictions for these matches. 

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england v bangladesh, bristol by Synwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka @ Bristol on Tuesday, June 11:

Form: Bangladesh could be called favorites to win this match despite losing their last two. Although their batting has shined, it’s been the talented bowling which has failed the Bangladeshis so far. Bangladesh was two wickets short of beating New Zealand after setting the Black Caps a target of just 245 and conceded 386 vs England. But, Bangladesh does have a win against South Africa which will make opponents wary of them.

Sri Lanka has a batting lineup which could easily make Bangladesh suffer. If they work. Captain Dimuth Karunuratne has shown his skill so far in the tournament with a half-century against New Zealand, but Sri Lanka needs others like Angelo Matthews or Thisara Perera to step up and score if Sri Lanka is going to counter a hungry bowling attack like Bangladesh.

Key Players: Going into this match for Bangladesh, although Bangladesh fans will definitely want Shakib Al-Hasan to perform, Bangladesh’s best bowler, Mustafizur Rahman will be important. Bangladesh needs to put pressure on the Sri Lankan batsmen to win and no one better to do that than Rahman.

For Sri Lanka, like I said earlier, Perera needs to get going. When he starts to attack, it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to stop the flow of runs. If Perera can score 40 or more, Sri Lanka can set a target which they should be able to defend.

Question of the match: How many runs can Nuwan Pradeep and Lasith Malinga restrict Bangladesh to?

Prediction:

If Bangladesh bats first: Sri Lanka to win by four wickets

If Sri Lanka bats first: Bangladesh to win by three wickets.

Australia vs Pakistan @ Taunton on Wednesday, June 12:

Form: Although Australia is coming back from a loss against India and Pakistan are entering this match from a win against England, that isn’t the complete picture. Prior to, Australia was on a ten-match winning streak and Pakistan were on a ten-match losing streak. Therefore, both teams have the capability to win or lose.

Key players: Usman Khawaja was on fine form in his tours of the UAE & India, scoring a myriad of tons and half-tons, but since the World Cup started, the short ball has been his biggest fear. Khawaja’s been hit twice in the head from bouncers against the West Indies since the Australian team arrived in the British Isles, and the Pakistanis, especially Wahab Riaz, might know to use the short ball as a tactic against Khawaja. I suppose Australia can bat well overall, even if Khawaja’s poor form continues, but he can win Australia the match early on if he gets going.

For Pakistan, well, we’ve already mentioned his name, Riaz. Although he’s a bit expensive, against England, his fast, pacy, short balls picked up wickets at the right times. He can also bowl a nasty yorker which intimidates his opponents. Oh, and yeah, Riaz has beef with the Aussies going back to the 2015 World Cup after Riaz sledged Shane Watson in the Quarter-Finals.

Question of the match: Can Pakistan’s in-form batting survive Australia’s famed fast bowling?

Prediction:

If Australia bats first: Pakistan to win by five wickets.

If Pakistan bats first: Australia to win by four wickets.

India vs New Zealand @ Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire on Thursday, June 13:

Form: This will be the biggest match of the week. Both teams have started the World Cup flawless, yet to lose a match. India beat a weakened South Africa, but more importantly, they put 352 past Australia. India’s batting is levels ahead of the other sides at the World Cup. Rohit Sharma stands on a century and a half-century in his two matches while Shikhar Dhawan also has a century to his name. The bowling attack is set up well too with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah trying the batsmen. The spinners know their roles too and take important middle overs wickets.

When it comes to New Zealand, their batting has been solid, though the opening could be of slight concern. However, more impressively is the fast bowling, as pacers took nine of New Zealand’s ten wickets against Afghanistan on Thursday. New Zealand’s fast bowlers will be the key to dismantling India.

Key players: At Trent Bridge, you will want a batsman who can strike the ball at a high strike rate. If there are any players on the Indian side which come into mind, it’s Hardik Pandya. Against Australia, he came in and smacked 48 off 27. Someone like Pandya in the side can give New Zealand a target too high to achieve.

For New Zealand, they will want to continue looking to their fast bowlers. Lockie Ferguson has taken the most wickets for his country so far with eight wickets in just three matches at an astonishing average of just 12.37. The last time these two sides met, in a warm-up match, India were bowled out for just 179, with New Zealand winning by six wickets.

