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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What you may have missed this weekend: 7/5 – 7/7

If you didn’t think much happened in the last few days around the world in sports, trust me, a lot more happened then you think. Along with the NBA Free Agency headlines, there were three soccer finals yesterday and a special 15-year old is causing an earthquake in London’s Wimbledon. So without further ado, let’s start by seeing what the Los Angeles Lakers are up to during the NBA Free Agency.

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Coco Gauff by Kate Tann is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

NBA

Lakers on the hunt:

After a dismal NBA season, the Lakers are being quick to patch their team by signing some big names. Right after Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard announced his decision, Danny Green announced he would be signing with the Lakers for a two year, $30 million deal. The other big name to come to Los Angeles is DeMarcus Cousins from Golden State Warriors and Rojan Rondo is set to rejoin his former team. The Lakers completed three more signings in JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Quinn Cook.

Clippers, Thunder secure big trade:

After the Los Angeles Clippers signed NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard, they were quick to move for Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George. However, the Clippers have had to give up a lot for George. First, they traded away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, but also four future first-round picks, another protected first-round pick in 2023 and an extra potential two more picks of the Clippers.

 

UFC 239 (By RahimAli Merchant)

Jones beats Santos, Nunes wrecks Helms:

It was a busy week in Las Vegas for the world of sports, we not only saw the start of the NBA’s Summer league where Zion Williamson showed off, but we got to feel an earthquake or two that might have changed the whole atmosphere. The fight between Jon Jones and Tiago Santos was not affected by the earthquake, but they definitely hit the road running with a five-round contest that ended in a decision by the judges that gave Jones (25-1) the controversial victory.

Let’s not forget about the women. Though the men were the highlight of the night, Amanda Nunes did some quick work to Holly Helms with a head kick knockout in the first round to claim the victory. Both Helms and Nunes have proven that MMA is not just for the boys.

 

Wimbledon:

Coco Gauff advances to Round of 16:

After a shocking victory against 15-year old Coco Gauff’s idol, Venus Williams, Gauff sealed her place in the Round of 16 by beating Pelona Hercog on Friday. After losing the first round unfortunately by six sets to three, Gauff won a 7-9 tiebreaker in the second set, before nearly avoiding another tiebreaker in the third set, winning 5-7. Gauff is currently playing possibly her hardest opponent yet, Simona Halep. What’s most impressive about Gauff’s playing style is her youthful athletic ability on the court.

 

Soccer:

USA wins fourth World Cup title:

After beating France earlier in the tournament, the US proved they were favorites to retain the FIFA World Cup title and had one last game to play before lifting the trophy: the Netherlands. After a tight, scoreless first half, VAR played a role once again in giving the US a penalty in the 61st minute, which Megan Rapinoe scored. Just eight minutes later, Rose Lavelle netted a second for the US and the US won 2-0, adding a fourth star.

Mexico wins another Gold Cup:

The US Men’s National Team were involved in another soccer final on the same day as the Women’s, and just like the earlier, the favorites won, but in this game, the US wasn’t the favorites to win. The US had an excellent Gold Cup, without a doubt, but Mexico was far too strong. Despite Mexico only scoring once through Jonathan Dos Santos, the US wasted plenty of opportunities to score under pressure, and Mexico lifted the trophy at the end of the night.

Brazil beats Peru in Copa América Finals:

Peru made a Cinderella run to the Copa América Finals, but they were unable to compete with the hosts as Brazil routed Peru 3-1 to win their first Copa América since 2007. Everton continued his excellent tournament and international career by opening the scoring in the 15th minute before Gabriel Jesus typically added a second right before the half. Peru got one back through their hero Paulo Guererro, who scored a penalty in the 44th minute, but Richarlison put the nail in the coffin by scoring Brazil’s third in the 90th minute.

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 Six review

In just three days, we’ve seen a wild range of cricket matches and emotions. India outclassed Pakistan in Manchester, Bangladesh finessed their way to a record run chase against the West Indies and England blew away Afghanistan. In a sell-out match, India scored a high total (but not the highest this week) of 336-5, to which Pakistan could only respond 212-6 in 40 overs. West Indies thought they had an upper hand over Bangladesh, scoring 321-8 in the first innings, but Shakib Al-Hasan and Liton Das had other plans in mind. Finally, Eoin Morgan and co. put up 397-6 vs. Afghanistan, to which Afghanistan heroically scored 247-8. Let’s see which players can call themselves winners or losers and predictions for the next four matches.

