Posts Tagged ‘kenya’

Positive Signs For Cricket in 2011

With the cricketing year now over following the conclusion of the two Boxing Day Test matches, it is time to reflect on what the past 12 months have meant for cricket as sport. There have, of course, been low points as well as high, with the spot-fixing trial in October a particularly sobering one that laid bare the stranglehold that corruption has on our sport.

However, a New Year is not usually a time to dwell on past misdemeanours, and this one is no different. While there have undoubtedly been low points, it is my opinion that 2011 has witnessed a record number of high ones. From the increasingly excellent performances of all of the Test-playing nations, through to the positive signs at board level in Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and including the re-emergence of fast-bowling as a force to be reckoned with, 2011 has provided many enlightening moments.

The Test game has shown signs of rebirth, with many of the matches closely fought, as teams such as Zimbabwe – who enjoyed a triumphant second coming in August against Bangladesh; the West Indies and Pakistan - seemingly showing a much steelier resolve under their new captains; New Zealand – who triumphed over Australia; and even Sri Lanka - showing signs of moving on from the Muralitahran era – all combining to make Test cricket more competitive and less predictable. The underlining factor amongst all of this is surely that the game’s administrators have finally grasped the need to produce more ’sporting’ pitches.

The appointment of Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman to replace the discredited Ijaz Butt is also a positive sign for the administrative side of the game, as is the ICC’s determination to make member boards less political in their make-up. Indeed, Ashraf has already shown an admirable resolve to move on from the isolationism that accompanied Butt’s final months in charge and is already making positive noises about restoring cricketing ties with India and bringing international cricket back to Pakistan by the means of a home series against Bangladesh.

However, for me, the most reassuring sign coming out of 2011 has been the sight of the first shoots of the game’s regrowth in Africa. Zimbabwe’s better-than-expected return to the top table has been well documented, but it is the organisation of that country’s domestic structure that is most exciting for the future of the game. In spite of cricket all but disappearing during the middle of the last decade, it has re-emerged as a more vibrant beast and is now much more representative of the broader Zimbabwean population. The selection, this time on purely meritocratic grounds, of black cricketers such as Keegan Meth, Brian Vitori and Njabulo Ncube, and seeing them playing under a captain such as Brendan Taylor, who clearly understands the weight of responsibility placed on his shoulders, is a sight that should give hope to cricket lovers everywhere.

And it is not just in there where African cricket is thriving. Kenya, led by their talismanic CEO Tom Sears, have finally got around to organising a meaningful domestic competition, while the player/board disputes appear to have finally been resolved; and Uganda has continued its steady, and thus far unnoticed, ascent towards cricket’s top table. Indeed, the two Ugandan teams that were invited to participate in the Kenyan domestic competition more than held their own. Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana and Namibia are also showing tentative signs of growth and are providing a timely nudge to the ICC, which seems intent on forcing cricket on America, as to the where cricket’s future may lie.

World Cup 2011 Hat-Tricks And Batting Feats

There have been only seven instances of a bowler taking a World Cup hat-trick, but two of those came within 24 hours of each other when quick men Kemar Roach and Lasith Malinga both achieved the feat in Delhi and Colombo respectively.

West Indian Roach took six for 27, ending his side’s game against the Netherlands with three in three while Sri Lankan Malinga then returned six for 38 to hustle out Kenya’s lower order with a series of deliveries that would have tested any batting line-up, let alone the beleaguered African side’s.

Remarkably, Malinga’s feat means he has now taken two World Cup hat-tricks – prior to Roach he was the previous man to take a hat-trick when he memorably knocked over four South Africans in four balls in Guyana in 2007. On that occasion, just as against Kenya, the hat-trick was spread over separate overs but unlike in Colombo, Sri Lanka still couldn’t quite force victory in Guyana with Robin Peterson hitting the winning runs.

In his joy at getting South Africa out of a tight spot, his celebrations included him hitting the stumps with his bat, an action repeated by Tim Bresnan – but for different reasons after he was dismissed – for England against India. He had bowled beautifully earlier in the day, taking the tournament’s second five-wicket haul (Shahid Afridi having managed the first).

He then slipped from second to fourth on the list of best bowling analyses with Roach and Malinga cottoning on to the blueprint of how to bowl fast and take wickets on unresponsive, slow subcontinental wickets. They bowled straight and full and got stunning rewards and it will be fascinating to see whether other bowlers will now follow suit.

