Cricket correspondent Andrew Alderson is working for nzherald.co.nz at the World Cup.
He is ranking the teams for us on a week-to-week basis, judging from what he hears and observes at the tournament.
The power of their middle order and spin attack is yet to be truly tested but eased through their first two matches against Zimbabwe and New Zealand despite two warm-up losses. The pace attack of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson has been menacing, contrary to what some predicted. The best in pool A when compared to mercurial Pakistan and vulnerable Sri Lanka.
Are they tournament sleepers under skipper Shahid Afridi? He exudes charisma and already has nine wickets for 50 runs from 18 overs, despite a poor past World Cup record. The 11-run win over Sri Lanka could be crucial long term.
He is backed by the unpredictable Akmal brothers and the reliable Misbah ul-Haq and Umar Gul. After Pakistan’s tumultuous year it is remarkable they’re in this shape.
3. Sri Lanka
A favourite on paper. They have the batting, the spin attack and arguably the world’s best keeper/batsman in skipper Kumar Sangakkara. In practice they aren’t as assured, despite playing for Muttiah Muralitharan in his last hurrah in national colours. Winners last time the tournament was on the subcontinent in 1996, they need wins against New Zealand and Australia to boost confidence.
4. New Zealand
Living up to expectations. At this stage a quarter-final exit seems inevitable, barring a spectacular turnaround. Relying on the lower order batting and skipper Daniel Vettori with the ball isn’t a foolproof method to threaten their other key group opponents Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Need to build on batting and bowling partnerships. Could be saved by the forgiving last eight format.
Not to be underestimated, especially on Friday in Ahmedabad against the Black Caps. Their best weapon is making opposition batsmen force the pace off spinners Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer. Proven class is back looking after Zimbabwe these days. Past players Heath Streak, Alistair Campbell and Grant Flower have returned to the fold in various capacities which bodes well.
Making up the numbers… it could be their last World Cup for a while. Most notable feature is probably a trivia quirk in John Davison who at 40 years and 294 days [as of Sunday] is the oldest player in the tournament. His century off 67 balls against the West Indies in 2003 was then the fastest at a World Cup.
Look wayward after a pounding from New Zealand in their first match… expect more where that came from after claims of disharmony in camp. Were gifted a semi-final spot in 2003 through terrorism-fear boycotts. Like Canada they’re unlikely to return for a while if the format reduces to 10 in four years.
India should lead this group but the tie against England has come as a shock to the nation… and the All Blacks think they face pressure. Cheering outside this hotel window piped down considerably as England recovered; crowds had also milled around television sets everywhere on the journey from Nagpur to Ahmedabad. The batting seems sussed but how their bowlers could give away 338 runs needs addressing, sharpish. The injury to preferred left-armer Ashish Nehra hasn’t helped.
2. South Africa
Look a fine, balanced unit but have failed to deliver the trophy every time since returning from isolation in 1992. With such a strong core including Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn they should fancy their chances but bowling could let them down. There is hope Imran Tahir with four wickets against the West Indies might deliver on the spin front.
Produced a thrilling tie against India but narrowly defeated the Netherlands. Odd. All the matches saw plenty of runs but where is the consistency? The batting, led by skipper Andrew Strauss and with plans to keep opening with Kevin Pietersen, looks solid. Plenty of Ashes winners stack the bowling. The question is: can they keep firing – as in Bangalore – after months on the road for many.
Remain an outside hope for a semi-final given they play all matches at home. New Zealand mightn’t be the only top tier nation to get tangled in their spinning web after the 4-0 whitewash last year. Shown up by the Indian batting juggernaut but held nerve to dispatch Ireland who chased close. So much rests on Shakib al Hasan as an all-rounder and Tamim Iqbal as an opening bat.
5. West Indies
The loss of injured all-rounder Dwayne Bravo means prospects are grim. The 73 from his brother Darren – a Trinidadian who is a fine replica of countryman Brian Lara – against South Africa offers hope. A couple of others, notably Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, also need to produce if the West Indies are to progress. Seem the most likely test-playing team to flounder.
Won’t replicate their 2007 giant-killing feats but at least present stern opposition when compared to group A.
7. The Netherlands (aka Ryan ten Doeschate)
If ten Doeschate fails you suspect the Netherlands will too, although to be fair they provided stiff opposition against England – ten Doeschate’s century was backed by valuable support in the middle order. Surely it’s impossible for him to contribute like that every match?
- Herald on Sunday