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India vs. Pakistan

Winner: Rohit Sharma

Century number two in this World Cup for Rohit Sharma and who better to did than against Pakistan? Nearly every shot of Sharma’s was perfect, pulling the short ones, driving the full ones and he even played spin well, despite Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan looking threatening. Unfortunately, one poor shot in which he attempted to scoop Hasan Ali resulted in him being caught out at short fine leg by Wahab Riaz and Sharma had to depart for 140(113).

Winner: Vijay Shankar

Picture this: Your best fast bowler gets injured in the middle of his over and you bring on a part-timer to finish the over and guess what?! He gets the opponent’s opener out first ball.

After Bhuvneshwar Kumar left the field four balls into his third over due to an ankle sprain, Vijay Shankar continued the over. After Pakistani opener Imam Ul-Haq faced four out-swinging deliveries from Kumar, Shankar’s first delivery swung into leg-stump and the umpire had to give him out LBW.

Loser: MS Dhoni

Well, Mohammad Amir is a hard bowler to face, but no one wants to leave the field for just one run off two balls. It was a very short game for MS Dhoni as he didn’t find any catches behind the stumps either while keeping. And if you’re a keeper, the worst way to be dismissed is being caught behind by the wicketkeeper, and that’s exactly what happened to Dhoni after he edged a bouncer from Amir to Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.

Winner: Amir

There’s just something about England which allows Amir to perform well. He’s currently the World Cup’s highest wicket-taker with 13 to his name, adding three of them from against India. First, he managed to make Indian captain Virat Kohli walk after Kohli thought he edged the ball behind. Then his next two wickets were the dangerous Hardik Pandya and Dhoni. Amir is currently Pakistan’s best bowler but he does have a slight issue: the lack of wickets in the first 10 overs when they really matter.

Loser: Hasan Ali

Just like how Amir was forced to sit out of the side for some time until he regained his form, the same is going to have to be done with Hasan Ali. Ever since Australia’s last tour of the United Arab Emirates, Ali has struggled to find wickets and gradually became more expensive. He bowls short balls when unnecessary and hasn’t been able to land a good yorker as of late. This Sunday, against India, Ali became the most expensive bowler in World Cup history (until Rashid Khan bowled against England on Tuesday) with figures of 0-84.

Winner: Imad Wasim

Although it may not feel like it because of the team’s low morale, Wasim had a rather impressive performance, going for only 49 with the ball and scoring 46(39)* with the bat. He scored six boundaries, all fours and put up a 47-run partnership with Khan.

Winners: Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam

Two of Pakistan’s batsmen were able to prove their consistency. Fakhar Zaman scored a half-century, adding on to his previous 114 against India in the Champions Trophy finals in 2017 and Babar Azam pitched in with his 48(57). Together, the duo put up a 104-run partnership, lasting from the fifth to the 25th over, until Azam was bowled by a beauty of a delivery from Kuldeep Yadav and Zaman saw himself caught by Yuzvenda Chahal.

Loser: Shoaib Malik

Pakistan fans needed some hope and their most experienced batsman, Shoaib Malik steps up to the crease. And wow! Pandya has bowled Malik first ball. A full-length delivery removing off-stump, but it was too quick for Malik to get his footwork right and Pakistan has surely lost the match.

Winner: Pandya

Just like Wasim, Pandya used his all-round skills to perform well with both the bat and the ball, scoring 26(19) and taking two wickets, Mohammad Hafeez and Malik back-to-back.

Winner: Yadav

Turns out Pakistan was unable to play spin well as Yadav’s youthfulness was too good for the Pakistani batsmen to handle. When the Zaman-Azam partnership was threatening, Yadav removed both of them in consecutive overs, one being bowled and one being caught.

 

West Indies vs. Bangladesh

Winners: Mohammad Shaifuddin and Mustafizur Rahman

If these two pacers didn’t bowl well in the death overs, it’s likely that the West Indies would’ve given Bangladesh a target too high to reach. The West Indies had easily reached the 300+ mark, but Mohammad Shaifuddin and Mustafizur Rahman picked up three wickets each and limiting them to just 321-8. The duo’s wickets column are as followed:

  • Chris Gayle c. behind Mushfiqur Rahim b. Mohammad Shaifuddin 0(13) WI: 6-1 3.2 overs
  • Shai Hope c. Liton Das b. Mustafizur Rahman 96(121) WI: 297-7 47 overs
  • Shimron Hetmyer c. Tamim Iqbal b. Mustafizur Rahman 50(26) WI: 242-4 39.3 overs
  • Andre Russel c. behind Mushfiqur Rahim b. Mohammad Shaifuddin 0(2) WI: 243-5 40 overs
  • Jason Holder c. Mahmadullah b. Mohammad Shaifuddin 33(15) WI: 282-6 43.4 overs
  • Dwayne Bravo b. Mohammad Shaifuddin 19(15) WI: 321-8 50 overs

Shaifuddin was effective at striking when the batsmen had just arrived at the crease and were the most vulnerable while Rahman did an excellent job taking the wickets of West Indies’ most important run-getters.

