This could be the most open Cup

The reality check came rather soon in the World Cup for Team India. The pragmatic skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni accepted at once that he had so many slow men in his team the fielding was never going to improve by much, no matter what is discussed in team meetings. He sounded more optimistic on the bowling front even though his ‘talented’ bowlers failed to defend 338.

It’s hard to come down like a ton of bricks on any side on a day cricket was seen to be the winner as a fantastic result came about in a tied match. A prescient Warne had predicted it boldly and publicly on twitter and the long shot forecast is likely to make him the Nostradamus of this World Cup. If only he could predict the winner right now in the style of Paul, although that would take the thrill right out of event as it happened in Africa with the chilling accuracy of the mollusc.

The beauty of a tie is it leaves everyone somewhat pleased, more so the bowling team which always believes it got out of jail since the opposition was just another run away. At least in that sense, Team India could draw a crumb of comfort after a horrendous day in the field. Then again, it is hard to blame the bowlers because they were bowling on a perfect pitch.

Team India would have to analyse its batting approach too. The batsmen were flailing around in the end overs as if only by hitting the ball out of the ground could gather them runs. Was it not the responsibility of one of the specialist batsmen, who batted in the wake of Sachin Tendulkar falling after a magnificently crafted century, to be there till the last over to optimise the team total?

Team India’s failure began in the evening rather than at night under lights. Having fallen off like lemmings off a cliff, they found the defence of the total was not going to be an airtight operation. So magisterial was Andrew Strauss in his gathering of runs without having to throw the kitchen sink at the ball that he kept proving there is place for grace in the 50-overs format art.

It was almost too easy for the left-handed Strauss to dismantle the threat of Chawla. The leggie did not bowl all that badly, save in the penultimate over in which he tried to give a tad too much air. The surface was not made for spinners either, which meant India’s bowling weaknesses were accentuated. The sobering thought is if Team India is still the overwhelming favourite, this could be the most open World Cup ever.

It took the reverse swing of Zaheer Khan, India’s only strike bowler, to help his team claw back into the game. However strong the minds of cricketers, the legs become jelly and the logic goes haywire as tension grips. A terrible show of nerves from both sides saw the match see-sawing to its great denouement. It takes weaknesses of the mind sometimes to bring about such human drama, which made for a grand spectacle and also brought the World Cup alive.

A. Strauss b Dockrell 34 37 2 1 91
K. Pietersen c N. O'Brien b Stirling 59 50 7 2 118
J. Trott b Mooney 92 92 9 0 100
I. Bell c Stirling b Mooney 81 86 6 1 94
P. Collingwood c K O'Brien b Mooney 16 11 0 1 145
M. Prior b Johnston 6 5 1 0 120
T. Bresnan c Johnston b Mooney 4 8 0 0 50
M. Yardy b Johnston 3 6 0 0 50
G. Swann (not out) 9 5 1 0 180 Extras (b-1, lb-2, w-20) 23
Total (8 wickets; 50 overs) 327
FoW: 1-91, 2-111, 3-278, 4-288, 5-299, 6-312, 7-317,
Bowling: B. Rankin 7-0-51-0, T. Johnston 10-0-58-2,
A. Cusack 4-0-39-0, G. Dockrell 10-0-68-1, J. Mooney 9-0-63-4, P. Stirling 10-0-45-1

W Porterfield b Anderson 0 1 0 0 0
P. Stirling c Pietersen b Bresnan 32 28 5 1 114 E Joyce st Prior b Swann 32 61 3 0 52
N. O'Brien b Swann 29 36 2 1 80
G. Wilson lbw b Swann 3 14 0 0 21
Kevin O'Brien (run out) 113 63 13 6 179
A. Cusack (run out) 47 58 3 1 81
J. Mooney (not out) 33 30 6 0 110 T. Johnston (not out) 7 4 1 0 175 Extras (b-5, lb-16, w-12) 33
Total (7 wickets; 49.1 overs) 329
FoW: 1-0, 2-62, 3-103, 4-106, 5-111, 6-273, 7-317,
Bowling: J. Anderson 8.1-1-49-1, S. Broad 9-0-73-0, T. Bresnan 10-0-64-1, M. Yardy 7-0-49-0, G. Swann 10- 0-47-3, P. Collingwood 5-0-26-0
Points: Ireland 2, England 0

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