Question of the match: How many wickets will Lockie Ferguson and co. be able to take against India?

Prediction: 

If India bat first: India to win by ten runs.

If New Zealand bats first: New Zealand to win by fifteen runs.

England vs the West Indies @ The Rose Bowl, Southampton on Friday, June 14:

Form: This goes for both teams: optimistic with some hiccups along the way. Both teams started in winning ways with England seeing past South Africa before losing to Pakistan and the West Indies beating Pakistan before losing to Australia (though you could argue poor umpiring costed the Windies the win). England, however, has had a chance to pick their form back up in Cardiff after beating Bangladesh by 106 runs, probably making them favorites in this match.

Key players: As per ex-England spinner Graeme Swann, England’s bowling hasn’t been strong enough. If the wicket is bowler friendly, like how the South Africa vs West Indies match should’ve been, then Chris Woakes will want some wickets, being the leader of the English bowling attack. For the West Indies, this man is on crazy form and this man can win the game for the Windies: Sheldon Cottrell. Against Australia, Cottrell had two wickets and catches each before pocketing two more wickets in the seven overs of play against South Africa.

Question of the match: Can the West Indies’ short bowling prevent England from crossing the 300-mark?

Prediction: 

If England bats first: England to win by 25 runs.

If the West Indies bats first: West Indies to win by 15 runs.

 

Cricket World Cup Round Three recap

In the third round of this year’s Cricket World Cup, we got to see some teams open their World Cup account, some fall behind others and of course close, thrilling encounters. India started their campaign late against a rather weakened, but fearless South Africa. Bangladesh came oh so close to worrying New Zealand. And Australia came back from 79-5 to beat the West Indies by 15 runs.

Unfortunately, fans were not able to see Sri Lanka fight Pakistan as that match was rained out in Bristol. Let’s which factors steered the three matches played in the directions they did. Also, stick around till the end to see my predictions for four matches: England v Bangladesh, Afghanistan v New Zealand, Australia v India and South Africa v West Indies. 

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Dharma Chandru Cric Ph (3) by Chubby Chandru is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

India vs South Africa

Winner: Jasprit Bumrah

The hype around Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling has been around for years, but Wednesday’s match against South Africa was actually his World Cup debut. And he did brilliantly. He got the two South African openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock out, but more importantly, his ten overs only yielded 35 runs.

Winner: Yuzvendra Chahal

India knew spin was the key to victory and Yuzvendra Chahal stepped up. He took four wickets at 51 runs from ten overs, bowling both Faf du Plessis and Russie van der Dussen, catching David Miller and stumping Andile Phelukwayo.

Loser: Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan has a reputation for performing well in international tournaments but since arriving in the UK, he hasn’t been able to strike gold yet. In India’s warm-up matches, Dhawan was only able to score 2(7) and 1(9). When it really mattered, against South Africa, Dhawan was caught behind for just eight runs.

Winner: Kagiso Rabada

Even though South Africa failed with the bat, their bowlers gave one hell of a fight. Especially fast bowler Kagiso Rabada. India shouldn’t need 43 overs to chase 228, but Rabada fought till the last ball. Rabada managed to find the two wickets of Dhawan and KL Rahul and conceded only 39 runs, including a maiden.

Winner: Rohit Sharma

Yup. That man again. Rohit Sharma alone has won matches for India and he did it again. While the rest of the Indian batsmen struggled against South Africa, Sharma ended up scoring a century and putting 13 fours and two sixes past the ropes along the way. His century awarded him Man of the Match.

 

Bangladesh vs New Zealand

Winner: Ross Taylor

Batting against Bangladeshi fast bowling and heavy spin isn’t easy by any means but Ross Taylor stayed at the crease, defending his wicket. Taylor scored 82(91). Taylor was also involved in a 105-run match-winning partnership with captain Kane Williamson, who scored 40.

Loser: Mushfiqur Rahim

After fairing just 19 with the bat, wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim made an even bigger mistake in the second innings. After Tamim Iqbal had collected the ball at mid-on and threw it at the batting end, Taylor was set up to be run-out but Rahim’s arms came in the way, knocking the bails off the stumps before the ball, saving Taylor. Taylor then went on to score his 82, costing Bangladesh dearly.