Winner: Evin Lewis

Evin Lewis was struggling in this World Cup, struggling to adapt to English conditions, but that changed against Bangladesh. His 70 off 67 was crucial to prevent Bangladesh from obtaining too many early wickets as Lewis and Shai Hope put on a 116-run partnership, which lasted 127 balls.

Winner: Hope

Well, sure, having hope and optimism is always nice, but I’m referring to the batsman Shai Hope. But let’s be honest. Does the West Indies have any better batsman at the moment? He’s already scored a half-century against Australia and nearly got a century against Bangladesh here before he got caught by Liton Das on 96. His control is a spectacle to see but the greatest marvel is his temperament, going however slow necessary to establish himself and adapt to the bowling.

Winner: Shimron Hetmyer

Although the West Indies had wickets in their hand by the time Shimron Hetmyer had come out to bat, the other batsmen played a bit defensive, requiring a batsman to put his foot on the accelerator. Hetmyer did exactly that. He made 50 in no time, taking up just 33 balls, pushing the Windies to 242-4 by the time he was dismissed in the 40th over.

Winners: Al-Hasan and Das

Nearly every time Bangladesh wins a historical game, it always involves a long-lasting, middle-order partnership. Nearly every time that happens, Al-Hasan is one of the two batsmen. It was such against New Zealand two years ago at Cardiff, against South Africa a few weeks back in London and now vs. the West Indies in Taunton. Al-Hasan scored his second consecutive century of the tournament and Das nearly did so as well, scoring 95 from just 69. The pair lasted 22.3 overs and scored 189 runs in that short period of time!

Losers: Shanon Gabriel and Oshane Thomas

No matter how good West Indian batting can be, it’s always the fast bowling which the opponents are wary of and it’s always the fast bowlers which have won matches for the Windies. Monday was just not one of those days. Opening bowler Oshane Thomas bowled just six overs as he was deemed too expensive by the captain. His six overs went for 52, bowling at an economy of 8.66, although he was able to pick the one wicket of Mushfiqur Rahim. Extras was another big issue for the Men in Maroon as the Windies bowled a total of 26 of them that day, five of them being Thomas’.

Although Shanon Gabriel only bowled one wide instead of the five, he was far more expensive, bowling 8.3 overs for 78 runs, an economy of 9.17. Bangladesh was able to score many runs off of Gabriel, resulting in not just a win, but a very easy and comfortable win.

 

England vs. Afghanistan

Winner: Eoin Morgan

Many doubted Eoin Morgan would have even played in this match after he suffered back spasms against the West Indies, but Morgan came out to bat and that was the end of the match for Afghanistan. Every single strike was clean from the England captain, hitting seventeen sixes, scoring a total of 148 runs from just 71 deliveries. One hundred and four of those runs were just in sixes and Morgan hit more than 1400 meters of sixes on Tuesday.

Winner: Moeen Ali

There have been questions regarding Moeen Ali’s forms as of late as he failed to get going with the bat in the first few matches and was dropped in the following matches. However, coming into the match against Afghanistan, Ali picked the spinners easily, scoring a four and four sixes, propelling the Birmingham man to 31(9)*. He was fine with the ball as well, like usual, conceding only 35 runs in his seven overs for a good One-Day economy of five.

Loser: Rashid Khan

The world’s number one spinner faced the harsh reality of how cruel international cricket can be. Just two days after Ali became Pakistan’s most expensive World Cup bowler with figures of 0-84 against India, Rashid Khan was hit by England’s batsmen for 110 runs from just nine overs, conceding 11 sixes. This will definitely be a day to forget for Khan.

Winner: Rahmat Shah

Without context, the scoreboard cannot tell you the full story. Of course, Afghanistan’s 247-8 was nowhere near England’s 397-6, but Afghanistan actually batted quite well, considering their previous matches. Failing to score 200+ yet in this World Cup, Afghanistan tackled England’s large score head on. Rahmat Shah was a crucial part of that as his 46(74) prevented a middle-order collapse from taking place. He also did well in the field, securing two catches to dismiss Joe Root and Morgan.

