What you missed this weekend: 6/21-6/23

Another week in this summer has flown by really quickly and with that, another weekend! Although domestically, there wasn’t much action on the field, the NBA and NHL leagues had their drafts for the next season. The MLB, a summer tradition, of course still continues and the US is currently involved in the Women’s FIFA World Cup and the Gold Cup. Speaking of the Americas, the group stages of the Copa America have nearly been concluded and some teams are either making their exits or pushing for a Semi-final spot in the Cricket World Cup as well. Let’s start off with some historic draft picks, first with the NBA.

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IMG_4921 by Dinur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

NBA Draft

Bol drafted surprisingly low:

Oregon player Bol Bol was expected to be one of the top picks but didn’t get drafted until Miami Heat picked him up as the 44th overall. Concerns about his injuries were likely the key reason. He did miss the rest of the last season after November following an ankle injury, but Bol himself says, “My foot is 100 percent healed.” Following the pick, Bol was traded to the Denver Nuggets, who have a different approach, a more positive one, to the Bol situation. Tim Connelly, the President of Basketball Operations at the Denver Nuggets said, “It’s hard not to be excited,” when referring to Bol.

Timberwolves exchange Saric for number six pick:

The Minnesota Timberwolves exchanged their no. 11 pick and Dario Saric for a number six pick from the Phoenix Suns. The Minnesota President Gersson Rosas was working for some time to move the Timberwolves’ pick up higher and settled for sixth. If the Suns chose to keep Saric, he would be a good pick after he averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds last season.

Hachimura becomes the first Japanese player drafted in the first round:

Only two Japanese players have ever been drafted before in NBA history, and Rui Hachimura became the first one to be drafted in the first round. The Washington Wizards drafted Hachimura as their ninth overall pick, citing his flexibility to play multiple positions and his key role in the Japanese national team, heading into the Olympics. Being a junior at Gonzaga, he averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

NHL Draft

Record eight US players picked in the first round:

Starting with Jack Hughes to the New Jersey Devils, eight players in total from the US under-18 national team were selected in the first round. The previous record was four in 2000, 19 years ago. Typically, the draft is dominated by European players. Here is a list of the American players drafted and by which team:

  • Jack Hughes to New Jersey Devils, no. 1
  • Alex Turcotte to Los Angeles Kings, no. 5
  • Trevor Zegras to Anaheim Ducks, no. 9
  • Matthew Boldy to Minnesota Wild, no. 12
  • Spencer Knight to Florida Panthers, no. 13
  • Cam York to Philadelphia Flyers, no. 14
  • Caul Caufield to Montreal Canadiens, no. 15
  • John Beecher to Boston Bruins, no. 30

MLB

A warm welcome home for Pujols:

Although Albert Pujols’ current team, the Los Angeles Angels lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 2-4 on Saturday, the moment of the match came for the Angels when Pujols homered in the seventh innings in front of his former home crowd. The sold-out St. Louis crowd greeted Pujols with loud cheers and salutes, to which Pujols responded by returning from the dugout and tipping his hat.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Germany crushes Nigeria 3-0 in Round of 16:

Both Germany and the US are currently undefeated and both Germany and the US are yet to concede a goal in the entire tournament! Alexandra Popp scored the opener in her 100th appearance for the country with a header in the 20th minute. Seven minutes later, Sara Daebritz netted in a penalty for the Germans. Both goals were given with the assistance of VAR, to the dismay of Nigeria. The third goal didn’t come until the 86th minute after Lea Schüller scored.

Norway sends Australia home after penalties:

After the game ended 1-1 at the end of the two-hour mark, Norway beat Australia on penalties 4-1. Before penalties, Australia fell a player short after Alanna Kennedy was sent off. Both sides did have plenty of chances missed though as Norway had 11 shots off target out of their 24, and Australia, despite having six percent more possession, registered only 8 shots, four on target.