 

Australia vs West Indies

Winner: Sheldon Cottrell

First with the ball, then in the field, Sheldon Cottrell impressed. His two wickets for 56 runs were a part of Australia’s dismal collapse, in the beginning, claiming the names of David Warner and Glenn Maxwell, saluting them back to the pavilion. But the craziest moment came when he helped dismiss Steve Smith by taking a catch on the boundary line. When Cottrell had grabbed onto the ball, he threw it back up in the air as his momentum took him past the boundary edge, then came back in as the ball was returning to secure the wicket.

Winner: Alex Carry

The Australian wicket-keeper knew exactly what to do when he came out to bat. He knew before runs, the Australians somehow had to prevent losing their wickets, so Alex Carey did exactly that. After defending for a few overs, Carey then leaked runs scoring 45 from just 55 before being caught behind by Shai Hope.

Winner: Steve Smith

It seems that Steve Smith might be one of the most consistent batsmen in this tournament, along with the likes of Sharma, Taylor or Babar Azam. Smith batted with such composure against the West Indies, it was as if the batting collapse prior to his innings never occurred or was never in the back of his mind. Smith, just like Carey, had defended for quite some time before going onto the attack. The result? A masterclass 73(103) by the Aussie.

Winner: Nathan Coulter-Nile

He’s in the side as a bowler, but when Australia needed someone to bat well, Nathan Coulter-Nile stepped up. The no. eight batsman nearly earned his maiden century, scoring 92 from just 60 deliveries, setting him up at a strike rate of 153.33! That match-turning innings fairly earned him Man of the Match.

Winner: Chris Gayle

If you were to check the scorecard, you’d ask how does someone call themselves a winner after scoring just 21? Well, you’d be surprised what occurred during Gayle’s 21. From ball one to 17, Gayle had crossed a personal achievement of 3000 World Cup runs! And in the innings prior to, Gayle in the fielding saw him become a hero to the crowd, saluting the crowd every time the ball just came in his hands. Hmm…is there a way to insert a laughing emoji in this article?

Winner: Shai Hope

After coming into this World Cup on impeccable form, Hope scored his maiden World Cup half-century. After taking four catches in the first innings, Hope went on to score 68(105), putting the West Indies in a winning position.

Losers: The Umpires

But the West Indies didn’t win, did they? Honestly, even though the Windies lost wickets late, I still feel like they deserved the win. And the umpiring stole it from them. By the time captain Jason Holder was dismissed in the 46th over, West Indies hadn’t lost a review despite using a review four times to that point. Meaning the umpires had been wrong multiple times. But the worst bit came in the fifth over, when Gayle was dismissed by an LBW from Mitchell Starc. Gayle shouldn’t have been dismissed as the ball prior to was a No-ball, but none of the umpires had caught it. As commentator Michael Holding puts it: “Umpiring in this game has been atrocious. Even when I was playing, when they weren’t as strict as now, you were allowed 1 appeal, you don’t appeal 2,3,4 times. If umpires are intimidated that means they’re weak – this has been atrocious by both umpires.”

Winner: Starc

Starc still bowled excellently, though. He earned his sixth five-for in One-Day Internationals, conceding just 46 runs in this match. Towards the end of the innings, Starc ended up getting the key wicket of Holder, who had crossed the fifty mark, threatening Australia’s winning chances. But Starc made sure that didn’t happen and Australia took the two points home.

 

Those were some action-packed matches, but I don’t suspect that’ll be the end of it. India will take on Australia next in a thrilling blockbuster for sure, as the rivalry between the two sides has heated up in the last few years. Bangladesh will look to beat England once again while England needs to get back to winning, after losing to Pakistan. New Zealand’s next encounter is against Afghanistan, who need a win, and South Africa will search for two points against the West Indies. Let’s see some of my predictions for a few of these matches:

 

England vs Bangladesh @ Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Saturday, June 8:

If England bats first: Bangladesh to win by two wickets.

If Bangladesh bats first: England to win by six wickets.

 

Afghanistan vs New Zealand @ Taunton County Ground on Saturday, June 8:

If Afghanistan bats first: New Zealand to win by five wickets.

If New Zealand bats first: New Zealand to win by 100 runs.

 

Australia vs India @ The Oval, London on Sunday, June 9:

If Australia bats first: Australia to win by 20 runs.

