If ever there was an advert needed for 50-over cricket then the 2011 World Cup (so far) is most certainly it. The group stage has lasted a month but has come and gone relatively quickly, showing no signs of the major fatigue suffered back in 2007. What’s more is that we now head straight into the knockout stages, rather than the usual group stage re-run we used to get in the form of the Super 8 stage. There has been no shortage of thrillers, with England usually being the main protagonists in them.
A major talking point at these tournaments is always whether the associate nations (in this case: Ireland, Kenya, The Netherlands and Canada) manage to justify their inclusion alongside cricket’s Test playing nations. Now more than ever they need to prove their worth with the ICC having decided to cut the number of teams at the 2015 World Cup from 14 to 10, effectively leaving space for only one associate nation. Unfortunately all four teams, as well as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, have now been knocked out, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had their moments. The undoubted highlight for the minnows was Ireland’s emphatic win over England. Chasing a daunting total of 327, Ireland were staring down the barrel of defeat at 111 for 5. But then, Kevin O’Brien, The Jolly Green Giant, stepped up and ruthlessly blasted and blundered England’s bowlers around the park, scoring 113 runs off 63 balls – the fastest in world cup history. Aside from that, none of the associates managed to clock a win against a high ranked team, although Ireland did come mightily close a couple of times. And apart from O’Brien, Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate was the only other player who really stood out; scoring two hundreds and taking a handful of wickets, it seems he is perhaps too good for his own country.
So far there have been some big surprises, as well as some not so big surprises. For example, Pakistan have been surprisingly consistent. In the wake of spot fixing hearings and player sanctions they have showed the world just how dangerous they can be, topping their group with only one defeat and achieving the feat of dealing Australia their first world cup loss since 1999. Unsurprisingly, Australia failed to return to their best. Most of their wins were laboured affairs and they were they only team who failed to bowl Kenya out. Other things that happened according to expectations were that South Africa choked, Sachin Tendulkar scored big runs in front of big crowds and England lost their easy games but won their important ones.
Aside from one rather ugly incident when the West Indies team bus was stoned by Bangladeshi fans who were less than happy with the heavy defeat that the Windies had dealt their team, the tournament has otherwise run very smoothly. All things considered, what we’ve seen so far points to what will hopefully be the most unpredictable and exciting finale the cricket world cup has ever seen.