England too good for Cameroon:

Just like Germany, England beat their Round of 16 opponents, Cameroon, 3-0. England’s first goal, which came in the 14th minute, was a rarity, coming from an indirect free kick (a free kick inside the keeper’s box in which defenders can defend the goal) after the Cameroon goalkeeper, Annette Ngo Ndom, picked up the ball after it hit her own teammate last. The Cameroon players ran into some trouble with VAR after Ajara Nchout’s goal was deemed offside and the players clearly objected in the dying minutes of the first half. Alex Greenwood got the third goal in for England at the 57th minute after receiving a pass from a corner kick and netting it in the low right corner.

France survives Brazil scare:

France played an intense game at home against Brazil where the game had ended 1-1 at the end of the 90th minute. Valérie Gauvin opened the scoring for the French in the 52nd minute before Thaisa scored an absolute beauty in the 63rd minute for Brazil. Thaisa’s goal was originally called offside but was overturned after a VAR review. The moment of the game came in the 106th minute when Amandine Henry scored in the bottom left corner after receiving a long free kick and France beat Brazil 2-1.

Copa América

Machís, Martínez send Venezuela through to Quarter-finals:

After struggling to find some goals in their opening two matches, Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 to advance to the Quarter-finals and finish second in their group. In the first few minutes, one could tell it was all over for Bolivia as Machís ran easily through the defense to meet a cross with his head in the second minute, which found the back of the net due to poor goalkeeping. Atlanta United’s Josef Martínez ended up scoring a header too in the 86th minute, right after Leonel Justiniano was able to pull one back for the Bolivians four minutes earlier.

Peru qualifies for knockout rounds despite Brazil thrashing:

In the final game of Group A, Brazil beat Peru 5-0, but Peru’s four points were enough to get them past the group stage. All five goalscorers for Brazil were different with Casemiro, Roberto Firmino with a no-look goal and Everton scoring in the first half, before Dani Alves netted and Willian scored in the last minute. Brazil finished first in the group with seven points.

Argentina beats Qatar to qualify for Quarter-finals:

Argentina needed to win to survive in this Copa América and they did just that. Lautaro Martínez scored in the fourth minute and Sergio Aguero made it 2-0 in the 86th. Argentina finished second in their group, leaving Paraguay in third at Qatar packing their bags at fourth.

Cricket World Cup:

England no longer favorites:

It seems that England has lost their title of favorites once Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunuratne handed the ball to veteran Lasith Malinga. On a slow Leeds pitch, Sri Lanka scored 232-9 after Angelo Matthews stepped up with his 85(115)*, and was hoping that would be enough to bowl England out. Surely enough, it was. Not only did Malinga pick up four wickets, but he also picked up the most crucial of them, getting both of the English openers along with Joe Root and Jos Buttler out. Spinner Dhananjaya de Silva helped clean up the lower order, grabbing the wickets of Moeen Ali, who miscued a shot to Isuru Udana at long mid-on, and having both Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid caught behind. Ben Stokes played a heroic effort, scoring 82*, but the game ended when Mark Wood edged Nuwan Pradeep behind on duck at the end of the 47th over. England is still in the top four, but they play Australia, India and New Zealand next while Sri Lanka’s semi-final hopes are still alive.

Afghanistan nearly causes World Cup’s greatest upset:

Six days after India beat Pakistan by 89 runs, one wouldn’t think Afghanistan would be too big of a problem for Virat Kohli’s India either. But Afghanistan’s spinners Mujeeb Ur-Rehman and Rashid Khan attacked the Indian batting extremely well, leaving them desperate at 224-8. Rohit Sharma, six days prior, scored 140 but was dismissed for just one after being bowled by Ur-Rehman. Kedhar Jadhav also played a handy 52 off 68, but India would’ve thought they fell short on runs. Man of the Match Mohammad Shami got the crucial wicket of Afghanistan opener Hazratullah Zazai, but Rahmat Shah and Mohammad Nabi held their ground, frustrating the Indian bowlers. After an over of six yorkers by Jasprit Bumrah, Afghanistan needed 12 from the last over but Shami completed a World Cup hattrick, taking the wickets of Nabi, who was caught by Pandya at long mid-on, and bowling both Aftab Alam and Ur-Rehman.