If India bats first: India to win by 30 runs.

 

South Africa vs the West Indies @ The Rose Bowl, Southampton on Monday, June 10:

If South Africa bats first: West Indies to win by three wickets.

If West Indies bats first: South Africa to win by five wickets.

Cricket World Cup Round two recap

As if Round One had produced interesting results, Round Two has truly made this World Cup competitive. A depleted South Africa returned to The Oval in London to fall to ‘underdogs’ Bangladesh, Pakistan turned the tables around against favorites England and Sri Lanka won a wicket-fest against Afghanistan. Bangladesh can owe their victory to the performances to the likes of their middle order batting but their bowling also became crucial. Pakistan batted superbly yet their death bowling was a new face to the side. Finally, it’s hard to pick which bowler was the best on Eid’s Afghanistan-Sri Lanka encounter. Let’s see which players were winners and who were losers from Round Two’s matches. Also, stick to the end for my Australia-West Indies and Pakistan-Sri Lanka predictions.

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Bangladesh vs South Africa in HDR by rushdi13 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

South Africa vs Bangladesh

Winners: Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al-Hasan

When Bangladesh beat New Zealand in the 2017 Champions Trophy, there were to names to thank: Mahmadullah and Shakib Al-Hasan’s 224-run partnership. Two years later in England, Al-Hasan participated in another match-winning partnership, this time alongside Mushfiqur Rahim. Both players achieved half-centuries in their 142-run partnership with Al-Hasan’s half-century being his fourth within five matches.

 Winner: Mahmadullah

Mahmadullah was still able to add runs with the bat as Bangladesh achieved their highest ever One Day International (ODI) total of 330. By the end of the 50 overs, Madmadullah was on 46(33)*, being a no. nine batsman. His innings was composed of three fours and a six.

Winner: Mustafizur Rahman

Of course against a loaded batting lineup like that of South Africa’s, Bangladesh had to bowl well, and they did. Though all the bowlers bowled well for Bangladesh, the pick of the bowlers had to be Mustafizur Rahman, who picked up three wickets for 67. He first removed David Miller, being caught by Mehidy Hasan on 38, then bowled JP Duminy out for 45. His final wicket was that of Chris Morris’ who had scored just ten.

 

England vs Pakistan

Winner: Mohammad Hafeez

It was a shame that veteran Mohammad Hafeez couldn’t reach his century, but his 84(62) earned him Man of the Match. Hafeez proved he can be an attacking batsman which Pakistan needs at times with his eight fours and two sixes. His innings helped Pakistan to a daunting total of 348-8 at Trent Bridge in Nottinghamshire.

Winner: Chris Woakes

Just as how Chris Woakes bowled excellently throughout the ODI series against Pakistan prior to the World Cup, Woakes again came in handy for England with his three wickets, removing the Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz, along with securing four catches. Yes, he was a bit expensive, going for 81 runs, but come on, it’s Trent Bridge. Woakes also managed an impressive maiden in Pakistan’s innings.

Winner: Moeen Ali

While Moeen Ali has been struggling with the bat, it’s his skills with the ball that’s been keeping him in the side. England utilized spin well on a flat Trent Bridge surface as Ali picked up three wickets. And three very crucial ones they were: Imam Ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam.

Loser: Jofra Archer

Jofra Archer and his quick short balls were probably the highest of Pakistan’s worries coming into this match, but Pakistan stood up to Archer and tackled him well. Archer failed to pick up a wicket and went for 79 runs in his ten overs.

Loser: Adil Rashid

Yeah, good thing he only bowled five overs, otherwise, Pakistan’s total would’ve only been even worse for England. Pakistan knew they had to attack spin and who better to do that than the ‘Professor’ Hafeez? He went after one of the world’s best leg-spinner in Adil Rashid and Rashid’s five overs gave away 43 runs.

Winner: Joe Root

Commentator and ex-England cricketer Nasser Hussain labeled Joe Root as “England’s best batsman” and it’s hard to prove him wrong. Root came in after England’s openers fell early and made a statement with his 15th ODI hundred. Root came in when England was 60-2 and departed when England had made it to 248-5. England was at their best when he and Jos Buttler were involved in a 130-run partnership together.

