“Rain, rain go away”

With the final matches of the first round completed, the make-up of the Super Six is finally determined. I don’t know if there was betting on who would be in the Super Six round (I’m sure there was somewhere), but if there was, I doubt many would have collected.

In the first World Cup on African soil, there is strong African representation in the final six, but not from the Africans that we expected!

Zimbabwe have been gifted their position in the Super Six stage. Not only from the rain last night but also from the earlier forfeit from England. Kenya also benefited from the rain at the expense of South Africa and the West Indies.

While it is good for cricket and novel to have Kenya and Zimbabwe in the Super Sixes, it is rather a shame that the six strongest teams are not there. And clearly they are not.

The rain has had a big impact on this World Cup and tournament organisers should be considering reserve days for all matches. After all, every match is critical and the World Cup is only once every four years.

From here on on, there are some slight changes to the tournament’s scoring system from the last World Cup. The two main ones are as follows:

1. As per last World Cup, teams take through the points already earned against other teams who qualified for the Super Six round. Under the new rule, in addition, teams also take one point for each win against non-qualifying sides. In the last World Cup, these points did not exist and we had the farcical situation where South Africa topped their pool but started with zero points in the Super Six. The only games they lost were against the other teams who qualified.

That situation applies to New Zealand (and Zimbabwe) on this occasion but as New Zealand performed better than Zimbabwe, they are placed slightly higher in the Super Six. The fact that Kenya has qualified unexpectedly counts against the Kiwis, having forfeited their match against Kenya.

2. In the unlikely case of a tie or wash out (after two reserve days), the team to progress to the final will be the one that finished higher on the Super Six ladder. The team to progress will NOT be decided on the outcome of the previous encounter, as was the case with South Africa and Australia last time around.

The table at the start of the Super Sixes is below. I think that the semi-finals will be Australia to beat New Zealand (1 v 4) and India to defeat Sri Lanka (2 v 3). I think that this would be an accurate reflection of the best four teams in this tournament.

But there could be a twist – New Zealand will need at least two wins to overhaul Kenya. That means beating Australia and/or India – which they must be a reasonable chance of doing. They recently flogged India at home – but they are now a long way from home. And they dominated Australia in Australia just over 12 months ago – but this is a very different Australian side. It is nervous times for the Black Caps! If NZ fails to win two games, and Zimbabwe does not leap frog Kenya (quite possible), the biggest boil-over in cricket history will occur. Kenya through to the World Cup semi finals – and all on the back of a single win against Sri Lanka (and a forfeit from New Zealand).

My tip for the final is that Australia will suffer their first defeat of the Cup as they are slain by their nemesis, Sachin Tendulkar. There is one batsman in world cricket that Australia has struggled to dominate over a long period of time – and that is Sachin. Lara is the only other man to have assumed the mantle of Australia’s conqueror for more than a fleeting moment.

Maybe I’m just nervous. Whatever the case, exciting times and the prospect of excellent cricket is before us.

Super Sixes
|P |W |L |NR|T |CFP |Points |NRR |For |Against
Australia |2 |2 |- |- |- |4.0 |12.0 |+1.674 |376/69.5 |371/100
Kenya |2 |2 |- |- |- |2.0 |10.0 |+1.060 |210/50 |157/50
India |2 |1 |1 |- |- |4.0 |8.0 |-0.347 |380/100 |300/72.2
Sri Lanka |2 |1 |1 |- |- |3.5 |7.5 |-0.060 |429/100 |435/100
New Zealand |2 |- |2 |- |- |4.0 |4.0 |-0.940 |225/50 |272/50
Zimbabwe |2 |- |2 |- |- |3.5 |3.5 |-0.979 |418/100 |503/97.3

The trauma of a tie

South Africa bows out of the World Cup with a tie, for the second time in a row, having tied its match with Sri Lanka overnight. The tournament organisers must be in dismay, and the South African people devastated but I did not see many tear-stained faces today. Once again, the South Africans have failed by one measly run to progress.

Of course, the South African’s will be searching for answers and the team will be heavily criticised. I think that I should make the point that the South Africans did not play that badly and that they were unlucky. There has been much comment on the day/night matches and that in this tournament, the team batting second is at a disadvantage. There have been relatively few D/N fixtures but all of South Africa’s matches against the major teams were D/N and they batted second in two of them. They lost by 3 runs to the West Indies and tied with Sri Lanka. NZ beat them batting second, but in a rain shortened match (the original target was 307 from 50 overs) – the Kiwi’s gave them a right pummelling and still may have won had the match gone the distance, but I think you’d always take the smaller target, even if the run rate required is higher.

South Africa’s net run rate is 1.730 which is second only to Australia in the whole tournament. Kenya, who will go through, even after losing to the West Indies will have a NRR worse than -0.121.

Oh well, too bad.

One must feel for the West Indies who were denied by rain against the might of Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Kenya go through from Pool B. Ironically, Kenya takes the most points (10) through to the super sixes, as SL and NZ are the two teams they have defeated. Teams also carry through one point for each win against a non-qualifying team.

In Pool A, Australia and India are comfortably through. The final position could go to either Pakistan, Zimbabwe or England. If Pakistan beats Zim, all three will finish on equal points, and as head-to-head does not resolve the tie, net run rate will determine the winner. England is well placed in that respect and Pakistan will need to beat Zimbabwe very well to progress. However, if Zimbabwe beats Pakistan, they will progress to the Super Six stage for the second consecutive World Cup. I’m tipping an upset and Pakistan and England to crash out.

Australia had a close shave against England on Sunday. Was there ever a more clear cut Man-of-the-match? Sure the red ink man, the professor, Michael Bevan could lay some claims but it was the Andy Bichel show. Not only did Mr Happy pick up the second best figures (10-0-20-7) in World Cup history (and single-handedly stopped the English opening onslaught), he made 34 from 36 balls in an unbeaten 9th wicket partnership of 73. Without Bichel’s contribution with the bat, we were gone, with just McGrath to come (sorry Glen – no offence). For the record, in three matches in this World Cup, Bichel has taken 12 wickets at an average of 2.75! Granted, he played against Namibia and Holland but all you can do when the ball is thrown at you is take wickets. He must press claims for the first choice 11, ousting Brett Lee.

Bevan has added another final over, miracle win to his CV. I don’t know how many are on the list now but it must be more than five. He is arguably the best One Day batsman the world has seen – over 6000 runs at an average of over 54 supports this. However, I’m not raving about his performance against England. I think that he is horribly out of form and placed a huge amount of pressure on those around and below him by his incredibly slow batting. (It was not great viewing either). I was relieved to see the he finished with some boundaries and even a maximum – when I was watching, he seemed quite satisfied to place bat on ball.

It’s exciting to win matches at the death but not compulsory. Overhauling 204 in the 43rd over would be quite acceptable.

The Aussies have extended their unbeaten run in one-day cricket to 13 matches – a new record. But they did show that there was vulnerability. On a tricky pitch, the top order self destructed and lower order couldn’t take the heat. Still, Australia somehow won and must enjoy favouritism. But I wonder if there is a surprise in store. After all, once we are down to the final four, it takes just one loss (or tie – he he), and it’s all over.