Brathwaite can make history but not re-create it:

Three years after Carlos Brathwaite hit four sixes against Stokes in the final over in Kolkata, Brathwaite was bound to do something similar against New Zealand in Manchester. The match started off West Indies’ way when Sheldon Cottrell found two wickets in the first over, trapping Martin Guptill LBW first ball and bowling Colin Munro. A 160-run partnership between New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor made things right before Taylor departed for 69 off of Chris Gayle’s bowling and Cottrell added a third wicket in Williamson being caught behind.

Gayle was brilliant in the next innings, scoring 87(84), but the Kiwis did pick two early wickets in Shai Hope and Nicholas Pooran. Trent Boult was brilliant for New Zealand, registering four wickets and three runs per over and securing a very important catch later on. After Gayle was dismissed in the 24th over, a middle-order collapse left West Indies’ fans worrying as West Indies were at 245-9 at the 45th over, Brathwaite on 60* at the time. With just one wicket left, Brathwaite hit five sixes to get him to his maiden One-Day International century and with just six runs needed to win from seven deliveries, Brathwaite went for six again, but Boult was sitting at the mid-wicket boundary, waiting for the catch. Brathwaite was left crying on his knees as New Zealand ended up winning by five runs.

Pakistan comes to light; South Africa in disarray:

Both sides needed a win in order to stay alive in the World Cup, but it looks like South Africa will be the one going home. Pakistan had a perfect start at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London with openers Imam Ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman involved in an 81-run partnership, before both batsmen were dismissed for 44. Babar Azam scored yet another half-century, but the most impressive batsman was Haris Sohail, who came in for Shoaib Malik, scoring 85 off just 59 to take Pakistan to 308-7.

South Africa, who have never chased a target above 300 in a World Cup before, was off to a bad start when Mohammad Amir got Hashim Amla out LBW with his very first delivery. Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis worked to recover with their 87-run partnership before Shadab Khan found the wicket of de Kock, who was caught at fine leg by Ul-Haq. From there, Pakistan continued to take regular wickets as Amir had a total of two and Khan and Wahab Riaz both had three wickets to their name. Andile Phelukwayo’s 46(32)* prevented Pakistan from bowling South Africa out, but Pakistan still won by 49 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.

Cricket World Cup preview part one: England, Australia and South Africa

Every four years, the Cricket World Cup takes place, but this year, thing’s are going to be different. The last World Cup was in Australia & New Zealand while this one will be all the way across the world at the home of cricket, England. The last World Cup had fourteen teams, this World Cup has ten teams. It seems that this World Cup should be even more exciting and dramatic as the format makes everything more competitive. Rather than the teams being divided into pools of two group, every team plays each other before the knockout stages.

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England team talk by Richard Hoare is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

For the next three days, we’ll be previewing all ten teams here at Fourth Quarter Sports starting with the hosts England, their rivals and last World Cup’s winners Australia and England’s opening opponent South Africa. All three of these sides are in form as of late, but two of them have unfortunate World Cup records. Will anything change for England or South Africa and can Australia fight to retain their title?

England

Last World Cup: Knocked out by Bangladesh in group stages. This wasn’t entirely a surprise as after the 1992 World Cup Finals, in which Graham Gooch’s England side lost to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan, England’s morale in World Cups have been rather dismal. Since ’92, the English haven’t been able to cross the quarter-finals, failing to qualify for the knockout stages on three occasions. England will be hoping to rewrite history, praying that their recent form from their 4-0 series win over Pakistan and having home advantage will work in their favor.

World Cup best: Runners up, three times. All 1992 and prior with the first being in the World Cup’s second edition in 1975, in which the West Indies lifted their second and their last title. Then again in 1987 in the subcontinent where Australia lifted their first of five titles. It’s about time England get their name written on the trophy and there’s no better chance than this year.

Strong point: Fearless batting. England’s batting lineup seems never-ending as we witnessed in the series against Pakistan. Everyone from Jason Roy at the top of the order to Adil Rashid at no. ten found runs, contributing to England’s large totals. Also, England’s surprisingly flat, batting pitches will only make opponents’ bowling sides fear them more.

