When I was a little tacker playing in junior cricket an award was given out for the most improved player. Fast forward quite a few years and a similar award could probably be handed to Aaron Finch on behalf of the Australian ODI team.
One of the rarest sights in world cricket was on display in the most recent game of the World Cup as Australia took on India (and, indeed, vice versa) in a one day international. Did you ever think you’d see such a thing?
Here are the ratings for the World Cup match between Australia and India.
Battles for spinner’s spots
Both teams went into the match unchanged from their previous game. At least, in terms of team selection. On a more biological level, of course, the two sides had replaced more than a trillion cells per day between them since their last matches. So, in that sense, a much-needed injection of fresh energy into both teams.
Despite this cellular regeneration, one of the main talking points among Australian fans was whether Nathan Lyon should come into the XI in place of Adam Zampa.
The main argument for retaining Zampa was presumably his shirt number being 63. It’s an ordinary number in one sense, but a remarkable one if you look at it in a different way. Eg, if he stands on his head. So he kept his spot.
But if you think you can keep the GOAT out of the game simply by not selecting him, then you’ve got another thought coming. Because he was out there during the Indian innings, taking a substitute catch to dismiss Shikhar Dhawan.
Will this excellent compromise be maintained by the selectors going forward? Perhaps not, given Zampa’s figures of 0/50 from six overs.
To put it another way, Zampa’s line resulted in more leaked runs in this World Cup. But Zampa’s leaked runs will result in more Lyon in this World Cup.
Australia had a simple game plan: Prevent Indian captain Virat Kohli from making an impact by not allowing him to bat.
This ingenious tactic saw India waste almost half their innings with batsmen other than Kohli at the crease. After twenty overs, India were foolishly 0/111 with Dhawan 62, Rohit Sharma 46 and Kohli embarrassingly yet to get off the mark. The cunning ploy from captain Aaron Finch was working like nobody’s business.
Then Nathan Coulter-Nile foolishly took Rohit’s wicket, and in came Kohli. Big mistake from Coulter-Nile. Why Australia persevere with having their best batsman try to contribute with the ball is a mystery.
Praising Virat Kohli
There are plenty of reasons to praise Virat Kohli. His boundless intensity. His sublime batting. The fact that when he does anything mind-bogglingly skilful you can exclaim “Holy moly, it’s Virat Kohli!”.
But for cricket commentators, it must get tedious offering praise to Kohli for all these standard reasons. Which must be why they feel the need to search for other, more esoteric, reasons.
And so we had the bizarre sight of commentators in this match falling over themselves to praise Kohli for, uh, watching the bowler release the ball when standing at the non-striker’s end. “That’s how you avoid a mankad!” they exclaimed. “I hope all the kids are watching.”
I mean, if they wanted to conjure praise for The Great and Powerful Kohli out of nothing, then he also backed up too far when Dhawan was on 99*, dashed back to his crease just before the stumps were thrown down, before calling through Dhawan for his century from the rebound.
Now, that’s praiseworthy. Creating a single out of nothing to bring up your partner’s ton. Holy moly, Virat Kohli!
With Kohli making 82 from 77 balls, Hardik Pandya 48 from 27 and MS Dhoni 27 from 14, India finished on 5/352 from their fifty overs. (Fun fact: The ‘MS’ in MS Dhoni is short for ‘MS Readathon’.)
It would have been the biggest run chase in World Cup history if Australia were to run it down, and they needed Dave Warner to fire if they were going to do so.
Which is why it seemed such an extraordinary turn of good fortune when Warner played on, only for the ball to hit his stump but not dislodge the bail.
This is not the first time this happened in this World Cup, and has led to a lot of people asking if zing bails are too heavy. Maybe. But what if all previous bails were too light? In that case, how many wickets have bowlers been gifted over the years?
More importantly, if we’re now entering an era where bails no longer come off when struck by a ball, then surely that makes all LBW shouts sufficiently dubious to give batsman the benefit of the doubt every single time.
Could it be that Watto (and his Magnificent Parade of Optimistic Reviews) was right all along?
What to do about zing bails? Maybe we should just burn them and make a trophy from the remains. An oldie but a goodie.
Despite Warner’s lucky break – or, as it turned out, because of it – Australia’s run chase never really got going. Warner struggled his way to 56 from 84 balls, and his dismissal left the remaining batsmen with too much to do as they fell 36 runs short of the Indian total.
Disappointing for Australia, as they fell to their first defeat in a World Cup run chase since 1999. Astonishing to think that Australia had gone twenty years without failing in a World Cup run chase.
Of course, if they’d gone back twenty years further to 1979, they’d have had 60 overs to chase down the target. And they may well have got there under those circumstances.
Very, very unlucky the Australians.