Winner: Jos Buttler

“The game isn’t over until you get Jos Buttler out,” said Hussain on commentary. And that turned out to be exactly true. Everything was in England’s favor until Mohammad Amir dismissed Buttler the ball after he made his century. But until Buttler returned to the pavilion, Buttler was going at a strike rate of 135.53, scoring 103 off 76. In that short time frame, Buttler put nine fours and two sixes past Pakistan.

“The game isn’t over until you get Jos Buttler out.” 

-Nasser Hussain

Winner: Wahab Riaz

Not only has Riaz performed well, cementing his place in the Pakistan team, but he was also the best of Pakistan’s bowlers on Monday. Riaz bowled well in both the opening ten overs and in the death when it really mattered. In this ninth over, Riaz dismissed Jonny Bairstow for 32(31) and then got Ali and Woakes back-to-back in the 48th over.

 

Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan

Winner: Mohammed Nabi

Honestly, this match had Sri Lanka written all over it until Mohammed Nabi came on to bowl. His off-spinning tactics battered Sri Lanka as he took three wickets, all within one over. Earlier, Nabi had already removed the captain, Dimuth Karunuratne, but then ripped through Lahiru Thrimanne 25(34), Kusal Mendis 2(2) and Angelo Matthews 0(2).

Winner: Nuwan Pradeep

In the last few years, Nuwan Pradeep has established himself as the leader of the Sri Lankan bowling attack, being a regular wicket-taker. His four wickets against Afghanistan was what prevented Sri Lanka from losing their second match. Pradeep’s 3.44 economy was also just as impressive as his wickets’ tally.

Winner: Lasith Malinga

Fun fact: before this match against the Afghanis, in the last 22 matches for Sri Lanka in which Lasith Malinga has played, 21 of them have been lost. But Malinga proved that he can still bowl a bloody good yorker. He picked up three wickets for 39 runs, with the last two being yorker lengths. The final wicket of Hamid Hassan was the nail in the coffin for Afghanistan.

 

Stay tuned for our Round Three recap this weekend! Along with India opening up against South Africa and Bangladesh fighting New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka both face each other in good form and West Indies will look to tackle Australia head-on.

 

Round Three predictions:

Australia vs West Indies @ Trent Bridge in Nottinghamshire on Thursday, June 6:

If Australia bats first: West Indies to win by four wickets.

If West Indies bats first: Australia to win by five wickets.

 

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka @ Bristol on Friday, June 7:

If Pakistan bats first: Pakistan to win by 35 runs,

If Sri Lanka bats first: Pakistan to win by two wickets.

 

Cricket World Cup Round One Recap

The first four matches of the Cricket World Cup happened across three days and fans were treated to some interesting matches. On Thursday, England wiped out South Africa by beating them by 103 runs. The following day was a shocker. Pakistan slumped from 74-4 to 105 all out against the West Indies’ short deliveries and the Windies won comfortably, losing three wickets to fast-bowler Mohammad Amir. Two matches followed on Saturday, both being rather one-sided. New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by ten wickets after bowling the Sri Lankans out for just 136 and Australia lost only three wickets in their pursuit of Afghanistan’s 207. There were some stand-out performances from each side, swaying the results. Let’s take a look at which players performed the best throughout the weekend.

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P1074661 by Anthony Hawkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

England vs South Africa

Winner: Ben Stokes

When Andile Phelukwayo lofted the ball to deep square leg, it seemed like no fielder was present as South Africa would’ve been rewarded a six, but out of nowhere came Ben Stokes who jumps backward and grabs the ball with just one hand. “OH, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU JUST CANNOT DO THAT BEN STOKES! THAT MAY BE ONE OF THE BEST CATCHES IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME!” said Nasser Hussain on commentary at the moment of the catch.

Along with that catch, what awarded Stokes Man of the Match was his total two catches, bowling figures of 2-12 and his innings of 89(79). All that in just one match? I know. Unreal.

Winner: Jofra Archer

Even though South Africa’s batting should’ve been capable of chasing down England’s 311-8, England can thank Jofra Archer that they didn’t. Playing his fourth ODI for England, Archer seems to have a liking of The Oval in London as he performed well twice there. In the World Cup’s opening match, Archer picked up the wickets of Aiden Markram, captain Faf du Plessis and half-centurion Rassie van de Dussen, while only giving away 27 runs in his seven overs.