Weak point: Fearless batting. Nope, that’s not a typo. Sometimes, England’s batsmen can get carried away, throwing away the match by losing unnecesary wickets. They also have a similar issue in test cricket of batting collapses which cost them the Ashes and a series against the West Indies. In One-Day (ODI) cricket, England’s openers don’t pose any worry, but rather the middle order. Moeen Ali has been low on runs and Ben Stokes is still trying to find form. But on days where England’s batting doesn’t falter, a win can feel almost guaranteed for the Lions.

Player to watch: He’s new into the side, has played only three ODIs, but he’s quick and he swings the ball: Jofra Archer. He’s taken five wickets in ODIs, but his domestic stats are even more impressive. In domestic One-Day matches, Archer has taken 24 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 31.37 and a blissful economy of 5.23.

Prediction: England’s going to go all the way to win their maiden World Cup title.

Australia

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Finch and Burns go out to bat for Australia by Richard Hoare is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last World Cup: Australia didn’t just win that World Cup, they won their fifth title, the most by any side. Back then, their strength in fast bowling with the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc in their teams won them the Cup but this year, Australia will rely on their batting.

World Cup best: Champions in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015. The era of Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting was the best ODI cricket’s ever seen. Although after the bans of Steve Smith and David Warner left Australia in a poor state, Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch have led the Kangaroos in back-to-back series wins against India and Pakistan, and Smith and Warner are set to return for the World Cup.

Strong point: The top order batting can win matches for the Aussies. Since Smith’s and Warner’s bans, Khawaja has risen to the occasion with three half-centuries against Pakistan and two centuries against India. Captain Finch also had two half-centuries and a century against Pakistan. Also, since his return, Smith has scores of 89* and 91* against New Zealand XI. There is a concern for Khawaja, however, as in a practice match on May 22 against the West Indies, Khawaja was struck on the head by a bouncer from Andre Russell and was taken to the hospital.

Weak point: In modern ODI cricket, spinners win matches. But Australia doesn’t have convincing spinners in their side, at least not in ODI cricket. Nathan Lyon’s good, but he’s weaker in limited-overs cricket compared to the test game. Compared to England’s Adil Rashid or Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Lyon nor Adam Zampa are good wicket-taking options as Lyon averages 1.05 wickets and Zampa averages 1.36 wickets per inning.

Player to watch: This could be one hell of a summer for Finch. He bats quickly in the powerplay and him, along with Warner, could be a feared partnership. It’s likely that Australia’s batting will be key this time around as the pitches don’t have much in them for the fast bowlers.

Prediction: Semi-finalists. Australia’s batting will take them to a top-four spot but other teams look too established, firm and strong for a Finals’ spot.

 

South Africa

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Graeme Smith, South Africa at Rose Bown by Richard is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Last World Cup: Oh dear South Africa. Just like England, they have failed to win a World Cup but unlike England, the Proteas have actually come close in recent history. In the last World Cup, South Africa, led by AB De Villiers, had powered their way to the semi-finals, only to lose in the last over to the hands of New Zealand.

World Cup best: South Africa have played in the semi-finals four times. South Africa have lost all four times. South Africa first made the semis in ’92, where they lost to England, then again in ’99, where they famously tied to Australia. This time around, South Africa, of course, would hope to write their name on the trophy for the maiden time. But it will be much harder as South Africa faces injury concerns and will have to play every opponent before the knockout stages.

Strong point: South African fast bowling is one-of-a-kind. Record-breaking Dale Steyn leads the attack along with Kasigo Rabada and Adile Phehlukwayo while Chris Morris makes a comeback to the team. However, the pitches aren’t entirely in favor of the bowlers so South Africa will need to use the experience of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to bat well. Hopefully, the leg spin of Imran Tahir will find success for South Africa as well.

