The Cricket World Cup is in full swing and the best game of the tournament without doubt came on Sunday between India and England.
There was a lot of hype leading up to this game and boy did it live up to expectations.
With the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Graeme Swann and Andrew Strauss on centre stage, the neutral was certainly in for an epic game.
India batted first and Sehwag could have been dismissed three times in the first over. James Anderson was very unlucky not to take a wicket in the opening over and Sehwag was a very lucky boy. But sometimes you need luck.
The Delhi Daredevils batsmen did not make the major headlines in this game. But then again when you have got Sachin Tendulkar in your side you know you have got a chance of winning any game.
Tendulkar was sublime and paced his innings unlike Sehwag who was literally going for everything. Yet again Tendulkar added another century to his name and scored a majestic 120. There were also notable contributions from Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.
India will be disappointed to have lost their last seven wickets for 32 runs and will have felt they could have reached at least 350.
Tim Bresnan continued where he left off in Australia by taking 5-48 on Sunday. Bresnan bowled superbly and caused the India batsmen all sorts of problems. Michael Yardy and Graeme Swann also chipped in with vital wickets for England.
It was always going to be a tall order for England to chase down India’s mammoth total of 338. But they really did give it a right go.
Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen gave Andy Flower’s side a cracking start before Pietersen was dismissed by Munaf Patel.
Strauss led from the front and the captain made a superb 158. Some of the shots Strauss played were simply exquisite and outstanding. Ian Bell played a major part and along with Strauss, the Warwickshire star helped guide England to 250+ for the loss of only two wickets.
But once Strauss and Bell were out, England started to lose their way and India were sensing they might have got out of jail. But Swann, Shahzad and Bresnan played their part in helping England tie the game and secure a crucial point for Andrew Strauss’ side.
The game was a great advert for 50 over cricket and England might reflect on this result as a loss. But then again, no one expected them to get anywhere near India’s total. So perhaps this result may have hurted India more than England. Two superb innings from Tendulkar and Strauss and this was by far the best game of the 2011 World Cup. Nail biting for both England and India, but a cracking game for the neutral.
Australia and Pakistan have both made great starts to their World Cup campaigns. The Aussies have already beaten Zimbabwe by 91 runs and New Zealand by 7 wickets. Yes you could argue they have beaten sides who are not expected to win the Cup, but you can only beat what has been put in front of you and that’s exactly what Australia have done.
Ricky Ponting’s side beat England 6-1 in the one day series Down Under and that will have given them plenty of confidence. Mike Hussey and Nathan Hauritz were ruled out of the tournament with injuries but so far Australia seem to be coping. However losing Doug Bollinger will be a huge loss for the Aussies.
Australia may not be red hot favourites but you can never underestimate them. Don’t be surprised if they at least reach the Semi-Finals. Shahid Afridi’s Pakistan have also made a decent start to the tournament.
Despite the off-field turmoil, the side have been going great guns on the pitch so far. Pakistan thrashed Kenya by 205 runs in their first game and beat co-hosts Sri Lanka on Saturday by 11 runs. Winning against Kenya was no major surprise but beating Sri Lanka did surprise one or two people including myself.
It was a tight game that could have gone either way but Pakistan came away with a crucial win. Pakistan do remind me of Wigan Athletic. On any given day, they can be a handful for anybody and be unbeatable. But on another day they can be absolutely shocking.
With the likes of Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul and Misbah Ul Haq on board, Pakistan may well be a team to watch out for and could surprise us all.
This year could finally be the year South Africa win the World Cup. The South Africans beat the West Indies by seven wickets in their first game with AB de Villiers scoring a century.
With the talents of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, de Villiers in the side, South Africa among with India are the red hot favourites to lift the Cup in my opinion. Within the last decade, South Africa have improved drastically in all departments and they will be a tough proposition for any side. India v South Africa also promises to be a cracker and I will certainly not be giving that game a miss.
We have already seen some great games in the World Cup and fingers crossed the remaining group games live up to its billing.
I do expect India, South Africa and Australia to make the Semi-Finals. But this is the World Cup and anything can happen. England and Pakistan are my dark horses and both sides can have a major say in who are crowned World Cup winners of 2011.