We are three days into the biggest tournament in world cricket and so far all the matches have been one-sided affairs. In three of the four games, we have seen Asian teams surrender to defeat and that too by massive margins. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have all lost their first matches in what can be termed as a humiliating fashion.
Afghanistan, the minnows, did try to put up a fight against the mighty Australians who were just too good on the day. Sri Lanka and Pakistan, on the other hand, are considered as Asian giants, and to lose in the manner that they did is quite shocking. While Afghanistan managed to fight they way to up 209 on the board courtesy of some good lower order hitting, both Sri Lanka and Pakistan succumbed to scores of 136 and 105 respectively.
A significant factor leading to the downfall of these three Asian teams was the fast bowling from the opposition teams. While Sri Lanka had trouble negotiating the fuller, swinging ball, Pakistan struggled against the short pitch bowling dished up by the West Indies.
Afghanistan lost wickets to the full ball early on and then as the ball got older it was the short ball that made their lives difficult. Although there was assistance for the bowlers in all three games, the bowling was not impossible to negotiate especially once you settled in as a batsman.
All three teams failed to respect and leave the good balls. Instead, they played some rash shots which led to their dismissals.
As a batsman, you have enough time in an ODI game to use up some delivers to get your eye in, and as your innings progresses, you always have the opportunity to catch up on your strike rate. The Pakistani batsmen should have left the majority of the short balls, by playing loose shots and by throwing away their wickets, they encouraged the West Indian bowlers to continue the barrage of short pitch bowling.
Sri Lanka had to face a hint of swing from the New Zealand bowlers but it was more the pace of Ferguson and Henry that did the trick against the Sri Lankan batsmen. The pitch was green and the conditions were slightly overcast initially but there was no 'banana swing' or radical movement off the surface. With patience and a proper technique, the Sri Lankan batsmen could have negotiated the bowling but the likes of Kusal Perara went too hard, did find the boundary on a couple of occasions and then lost his wicket in search of quick runs. The batsmen could not strike the right balance between attack and defence and that led to their destruction.
Surprisingly, Afghanistan looked the best with the bat out of the three Asian teams, especially with their lower order chipping in with runs and helping them cross the 200-run mark. There were initial nerves and Afghanistan did struggle against the pace of Starc and Cummins, but it will be a learning curve for them. Having played most of their cricket against the likes of Ireland and Zimbabwe, it was always going to be tough ask coming up against a top quality Australian side. Afghanistan did show promising signs though though Najibullah Zadran and Rahmat Shah, and if they can get a better start from their openers, then they will surely put up higher scores in their upcoming games.
We all expected scores close to 400 but so far in this World Cup, the teams, especially from Asia, are struggling to cross 200. They will need to make quick adjustments to the extra pace and bounce on offer, and be extra cautious when the conditions are overcast and the ball starts to nip. As the tournament moves along, we will see higher scores, but teams will have to be prepared to play according to the conditions and not just throw their bat at everything.
Who knows, if it turns out to be a hot British summer, then the pitches might start to wear down and spin will come into play which will hand an advantage to the Asia-based teams.
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