The likes of James Anderson and Dale Steyn, who traditionally rely on movement through the air and off the pitch, for example, will have to mix things up and change their lengths if they are to succeed.

And one final point – Jonathan Trott has just equalled the record of Kevin Pietersen and Sir Vivian Richards in needing just 21 innings to reach 1000 One-Day International runs. His international record is outstanding and, just like Michael Hussey, Graeme Swann and Andy McKay, he is further proof that sometimes, taking your international bow once you know your own game inside out is the best way to go.

There will always be exceptions to that particular ‘rule’ – Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Clarke and Steven Finn to name just three – but like everything in cricket, it’s about finding the right balance.

Waiting For A World Cup Upset

Six days into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, and we are still waiting for our first upset as so far the tournament has gone as expected with the favourites winning each game.

Only England, who were pushed a lot closer than they would have felt comfortable with by the Netherlands, have come close to slipping up with India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa all registering comprehensive victories.

Bangladesh had high hopes of causing an upset in the tournament’s opening game on home soil but their plans were ruined by a once-in-a-lifetime innings of 175 from Virender Sehwag – a score that is already unlikely to be bettered throughout the duration of the World Cup.

Kenya – semi-finalists in 2003, remember – were handed sound thrashings by New Zealand and Pakistan, making only 69 and 112 with the bat while Zimbabwe made Australia work hard but were eventually outclassed and beaten by 91 runs.

Canada, as expected, proved to be no match for Sri Lanka, although they won’t be the only side to struggle against the co-hosts, who with Mahela Jayawardene in top form, will go deep into the tournament and must be the favourites to top Group A.

While the West Indies are no minnows, they were always up against it when they took on a well-drilled, well-disciplined South African outfit and came up well short, beaten by seven wickets with AB de Villiers in sparkling form. In their defence, they have been hit hard by injuries, losing Carlton Baugh and Adrian Barath to hamstring problems ahead of the tournament and then lost Dwayne Bravo during his bowling spell.

With moves afoot to trim the World Cup to ten nations and potentially denying the Associate nations the chance to compete at the highest level, what nobody needed was a series of non-contests. Some will say that it was a great shame that the Netherlands didn’t able to hold on against England and show everybody that while they might not be playing Test cricket, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be playing at World Cups.

Some would claim that the fact that they got close enough to worry England was enough to justify their inclusion in this, and future World Cups, in any case. But what do you think? Should the World Cup remain open to the best Associate nations or should it be a closed shop, open only to the top ten sides in the world?

What Can We Expect From The Opening World Cup Games?

Just hours away from the opening ceremony now and excitement levels ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 are being ramped up to a very high level. Although the opening stage of the tournament is set to pit a number of highly-ranked sides against the lower-ranked associate nations, there are some potentially interesting match-ups early on.

The first game of the competition sees Bangladesh play India. While India are the overwhelming favourites to win the game, Bangladesh famously beat them in 2007 and dumped them out of the competition, so India will be taking nothing for granted.

Then we have New Zealand against Kenya – although New Zealand enter the tournament with little in the way of form, they should be too strong for Kenya, an outfit far removed from the team that reached the semi-finals in 2003.

Sri Lanka, who many are tipping for overall glory, then meet Canada and although the Canadians gave England a serious fright in a warm-up game, with home advantage, and coming off the back of a winning run, Sri Lanka should boss the game and take some early points.

Australia then play Zimbabwe and although the four-time champions aren’t playing at their best at the moment, undoubtedly missing Mike Hussey in the middle order, neither are a Zimbabwe side that has been badly hit by injuries. They stand a chance if their big players – Brendan Taylor, Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura – all fire with the bat but Australia should be too strong.

England will be wary of their opening match against the Netherlands following their embarrasment at the hands of the men in orange in the opening match of the 2009 ICC World Twenty20. It would be an even bigger upset if the Dutch beat them over 50 overs but they do have recent victories over Bangladesh and Kenya under their belt so will be nothing if not confident going into the encounter.

Despite the six-week competition being yet to get underway, we’d like you to make your predictions – who do you think will win the tournament overall? Check out what Cricket World’s John Pennington and Jim White think below – and then leave us your views.