Loser: Jonny Bairstow

Imagine. The first over of the World Cup, nerves are running rampant. You’re at the non-striker’s end and off of the first delivery, your partner plays the ball for a single and you have to face the second ball of the tournament. And you edge it, the keeper catches it. Well, your stay at the crease was rather short. Poor Jonny Bairstow edged Imran Tahir for a golden duck and had to depart on the second ball of the World Cup.

West Indies vs Pakistan

Winner: Oshane Thomas

Once West Indies fast-bowler Oshane Thomas learned that Andre Russell’s short ball was the way to attack Pakistan, he did just that. Thomas stepped up to the crease and rather being fearless, he planted fear in the eyes of the Pakistanis. His four wickets for 27 runs in 5.4 overs skittled Pakistan for 105, handing the West Indies the match.

Winner: Mohammad Amir

Pakistan literally had only one positive to take from this match: the return of Mohammad Amir. Since the Champions Trophy final vs India in 2017, Amir had taken just two wickets in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) before the encounter against the West Indies. However, he came back to pick up Pakistan’s three only wickets, that of Chris Gayle, Shai Hope and Darren Bravo.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

Winner: Dimuth Karunuratne

I’m sorry to say but very few would’ve expected Sri Lanka to do good. And they didn’t. But despite being bowled out for just 136, Sri Lanka’s only shining light was Dimuth Karunuratne, who scored 52(84)* on his captaincy debut.

Winners: Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson

Eight of Sri Lanka’s ten wickets fell to pace bowling with Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson collecting six of those wickets. Both picked up three with Henry bowling with an economy of 4.14 and Ferguson bowling impressively, giving away just 3.47 runs per over.

Australia vs Afghanistan

Loser: Mohammad Shahzad

Wicket-keeper and opening batsman Mohammad Shahzad was on fine form last year, especially in the Asia Cup. But since arriving in England, Afghanistan has failed to find stability up top through Shahzad. In their opening match of the World Cup against Australia, Shahzad was dismissed in the first over for duck after being bowled by none other than Mitchell Starc.

Winner: Rahmat Shah

When Afghanistan was 5-2 and the new batsmen were struggling to adapt to Australia’s bounce, Rahmat Shah stayed at the crease and fought a defensive battle. His fearless batting in the face of the short balls took Shah to 43(60), composed of six fours.

Winner: David Warner

Since David Warner and Steve Smith returned from being banned to the Australian sides, while Smith has hit several half-centuries, appearing as if he never left the side, Warner has struggled to score well. But that changed against Afghanistan as Warner led the Aussies to a winning start by his well-played 89(114)*.

 

In Round Two’s recap, which will come out in the following days, we’ll see how Bangladesh faired in their opener against South Africa, if Pakistan can turn things around against England and if Sri Lanka can find victory at last against Afghanistan. Meanwhile, here are my predictions for the latter two: England vs Pakistan and Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan:

England vs Pakistan

If England bats first: England to win by 110 runs.

If Pakistan bats first: England to win by six wickets.

Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan

If Sri Lanka bats first: Sri Lanka to win by 20 runs.

If Afghanistan bats first: Sri Lanka to win by two wickets.

Changes which need to be made in ODI Cricket

As the weather becomes warmer and more pleasant as the months move forward into May and June and July, cricket welcomes a usually pleasant time period for its fans: the English summer. Typically, the English summer involves a series of test matches across the British Isles but this summer is set to be a bit different. Ten teams, from the end of May into June, will face each other head on in England during the Cricket World Cup. 

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Starc reality at Old Trafford by Anthony O’Neil is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

One-Day (ODI) cricket can be just as enjoyable as the usual and traditional test cricket at times, especially when it’s a World Cup year. What makes both formats enjoyable, at times, more than T20 Cricket, is the extended time period, which allows for exciting, dramatic and contemplative battles between bat and ball. Having more overs and a longer amount of time to play with allows a competition to be more fair and not one-sided, and even when the tables turn, a match is not won until the last moment.

However, unlike test cricket where the battle between bat and ball typically remains fair, in ODI Cricket, as of late, matches have been turning massively in favor of the batsmen. Especially in this year’s World Cup host: England.

