After England’s tied match with India at ICC World Cup 2011, Group B was thrown wide open. While making it tougher for India to head the group, the result also propelled England, and a win against against South Africa, however unlikely, could have pushed England to the top of the group with the prospect of facing New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
But all that was before England’s game against Ireland on March 2.
England’s batting has flourished with Strauss striking a purple patch, and Pietersen’s promotion to opener has given England the boost they needed at the start of their innings. Added to that, Trott and Bell have carried on from where they left off in the Ashes series in Australia. With the top four batsmen looking solid, England have managed scores of 293, 338 and 328 in three games so far. But the lower middle order has been a worry with Collingwood not too impressive in the games against India and Ireland, though admittedly the former captain was instrumental in seeing his side through to a thrilling win in their first game against Holland. Prior has also not impressed in the brief forays he has had in the last two games.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the smartest bowling side is likely to enjoy an edge over the others. Unfortunately for England, it isn’t them. Though Bresnan got a five-for and decimated India’s tail, in the tied game, he did not have too much to show against Ireland. Anderson has been going for plenty of runs, and Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien in particular treated him with scant respect. Broad has been in and out of the team missing the India game owing to fever. Swann has been the sole threat to rival batsmen in the England squad but even he cannot stem the flow of runs on a flat track.
The loss to Ireland has exposed England’s bowling, and like India, Strauss’s men must worry about they are going to tackle strong batting teams with a bowling that has few clues on the flat tracks of the sub-continent. Like India, England must ponder the inclusion of 5 front-line bowlers. They must also rethink the wisdom of bowling out Swann’s quota and to hold him back for a few overs at the death. Swann took 3/47 but with Ireland reeling at 111/5, there was scant indication of the carnage to follow in the batting power-play that yielded 60 runs with O’Brien getting 47 in 15 balls.
In the process, O’Brien who got his hundred in 50 balls, broke Hayden’s world cup record of a ton in 66 deliveries set at the 2007 event, in the West Indies. Ireland also set a new record for the highest chase at the world cup.
Wittingly or otherwise, England have made Group B more interesting; with India and South Africa likely to fight for the top two spots in Group B, the third and fourth places are likely to see three suitors in England, Bangladesh and the West Indies. Great value for money for cricket fans worldwide.
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