An individual double hundred, a 7-for, a 400+ team total, associate teams rising on the big stage and passionately followed rivalries; the first fortnight of the World Cup of 2015 has probably had it all, and quite emphatically! New Zealand (expectedly) and India have maintained a clean slate, South Africa is getting into its groove gradually, Australia’s engine has had a cold start but assuring a better second half, West Indies has been characteristically mercurial and although Sri Lanka appeared wobbly at the beginning, expect them to smoothen given their big tournament reputation. Pakistan is yet to open its account and alongwith England they are placed gingerly in respective tables owing to lower ranked teams pushing hard for a quarter-final berth. The obvious quarter-final line-ups of the WC previews don’t seem all that straightforward any longer!
Cricket is supposed to be a batsmen’s game and in the limited-overs formats even more, yet we have had 12 spells claiming 4(or more) wickets in the 21 matches thus far. Three names on that list (Zadran, Berrington and Davey) belong to the associate nations, two spinners feature (Tahir and Ashwin) and 7 of them have come in winning causes. The highlight of that list inarguably belongs to Tim Southee, having blown away England with a hostile spell of fast swing bowling. After striking twice early with the new ball, Southee was recalled after Morgan departed with the score at 104-4. In the subsequent 19 runs, Southee accounted for the late middle order and rest of the tail to end up with numbers of 7-33.
It would need some debate to chose the next best effort between Boult’s 5-for and Starc’s 6-for both of which came in a low scoring thriller! Boult enacted a similar script to that of Southee, of reducing Australia from 95-4 to 106-9. Likewise Starc rocked a cruising chase of 152 at 139-5 only to be defeated by a composed finish from Kane Williamson. Australian & New Zealand tracks were expected to suit bowlers and the above cases illustrate that very thought. Likes of Steyn, Anderson, Malinga and Johnson are yet fire and probably will do so as the tournament progresses towards the knock-out stages.
Eighteen team innings have managed to notch up 275+ totals in 21 matches till now and some of them have been powered by spectacular individual knocks. While Gayle’s double ton didn’t tell us something which we didn’t know with Gayle’s prowess, but for West Indies’ sake that knock was timed decently in the context of their campaign. It was vintage Chris Gayle stuff in terms of hitting and composing his innings, and managed to surpass several records which he does often on such days. The toast of the first two weeks, however, would definitively be AB de Villiers’ freakish knock of 162 n.o.! It was breathtaking, it was sublime, it was improvised batting of the highest level and reiteratively exhibited why he should be regarded as the best batsman in the world at the moment.
Top order batsmen across teams have managed to cross the 3-figure mark with relative consistency and should be expected to carry on in the second half of this tournament, regardless of two new balls creating an impact for much longer duration. The stand-outs in this list are Miller, Duminy and Jayawardene who in the process of rear-guard action in pursuit of wins versus lesser sides managed to notch up individual landmarks. The opening game of the World Cup witnessed a controversial umpiring call stranding James Taylor at 98 n.o., robbing him of a deserving ton. Among those who missed a 100, a distinct mention of Samiullah Shenwari is also commanded. Leading a chase of 211 tangled at 132-8, he displayed excellent resilience and composure to carry his side over the line.
Not in terms of numbers, but Brendon McCullum’s glitzy batting has been a prominent feature in the first phase of the World Cup. At 188.18 his strike rate is miles ahead of those who have scored 100+ runs in the tournament thus far. Amid these poster boys, likes of Amla, Warner, Rohit, Bell, Dwayne Smith and Guptill haven’t turned on their A-game yet and so haven’t likes of Sangakkara, Kohli, du Plessis and Finch managed to hog the limelight as they have doing so in the recent past. The group stages are almost halfway through and the uncertainty about the qualifiers should make the second half equally filled with individual brilliances knitting tightly fought matches. They say well begun is half done, and the way the tournament has commenced makes the exercise of following the pursuit of the biggest prize of this sport even more exciting!