Matches (12)
MLC (2)
WCL 2 (1)
Asia Cup (4)
TNPL (2)
BAN-A vs PAK-A (1)
Men's Hundred (1)
Women's Hundred (1)
Comment

The pushing and shoving is over and we're now at the business stage of the World Cup

The first fortnight of the tournament has been a mixed bag for most teams, save for India and New Zealand, who have been in impressive form

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
22-Oct-2023
Lockie Ferguson dismissed the opposition skipper, New Zealand vs Afghanistan, Men's ODI World Cup, Chennai, October 18, 2023

New Zealand have been on a bit of a tear so far  •  Associated Press

Each 50-over men's World Cup provides its share of surprises but I wasn't expecting two favourites, England and Australia, to be struggling to keep their heads above water. England's loss to Afghanistan was a huge upset and it means they now have to be near flawless to qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament. This won't be easy; they face some tough opposition.
Australia's batting was dismal in their two lacklustre losses, but they at least showed improvement in beating both Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Australia's inability to cope effectively with good spin bowling was no great surprise but it did confirm their deficiencies. This signal is not one to send their more fancied opponents. However, it was their shoddy fielding that stood out in Australia's losses - a failing that often relates to a loss of confidence.
They were able to regain their poise in claiming back-to-back victories and those wins came via a much needed improvement in both their pace and spin bowling, and encouragingly against Pakistan, a mammoth opening partnership. The scintillating form of both David Warner and Mitchell Marsh provides a huge fillip to their prospects.
If Australia's fielding was shoddy, Pakistan's was absolutely abysmal and left them with a tough qualifying proposition. Australia, on the other hand, are talented enough to make the semi-finals but the major concern is their frailty in coping with good spin.
England's bowling has generally been profligate and their out-and-out speedster Mark Wood deserves an opportunity to use the new ball.
The most impressive aspect of Afghanistan's victory was their attacking attitude and ample spin-bowling threat. I first met the Afghanistan players in the Caribbean during the 2010 men's T20 World Cup. They expressed the sentiment that they were not there to just make up the numbers. While this is regularly said but not necessarily true, the Afghanistan team - although short on batting talent - lived up to that impressive approach on the field.
They have since added to their batting skill while retaining their aggressive attitude. Their spinners attacked, looking for English wickets, and they were backed by thoughtful field placings. When you compare the positive attitude of Afghanistan with the often disappointing negativity that surrounds Bangladesh's performances, it's a case of chalk and cheese.
If Australia's fielding was shoddy, Pakistan's was absolutely abysmal and left them with a tough qualifying proposition. Australia, on the other hand, are talented enough to make the semi-finals, but the major concern is their frailty in coping with good spin.
England have looked surprisingly tentative and Jos Buttler now has the difficult leadership task of galvanising his team. This will be a demanding test as both his batting and keeping have been disappointing so far, along with an absence of Eoin Morgan-like leadership aptitude.
It was a matter of when, not if, South Africa would falter in a 50-over men's World Cup - it's their history. The fact that it came against Netherlands, who have many players with South African links in their squad only added to the drama.
The skirmish between leading teams India and New Zealand today will be informative as it will provide an insight into the likelihood of their progress to the semi-final stage. In addition to their consistency, both sides have produced the right ingredients for success in the tournament. The two teams have individuals performing effectively in both run-scoring and wicket-taking.
The injury to Hardik Pandya is a major concern for the otherwise in-form India, who will anxiously hope the vital allrounder still has a role to play in the tournament.
The early stage of the World Cup has involved a lot of pushing and shoving but we now enter the do-or-die stage. The early stage has demonstrated how upsets influence the latter stages of the tournament. However, setting aside New Zealand's perennial ability to punch above their weight in men's World Cups, it should concern the ICC that it is the financial heavyweight teams that are once again flexing their muscles when it matters most.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist