You would not have believed it even a week ago. But
the English cricket team--the laughing stock of ODI
cricket, no less--have just done cricket fans around
the world a big favour.
First they sneaked into the CB finals with a surprise
win over Australia at Sydney and then pipped New
Zealand in the final qualifying game at Brisbane.
Nothing though could have prepared us for the shocker
at Melbourne on Friday.
England were outclassed and thoroughly demoralized in
the Ashes Test series and even faced the taunts of
their loyal fans demanding they return home!
In Paul Collingwood they have discovered a super-star
who could well turn out to be one of the pivotal
players of next month's World Cup. And whatever the
result of the second final at Sydney on Sunday,
England must now be counted as one of the dark-horses
for the big one which they have never won.
Collingwood, remember is only the second player to
score a century and take five wickets in the same
match, a feat he performed against Bangladesh in 2005.
The opponents in the CB Series of course are made of
far sterner stuff and to score consecutive centuries
in two crunch games is world-class stuff.
Right until Thursday, few would have looked beyond
Australia to become the first side to win the World
Cup three times in succession.
Now suddenly, doubts are cropping up and that means
the tournament will be wide open which can only be
good for cricket.
The injury to star all-rounder Andrew Symonds is a big
blow to the chances of the title-holders. Even if he
makes it to the Caribbean next month, he may not be
fully fit. Captain Ricky Ponting too has decided to
take a break from the three games in New Zealand that
follow the CB finals, due to a back sprain.
There have been interesting developments in other
matches too in the final warm-ups around the world.
Though he bowled just seven overs in the washed-out
game against Sri Lanka in Kolkata on Thursday, Munaf
Patel has surely proved his fitness. And he appears to
have done just enough to edge out S. Sreesanth for the
fourth seamer's spot in the Indian team that will be
chosen on Monday.
The only question mark now is over Virender Sehwag and
he has one final game, at Rajkot on Sunday to grab
what is probably the 15th and final spot in the team
the rest of which more or less chooses itself.
Over in South Africa, Pakistan and the home side are
locked in a topsy-turvy series. The 1992 champions
however are beset with injury problems--as well as a
drug cloud over their top two pacers--and may well
lose top all-rounder Shahid Afridi if the ICC metes
out equal justice following their punishment last
month of Herschelle Gibbs.
Interesting times indeed. And I have not even touch on
'la-affaire Marlon Samuels'! That is too fluid a case
to comment on right now.