Shahid Afridi has been in from of his life with the ball © Getty Images
Shahid Afridi has been in from of his life with the ball © Getty Images

 

By Vinay Anand

 

The 2011 World Cup has seen many ups and downs – moments that has made us grimace in agony or revel in sheer joy.

 

Let’s recap the downs of the championship thus far:

 

* Kenya crashed to 70 all out against New Zealand in their first World Cup match and lost by 10 wickets as the Kiwis took just eight overs to get to their target. This was a monumental mismatch. Kenya never seemed to compete in the World Cup from there on, and their best cricketer Steve Tikolo had to bid farewell in the midst of defeat.

 

* Australia scored only 35 runs off their first 15 overs against Zimbabwe, and Brad Haddin contributed with 29 runs off 66 balls. Although Australia eventually won, the needle of suspicion was inescapable. Cries of match-fixing ran loud.

 

* The UDRS generated controversy as Ian Bell of England was given not out to lbw appeal by India – a decision which probably costly India the match. From 25, Bell went on to score 69 as the match ended it in a tie. And this led to a small tussle between India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the ICC.

 

* England lost to Ireland and Bangladesh in the group stages. Against Ireland, England batted first and scored 327 in 50 overs, with Strauss and Trott scoring half-centuries. But England’s out-of-form bowlers did not back the batting effort. The fielding was woeful as well. Kevin O’Brien’s stunning hundred led Ireland to upset their mighty neighbours with nine balls to spare.

 

* A few matches later, it was Bangladesh’s turn to achieve glory. England this   time batted miserably to score only 225 in 50 overs. Bangladesh were dead meat at 169 for eight, until Mahmudullah and Shaiful Islam staged a sensational fightback. The hosts were home winning by two wickets.

 

* The rain rule resulting in the abandonment of the match between Sri Lanka and Australia in Colombo. It would have made a cracking match as it was the most-awaited of them all in Group A. Even Sri Lanka has equatorial climate conditions, if I can get my geography right. Yet, the ICC has no rule to complete the match and this hurt Australia in particular, as the defending champions could have been up for a challenge earlier.

 

* Dhoni gave the last over to Ashish Nehra, with South Africa needing 13 runs to win. Nehra was taken to the cleaners and South Africa won with three balls to spare. India were 267 for two in 41 overs and cruising along. But a sensational batting collapse saw India getting all out for 298 in 50 overs. South Africa chased very well and did not choke for the first time since ages, courtesy Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. India’s bowling and fielding left a lot to be desired.

 

* Bangladesh crashed out for 58 against West Indies in Dhaka, their lowest World Cup total. Stones were thrown at the West Indies team bus by upset Bangladeshi fans. This match was expected to be the marquee game in Bangladeshi cricket as many believed that Bangladesh would beat a depleted West Indies team to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time. However, this did not happen and a resurgent Windies led by the inspired and charismatic Darren Sammy cleaned up Bangladesh’s batting line-up and chased 60 runs in 12 overs.

 

The ups in the tournament however are large in number.

 

* India scoring 370 in the opening match against Bangladesh with Virender Sehwag hitting 175, batted almost right through the 50 overs. Sehwag had indicated before the start of the tournament that he would change his style of batting so that his team has a chance to win.

 

* A demoralized Pakistan beats Sri Lanka in Colombo in their group encounter. Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat on a dry pitch. Even without Laisth Malinga, Sri Lanka were expected to run through Pakistan’s fragile batting line-up. However, it was a team effort from Pakistan to score 278 in 50 overs, and the bowling was good enough to restrict Sri Lanka to 268, and what followed was a 10-run victory.

 

* Sachin Tendulkar scores centuries against England and South Africa, making him the first man to score more than five hundreds in World Cup cricket. Against England, the manner in which he hit Graeme Swann would be remembered for a long time. He scored 120 in that game, even as the match ended in a tie. Against South Africa, he scored 111 by hitting the South African bowlers with disdain. Unfortunately, India lost yet again but Tendulkar’s form is good signs for India’s chances to win the competition.

 

* Group B’s unpredictability is evident by the fact that both Ireland and Bangladesh beat England. Ireland also gave India and West Indies a run for their money. Bangladesh beat Ireland and Netherlands also, and could have almost knocked England out of the competition if they were not demolished by South Africa in the last group game.

 

* Pakistan qualified for the knock-out rounds for the first time since 1999. They finished on top of Group A after defeating Australia. Pakistan crashed out of the first round in 2003 and 2007, so this World Cup has seen good cricket from Pakistan and that is important as this team is a crowd-puller in the Indian subcontinent.

 

* Decent crowds for non-India matches. Even when India were not playing, the love for cricket in the Indian fans never seems to die down. Especially in Bangalore, where all the tickets were sold out for the match between Australia and Kenya for example. So one of the tournament’s primary objectives have been fulfilled.

 

* England is the new Pakistan as they lost to minnows. But England almost beat India and won against South Africa and West Indies after coming back from the dumps.

 

* This is the most open World Cup since 1999, as Australia have been challenged and knocked out. There will be a new world champion. India and Pakistan have set up a much-anticipated semi-final clash, while Sri Lanka look likely to be the third Asian team in the semis, where New Zealand awaits them.

 

There were some outstanding performances which lit up the World Cup:

 

* Virender Sehwag scoring a blazing 175, and in four consecutive matches, he hit a four of the first ball of the Indian innings.

 

* Sachin Tendulkar is the second highest run-getter in the tournament and the age of 37, his body does not seem to give up.

 

* Ryan ten Doeschate scored a hundred and picked four wickets in the match against England to almost cause an upset. Doeschate then also scored a well-crafted century against Ireland in their last group match, before getting knocked out.

 

* Kevin O’Brien hit the fastest World Cup hundred in history, scoring it off 56 balls to help Ireland upset England in Bangalore.

 

* Andrew Strauss’ 158 against India was one of the best one-day innings, in an attempt to chase 338.

 

* Shahid Afridi is the only bowler in World Cup cricket to pick three consecutive 5-wicket hauls. He is now the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 21 wickets.

 

* Lasith Malinga picks a hat-trick, his second in World Cups, against Kenya in a group match.

 

* Shane Watson hits a 104 m six in a group match against Canada.

 

* Ricky Ponting comes back to form by hitting a magical 104 against India in the quarterfinals. Even if Australia went to lose, Ponting could step down from the game with his head held high.

 

* Yuvraj Singh is the star of this World Cup. He has scored one hundred, four fifties, 11 wickets and has bagged four Man of the Match Awards. What a comeback!

 

The 2011 World Cup destroyed the monopoly created by Australia in world cricket, and has thrown it wide open to see who would go on to become world champions.

 

(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket – looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)