Weak point: In South Africa’s last ODI series, in which they won 3-2 against Pakistan, in the two matches they lost, South Africa wasn’t able to bat particularly well. Without AB de Villiers, South Africa is limited on experience, leaving the younger and newer batsmen more vulnerable.

Player to watch: It will be interesting to see how de Kock fills the shoes of ex-captain de Villiers. Also, if he bats well in a match, it’s likely South Africa will win.

Prediction: This World Cup will be so tight. One win or loss can completely shift the table and it’s hard to predict who’s better than who. I feel like South Africa’s injury and lack of experience issues will hinder them and prevent them from making semi-finals. Therefore, my prediction is that South Africa will finish eighth at this World Cup.

 

England, Australia and South Africa will be three exciting teams to watch at this World Cup and either of these three could move on out of the group stage. England is heavy favorites, however, but Australia and South Africa will be looking to tune their fine form to ensure that changes. England and South Africa kick off their World Cup campaign in the first match on Thursday, May 30 at The Oval in London at 9:30 GMT while Australia will be playing their first match on Saturday, June 1 against Afghanistan in Bristol.

Stay tuned with as at Fourth Quarter Sports as tomorrow, we’ll be previewing four more teams: dark horses Pakistan, evergreen New Zealand, the Bangladesh Tigers and fiery Afghanistan.

 

End of the term test cricket report cards

What a year of cricket it’s been, across all the formats, but especially test cricket! From the Ashes to India’s tight tour of England to all the Boxing Day action, this year witnessed some great test matches, before the ODI World Cup steals the show next year. Australia won the Ashes, Afghanistan and Ireland made their test debuts and India tops the rankings heading into 2019. I thought about what would happen if I were to review seven of the now twelve test teams as if I were a teacher, handing out grades on a report card. Well, without further ado, here we go, starting with the hosts, England.

Trent Bridge Test Match: out for 97” by John Sutton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

England

Grade: B+

Bright spots: England’s not usually known for their spin department, as the country’s pitches usually produce pacers, but this year, England knew spin was the key to success. At home, a surprise inclusion of leg-spinner Adil Rashid ended up being the decisive factor as England beat red-hot India 4-1! Away in Sri Lanka, England whitewashed the host thanks to the spin trio of Rashid, Moeen Ali and Jack Leach. England ended the year on a high note in Sri Lanka and will likely work on spin heading into their next tests against the West Indies.

Areas to improve: Now without Sir Alastair Cook at the top, England are working on a more stable opening pair. Against Sri Lanka, England tried Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings together, both finding success in high scores individually, but rather failing to put up a key large partnership. England’s performances against Sri Lanka and India place them high on the grading scale, but a 4-0 loss to Australia in the Ashes is hard to forget!

 

2018.01.05.17.43.25-Usman Khawaja & Steve Smith” by www.davidmolloyphotography.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Australia

Grade: C

Bright spots: At home, Australia has played some really excellent cricket. They’ve played two series at home this year, the first being a powerful 4-0 Ashes win against England, and the second ongoing against India, which they are losing 1-2. In both of these series, their wins have come from when the Aussies have batted well. In this year, Australia has found two starts: Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon. Cummins has taken 44 wickets in 16 innings, while Lyon continues to be the best of modern spinners with 335 career wickets to his name. However, despite his wickets, Cummins will be best remembered for the 63(114) he put up in the Boxing Day test against India.

Areas to improve: Although Australia can win when they bat well, their batting overall this year has been atrocious. The bans of captain Steve Smith, vice-captain and opener David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft hit Australia hard. Having to already immediately replace the opening pair, the middle order rarely did their job of anchoring, resulting in series losses in South Africa and Pakistan.

 

New Zealand

Grade: A

Bright spots: New Zealand played a rather low number of tests this year, but they sure made the most of them. The Kiwis won all three of the test series they played in, two at home against England and Sri Lanka and one away against Pakistan, in which New Zealand got their first ever series win in the United Arab Emirates. The reason behind this success, in my opinion, goes to the smart batting. Ross Taylor and captain Kane Williamson were the key players, with others like Henry Nicholls pitching in. This year, the New Zealanders put up massive totals such as 427-8d against England and 585-4 against Sri Lanka.