With English pitches growing less grass and becoming flatter, the stereotype of English conditions being a fast bowler’s paradise has been dusted away in the last few years. Teams’ totals in England within the last few years prove this. In international cricket, England have boasted two 400+ totals, threatening 500, when they first put up 444-3 against Pakistan in 2016 and 481-6 against Australia two years later (both at Trent Bridge in Nottingham). In this domestic season alone, Nottinghamshire already has two 400+ scores at Trent Bridge: 433-7 against Leicestershire and 417-7 against Lancashire.

Outside of Trent Bridge, warmer English summers are leading to higher scores as well. In the second ODI between England and Pakistan at the The Rose Bowl in Southampton, both teams scored a total of 734 runs scored. Jos Buttler achieved the second-fastest ODI century with his 110(55)*  in England’s 373-3. In response, Pakistan’s batting came very close to silencing England with the visitors finishing at 361-7, courtesy of scores of 138 from opener Fakhar Zaman and twin scores of 51 by Babar Azam and Asif Ali. In the following ODI at the Ageas Bowl in Bristol, Pakistan set England a large target of 359 after Imam Ul-Haq’s 151(131) and yet another half-century from Ali. However, even that proved to be too little of a score as England chased it down with five overs to spare.

Now, of course Pakistan could’ve bowled better in those matches and the fielding was honestly dismal at times, but there are some aspects of ODI cricket which one can’t help but wonder why they exist. If certain things about the limited-overs format could be changed, matches would all of a sudden seem more fair and balanced, especially when English conditions will only continue to favor batsmen more and more this summer.

Kookaburra vs Dukes

A decade ago, it was standard for international matches to use a ball made by the Kookaburra company. However, after England experimented with the Dukes ball at the start of the decade, other teams followed suit, including the West Indies and South Africa. What’s common between these three sides? Wickets which favor seam bowlers. The grass levels on the pitches in these three countries tend to be more than other places in the world, such as India or Australia, creating movement on the ball when a bowler bowls his or her delivery.

Being handcrafted and having a more upright seam, the Dukes ball has become the preferred one by faster bowlers within the last few years. Unlike the Kookaburra, which will generally only swing for about 20-25 overs, the Dukes can last much longer, keeping the batsmen on their toes throughout the game. For this very reason, the England and Wales Cricket Board made the switch from using the Kookaburra to the Dukes ball for home test matches.

But why not also use the Dukes ball in ODIs as well? The challenge of more and longer swing from the bowlers will make batting a bit more difficult, especially in English conditions right now, where it’s too easy.

Reverse Swing

Reverse swing has now become a rarity in limited-overs cricket. And there’s an obvious reason behind this.

As the ball becomes older and more used, if one side of the ball is more roughed up than the other, bowlers can use this to their advantage to get reverse swing. Basically, the difference in the two sides of the ball changes how the ball travels through the air. What reverse swing does is that the direction of the ball after it has bounced will be the opposite from the direction is traveled after releasing the delivery.

But in ODI cricket, the white ball doesn’t become old and used enough. Within 50 overs, a ball should normally be able to reverse swing, but the funny thing is that in ODI cricket, two balls are used, not one. The balls are switched after each over. I suppose this was to preserve the state of the ball, but it’s come at a major cost: quality reverse swing bowling.

You won’t find someone who bowls like Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis in One-Day cricket anymore because modern bowlers can’t use an older ball to their advantage. Give Mohammad Amir a ball 30 overs old and just sit back and watch him dare the batsmen.

Fielding Restrictions

Why is this necessary? It’s already difficult for eleven men to cover 360° of area to prevent boundaries from being scored easily, why is their job being made even harder? Rather than restricting teams’ bowling plans, allow teams to set the field which they find best, that way they can combat the batting team as best as possible. Especially at a point in the game where it becomes easy to take singles, being allowed to have more fielders close-up to the pitch would be more exciting. Just like test cricket, I’d say get rid of the fielding restrictions which bowling sides are forced to have in One-Day cricket.

Conclusion

In order to keep cricket exciting and engaging, there needs to be balance between the bat and the ball. When conditions seem to favor the batsmen as of late, of course certain things need to be changed to level the playing field again. Some aspects in One-Day cricket implemented by the ICC just don’t seem to make sense and in fact just end up hurting the fielding side. Imagine if limited-overs cricket once again can see bowlers like Akram or Younis or Anil Kumble. Imagine how much more competitive matches would be if both sides had to work hard to achieve scores of two-fifty plus or three-hundred plus. Cricket has always been defined as a contest between bat and ball, strength and mind. But unless some obvious obstacles aren’t addressed, the game seems to become a contest between bat and scorecard.

