So, we’ve seen all eight teams in action at the last ever Champions Trophy, and there have been some cracking games and some stand out performances - here’s a quick lowdown as to what has happened in the first four matches.
First up, we were treated to an ODI batting masterclass by India as they posted 331-7 off their 50 overs against pre-tournament favourites South Africa.
Their openers Rohit Sharma (65) and particularly Shikhar Dhawan (114) were particularly impressive, putting the Dale Steyn-less Proteas to the sword early doors and setting the tone for a mammoth total in Cardiff.
South Africa’s response was plucky but without the stickability of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis their wickets fell too often and in the end the margin of defeat - 26 runs - flattered them. A spirited 71* from Ryan McLaren saved face, while captain AB de Villiers produced a typically attractive 70. Lots of starts, but none of their batsmen ever truly looked like batting through.
Next, we headed to the Oval for Pakistan v West Indies, both of whom were brilliantly supported by the South London crowd. This game was a low scoring thriller, and a reminder that both teams don’t need to score 300 to provide a classic game.
Pakistan’s batting let their captain Misbah-ul-Haq down badly, as he stood alone on 96* at the end. Besides Nasir Jamshed, who got 50, the next top score was a meagre 6. If a chase of 171 looked straightforward for the Windies, Saeed Ajmal and co had other ideas. In the end they limped over the line with 10 overs and two wickets to spare. Like the South Africans the day before them, none of their batsmen truly grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and carried them home. Fortunately, their target was modest enough for a few contributions of 30 or so to be enough to get them home.
The match will probably be best remembered, however, for Dinesh Ramdin’s peculiar appeal to try to remove Misbah; an unsavoury moment in an otherwise outstanding match.
England then hosted the Australians at Edgbaston. England were typically one-paced at the start of their innings, with the ever reliable Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott guiding them to 167-1, before a collapse required a 50 partnership from the much-maligned Ravi Bopara and the gutsy Tim Bresnan to help them post 269-6, a total that still looked 30 below par.
Tight bowling and inept batting put paid to Australian hopes of getting one-up on their old rivals before the Ashes later this summer.
Without Michael Clarke their batting looks very flimsy, and it appears that unless Warner and Watson get them off to a flyer, there’s just not much there. James Faulkner (54*), who also bowled well for his 2-48, helped them reach a respectable total (and also helped save their net run rate), but, like the South Africans before them, the margin of defeat (48 runs) flattered them.
Also, in the Australian innings, the records kept on tumbling for England quick James Anderson - he overtook Darren Gough’s 234 wickets to become England’s leading ODI marksman.
Last of all, on Sunday, the New Zealanders took on the Sri Lankans in front of a muted Cardiff crowd. Unlike India’s Cardiff victory on Thursday, this was a low-scoring affair, but one with a cracking ending as New Zealand needed last-wicket pair Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan to help them hobble to their target of 139.
A game for the bowlers - with outstanding displays from McClenaghan (4-43) and Lasith Malinga (4-34), and one that the batsmen, besides the classy Kumar Sangakkara (68), will wish to forget. Further proof that low-scoring encounters are often the most exciting.
The group stages continue on Monday as Pakistan and South Africa, two of Round 1’s losers, head to Edgbaston.
That is followed by India v West Indies at the Oval, a game that will surely receive huge support from the local crowd.
The fixtures continue to come thick and fast in an all Antipodean clash between the downtrodden Aussies and confident Kwis on Wednesday, before hosts England take on Sri Lanka at the Oval.
Let’s just hope that the second round provides as much entertainment and as many tight finishes as the opening encounters has done!
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