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World Cup 2019: The rise of the sub-continent teams

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Timeless

South Africa v Bangladesh - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
South Africa v Bangladesh - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

It did not start off well. Pakistan were beaten by 7 wickets against West Indies, having scored just 105. Sri Lanka scored 136 and were soundly thrashed by 10 wickets against New Zealand. Afghanistan were easily picked off by Australia, losing by 7 wickets.

The World Cup in England, under cloudy skies, was starting to look like a terrible calamity for the Asian teams. Playing the swinging ball has never been their forte, and all the hopes of four years seemed to be crashing in an instant.

Considering the format of the tournament, a few quick losses would make the rest of the journey nerve-wracking, and a test of temperament more than talent.

However, something changed over the next four matches. First the Bangladesh tigers showed they are a consistent force in world cricket now with a thumping win over South Africa. It was a win built on the shoulders of their two talismanic leaders Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who put together a 142-run partnership that blunted everything that the South Africans threw at them.

It was a calm, professional innings, the sort of which was unimaginable for Bangladesh five years ago. And when the South Africans were batting, the absence of AB de Villiers was the elephant in the room. Their batting lacked the class and depth that they were always known for, and Bangladesh ensured that the Asian teams were on the board.

This was followed by the most sensational upset of the World Cup so far. Just prior to the start of the mega event, Pakistan played a five-match ODI series with England and were soundly thrashed 4-0 with one match rained off. But Pakistan being Pakistan, with their lows being lower than the bar set by most teams, and their highs being sensationally higher than those of other teams, they picked this moment to showcase their arrival in the tournament.

35+ scores by each of their top 5 resulted in them scoring an above par score of 348/8 in their 50 overs. Now England were used to chasing scores like these, and were not out of the game yet. Sure enough, Joe Root and Jos Buttler both scored centuries to put the team on track.

But Pakistan held their nerve to pull off the win by 14 runs. It was the biggest wake-up call that the pre-tournament favourites and hosts, England, could get.

This was followed by the debut of another of the pre-tournament favourites, India. Kings at home and perennial strugglers on foreign pitches, India had to play South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and arch-rivals Pakistan in their first four matches. It was a schedule that started off tough and eased its way along the way.

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Making a good start was key to India's chances. A start of 1-3 or 0-4 over the first four matches would effectively end their competition. And what a display they put up.

Jasprit Bumrah bowled with fire, Yuzvendra Chahal bowled with guile to pick up 4 wickets, and Rohit Sharma weathered the early attack from the SA bowlers to score a masterful 122. India registered a comfortable win, and eased plenty of nerves.

Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa might have fancied their chances in the seaming conditions. But Bangladesh, Pakistan and India have announced their arrival now.

The World Cup is on. Just let the rain stop.

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