Asia Cup Preview: Can India Retain Without Kohli or Will Pakistan Surprise in Group B?

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Rohit Sharma batting for India against United Arab Emirates during their 2015 Cricket World Cup match at the WACA Ground in Perth, Australia. The UAE wicketkeeper is Swapnil Patil.” by Bahnfrend is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

By Aman Huda

Despite Group A being the most competitive, most eyes will be on Group B purely because of two teams: India and Pakistan. The two arch-rivals will play for the first time since Pakistan’s 180-run upset win over India in the Champions Trophy final last year. India, although with the best batting line-up in the tournament, will be missing their best batsmen and captain Virat Kohli. Pakistan perhaps has the best chances in familiar conditions and with a rested squad. The two rivals are joined by Hong Kong, who beat UAE earlier this month to qualify for the tournament.

 

Group B Predictions:

1. India

Currently sitting second in the ODI rankings, top in Asia, India is perhaps the strongest team in this competition, but they do have much more pressure this time around. After coming off of a difficult but fruitful 4-1 series loss to England, India has just over a week to prepare for this Asia Cup. Captain and India’s best batsmen Virat Kohli has been rested for this tournament as Rohit Sharma will take over the side.

Some of India’s key batsmen may struggle as the likes of Hardik Panday, KL Rahul, or Shikhar Dhawan may face stamina issues after playing in the test series against England. India can field a fine selection of pace bowlers, including a mix of veteran and younger players, which will help India in the field. India’s key player in this tournament may be leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav. Yadav so far has 48 wickets in just 23 ODIs, and the spinning UAE pitches are more than likely to cause Pakistan and Hong Kong trouble.

India’s batting will most likely power India through the tournament, but burnout may be a key factor in deciding whether they win the tournament.

Prediction: India to top the group stage, finishing second in the Super Four, and come runners-up in the tournament.

 

2. Pakistan

Pakistan probably has the best chances to win this tournament. Their players have had the most rest since their recent 5-0 series win against Zimbabwe in July and they will be playing is practically home conditions (as Pakistan has had to play home matches in the UAE since 2008). The squad selection has had some controversy, such as batsmen Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez and spinner Yasir Shah being dropped, but the players stepping in for them can be equally good. Shan Masood, who’s in for Azhar Ali, averages 47.83 with the bat in first-class matches, while Azhar Ali scored just twelve runs in his last four against New Zealand.

The bowling line-up is as strong as it can ever be with Pakistan’s best players Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali taking part. The spinning department can be seen as reliable with 19-year old Shadab Khan taking charge and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz in the squad.

Pakistan’s biggest competition will most definitely be India, who generally are strong against spin. However, if Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali do the job right, Pakistan can top the group. The key player in this tournament for Pakistan, however, is not a bowler, but a batsman. After scoring 114 in the Champions Trophy final against India and a record 210 against Zimbabwe this summer, Zaman will look to utilize his skills and the UAE conditions against the tired and inexperienced Indian bowlers.

Prediction: Pakistan to finish second in their group, to come first in the Super Four, and to be crowned champions.

 

3. Hong Kong

Many, many congratulations to Hong Kong for qualifying for the tournament. The path definitely wasn’t easy as they played teams thought to have been better than them, such as the UAE, Nepal, and Oman to get this far and managed to beat Nepal and UAE along the way. Their strength seems to be their bowling line, as during the qualifiers they restricted Singapore to 150 (41.2 overs), favorites UAE to just 93 (24.5 overs), Oman to just 150, Nepal to 95 (37.5 overs), and the UAE in the finals to 176-9.

The man behind it all is Nadeem Ahmed, who took 14 wickets in the qualifiers and will look to replicate his form throughout the Asia Cup. It will be a difficult task though, as the UAE conditions tend to favor batsmen, and Pakistan and India’s batting line-up seems too strong. Although Hong Kong is capable of playing excellent cricket, their inexperience and not-so-much favoring conditions will make them require miracles to get out of this group.

Prediction: Hong Kong to finish third in Group B.