Areas to improve: The bowling’s done their job as well, with Trent Boult being the pick of the pacers and Ajaz Patel becoming useful with his spin. Perhaps New Zealand will want to take their pace a step further, as Neil Wagner has not been the best partner of Boult, only collecting three wickets against Pakistan compared to Boult’s seven. Will Somerville looks like a good partner for Boult after he took four wickets in his first innings in the third test against Pakistan.

 

Pakistan

Grade: F

Bright spots: As usual, the fast bowling. When Mohammad Amir seemed to go out of form, right-arm bowler Mohammad Abbas stole the show. The 28-year old, in just 12 tests, has taken 61 wickets at an average of just 17! It’s even been known that in London, Abbas asked England’s top wicket-taker, James Anderson, how to improve his bowling, and Anderson simply responded with praise after his 8-64 at Lord’s in Pakistan’s first test against England.

Areas to improve: Somehow, Pakistan failed to win all their series except one, which was a one-off test against debutants Ireland. The amount of batting collapses feels unfortunately infinite, with the fourth innings being especially atrocious. Although the middle order can usually do their job in the first innings, the second innings is dismal, as seen in Pakistan’s losses to New Zealand, South Africa and England. In the first test against New Zealand, Pakistan went from 130-3 to 171 all out, falling short by four runs. Such poor batting is nearly unheard of in international cricket, and one name sticks out: captain/wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who scored a total of just 337 runs at an average of 24. If Pakistan doesn’t fix their middle order soon, Pakistan may lose Ahmed from the team as well.

 

Virat Kohli” by Dun.can is licensed under CC BY 2.0

India

Grade: B-

Bright spots: India’s a bit of an interesting one. They’ve played some really good cricket this year, which has led them to the top of the ICC Rankings. The fast bowling has impressed on the test level, the spin’s been good and the batting has been clearly majestic. King Kohli continues to rack up centuries, but the batsmen with the breakthrough year, in my opinion, has to be Cheteshwar Pujara. This year, he’s had three half-centuries and three centuries, including his 132(355)* against England at Southampton. What’s more impressive about Pujara, is his ability to bat patiently with a lack of impulsiveness, which is exactly what a successful batsman needs in modern test cricket.

Areas to improve: Surprisingly, India tends to fall short sometimes. Despite putting up good performances, they did struggle to get the job done and fell to England 4-1. In that series, both sides had the batsmen, both sides had the pacers. But England’s spin was more dominant than that of India’s. Don’t get me wrong. India has quality spinners in the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, with Kuldeep Yadav around the corner, but India will need to turn them into wicket-taking options to pose threats across matches rather than in just a match.

 

Sri Lanka

Grade: C

Bright spots: Sri Lanka has had the most amount of test cricket on their plates, which gave them a fair share of both wins and losses. Their wins were quite impressive: a series drawn away in the West Indies, a series win away in Bangladesh and a series win at home against South Africa. In all three, spin was the key. As Rangana Herath’s retirement loomed, Dilruwan Perera stepped up with his half-century of wickets this year.

Areas to improve: The fast bowling is weak and they’re suffering from just two pacers in New Zealand right now. We already know Sri Lankans know how to spin, but spin alone cannot win matches. Despite the series wins, Sri Lanka has suffered heavy defeats against New Zealand and England.

 

South Africa

Grade: B-

Bright spots: South Africa’s fast bowlers are stepping up. In this last test against Pakistan, Deyl Steyn became South Africa’s top wicket-taker with 422 test wickets as his partner Kasigo Rabado collected six. South Africa also has a third excellent pace bowler in Dan Olivier they can use, who took a surprising eleven wickets against Pakistan.

Areas to improve: Although normally a good batsman and on his way to legendary status, opener Hashim Amla didn’t have the best of years, though he did show signs of patching his form against Pakistan. It’s very unlikely to see him not in the test side in 2019, but it would be a major help to South Africa if he can work on his consistency and not be dismissed early.