Winner: Hashmatullah Shahidi

Cricket fans would’ve been waiting for Hashmatullah Shahidi to put up a good performance after his half-century help Afghanistan beat Pakistan and they got treated to exactly that. Shahidi was able to achieve his maiden World Cup half-century, scoring 76 from 100 balls, before being bowled by Jofra Archer.

 

Round Seven predictions:

Australia vs. Bangladesh at Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire on Thursday, June 20:

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

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

 

England vs. Sri Lanka at Headingley, Leeds on Friday, June 21:

If England bats first: England to win by 55 runs.

If Sri Lanka bats first: England to win by seven wickets.

 

Afghanistan vs. India at The Rose Bowl, Southampton on Saturday, June 22:

If Afghanistan bats first: India to win by nine wickets.

If India bats first: India to win by 190 runs.

 

 

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 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 two: Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Afghanistan

As the World Cup warm-ups are underway, everyone is getting a glimpse of what the English conditions are like and how the teams play their cricket accordingly. We’ve already seen some interesting results within the last week, such as Afghanistan continuing Pakistan’s losing streak or Steve Smith quieting England. South Africa, from the previous preview, also found a comfortable victory against Sri Lanka.

Of the four being previewed today: Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the Black Caps look the strongest after New Zealand’s warm-up win over India. The first team on the list, Pakistan, are doing the opposite of New Zealand as their poor form isn’t doing them justice. Afghanistan is capable of so much damage, but can easily falter, as we saw in their warm-up against England. And Bangladesh will look to go far into this tournament for once, as they can threaten to. So without further ado, let’s get started on this preview, starting with the underdogs, Pakistan. 

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Shahid Afridi Mohammad Aamer Fawad Alam Kamran Akmal Shazaib Hasan Huddle by JJ Hall is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Pakistan

Last World Cup: Quite disappointing, actually, for Pakistan fans. After losing their opening group stage matches against India and the West Indies by 76 & 150 runs respectively. Pakistan turned the tables and a 29-run win against South Africa ensured Pakistan went on to the Quarter-Finals. However, Pakistan was no match for Australia and the Kangaroos chased down their opponent’s 213 with six wickets remaining. Wahab Riaz was the pick of the bowlers for Pakistan that night and his pace and bouncers have made a comeback in this year’s tournament.

World Cup best: The last time England made the World Cup Finals in 1992, Pakistan was the champions. Wasim Akram’s back-to-back wickets and captain Imran Khan’s half-century led Pakistan to their only ever World Cup title. Pakistan will be hoping to strike such luck again this year, but it will be much harder.

Strong point: Very rarely is it the batting of Pakistan which sides need to be wary of. Coming into this tournament, Pakistan has done a wonderful job boasting established batsmen. From the experience of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik to Champions Trophy Final centurion Fakhar Zaman, Pakistan looks capable of chasing down any target that comes their way.

Weak point: This Pakistan team must be the opposite of what most people were expecting. It seems that heading into this tournament, the bowling will be the coaching staff’s worry. The inexperienced bowling has costed Pakistan so far in series against Australia and England. The failure to produce famed yorkers and the need for pace from Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain has led to the inclusions of Mohammad Amir and Riaz in the squad. Riaz and Amir looked brilliant against Afghanistan, but hopefully Hasan Ali, Hasnain and Afridi will find success in this year’s tournament.

Player to watch: I’m going to take Riaz’s name again. He’s a late inclusion. Most people will probably bat an eye. But his recent form is reverberating. His yorkers slay batsmen and his bouncers install fear. He could be crucial in Pakistan’s campaign this year, especially in their opening fixture against the West Indies, who’ve just scored 421 in their warm-up against New Zealand.

Prediction: If Pakistan comes to the show, they are good enough to be in the Semi-finals. Personally, I think Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men will finish fourth and leave in the semis.

 

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DSC04073 by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

New Zealand

Last World Cup: This has got to hurt. Title-less New Zealand made it all the way to this Finals in Melbourne against the hosts and arch-rivals Australia only to be bowled out for 183. The Aussies ended up winning by seven wickets, but New Zealand has been in fine form since then.

World Cup best: The last World Cup held many positives for New Zealand fans, excluding that final. New Zealand’s fast bowlers have only improved since then in the form of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. They have developed a spinning department thanks to Ish Sodhi. And the batting looks secure up top.

Strong point: Every time New Zealand wins a match, you can thank the fast bowlers. They’ve already shown their intent since arriving in the UK by bowling out both India and the West Indies. If the pitch offers a little bit of support, New Zealand could be able to provide us with some low-scoring encounters, something which this World Cup needs.

Weak point: Even though New Zealand has a primary spinner in Ish Sodhi, he can be expensive at times. Unfortunately, not all the pitches this year in England will be fast-bowler friendly so New Zealand will have to turn to spin. Ish Sodhi will need to be at his best in this tournament to give New Zealand hope of making it far in this tournament.

Player to watch: Trent Boult’s been brilliant so far in his warm-up games. New Zealand’s prime fast bowler picked up eight wickets in two matches, adding to his already impressive 147 ODI wickets.

Prediction: Despite New Zealand being capable of beating any opponent that comes their way, if the fast bowlers can’t always provide for them, they will lose some matches. I’m pitting New Zealand to finish mid-table at sixth in this tournament.

 

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

Bangladesh

Last World Cup: From Bangladesh’s perspective, last World Cup could’ve been seen as a success. But this year, they’ll be looking to do better. They rose to the occasion knocking England out and qualifying for the Quarter-finals, only to lose against rivals India by 109 runs. Since then, their ODI form as drastically improved, defeating Pakistan and India in ODI series, making Independence and Asia Cup finals and defeating New Zealand to end up in the Champions Trophy Semi-finals.

World Cup best: In 2007, Bangladesh did make it past the group stages after beating Pakistan and did so again in 2015. The Tigers are yet to see a Semi-finals entrance in a World Cup. Maybe this is their best opportunity yet?

Strong point: Similar to India, Bangladesh has built a confident batting line-up. From wicket-keeper Liton Das to Bengali legend Tamim Iqbal, from politician and captain Mashrafe Mortaza to no. one ranked allrounder Shakib Al-Hasan, Bangladesh looks in it to win it.

Weak point: The fast-paced attack isn’t as reliable as it should be. They can often be quite expensive such as in their last warm-up game in which they conceded 359-7 from India. However, Bangladesh does have good quality in spin through Al-Hasan and Mahmadullah which can assist the Bengalis in their matches.

Player to watch: Personally, I’m going with Iqbal. He’s typically a reliable run-getter and is smart with his adaptable batting. If Bangladesh needs him to stay at the crease, anchoring the wicket, he’ll do so. If Bangladesh needs some quick runs, he’ll find the fence.

Prediction: Bangladesh will win some games, they’ll lose some. They’re definitely capable of making a Semi-finals spot but sides like Australia or India will likely end up bowling better than Bangladesh. For that reason, I have Bangladesh finishing fifth.

Afghanistan

Last World Cup: The 2015 World Cup was Afghanistan’s first ever World Cup. They weren’t able to make it out of the Group Stages but they were able to find success in their one-wicket win over Scotland, in which Samiullah Shinwari’s 96(147) led the Afghans to victory.

World Cup best: Just that one win over Scotland in 2015, but Afghanistan are a much more formidable side this time around. Afghanistan has won tri-series in Ireland and Bangladesh, have seen series wins against West Indies, won the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe, finished fourth in the Asia Cup last year and beat Pakistan in their first warm-up game at Bristol.

Strong point: Although Afghanistan is famous for their spinning duo Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, I was particularly impressed by their controlled and calm batting, especially against Pakistan.

Weak point: At times, also the batting. When Afghanistan don’t have the batting under control, they lose wickets very quickly, such as in their nine-wicket defeat against England in which Afghanistan was bowled out for 160.

Player to watch: Afghanistan aren’t known for their middle-order batting but Hashmatullah Shahidi looks promising. After his 71* against Pakistan, a batsman like Shahidi is exactly what Afghanistan needs to pull them through the entire 50 overs.

Prediction: They’re still new, young and raw. Although they definitely do have the capabilities of dethroning any team on any given day, compared to other teams, I think seventh place makes sense for Afghanistan.

 

All four of these teams could have exciting or scary World Cups ahead of them. Pakistan will be the first of these four teams to begin their World Cup campaign against the West Indies on Friday, May 31 at Trent Bridge in Nottinghamshire. New Zealand will have to face Sri Lanka at Cardiff on Saturday, June 1 and Bangladesh open up against in-form South Africa the next day at The Oval in London. Finally, Afghanistan will have to stand up to mighty Australia at the same time in Bristol.

Stay tuned for our final preview of this year’s World Cup in which the Indian, Sri Lankan and West Indian teams will be focused upon tomorrow!