Four of the five South Asian countries played their first matches in the first four days of the 2019 World Cup and only Bangladesh won handsomely scoring big against South Africa while Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan collapsed.
Pakistan were bounced out by the West Indies while Sri Lanka could not cope with the tormenting length New Zealanders bowled. Afghanistan alone showed some gumption in standing up to Australia.
India, who play their opening match against South Africa at Southampton on Wednesday, will have a clear idea how their opponents have fared. They will be encouraged by the way the Bangladesh top-order batsmen got on top of the South African attack.
Bangladesh beating South Africa is no longer an upset, more so after their win on Sunday. After Soumya Sarkar gave them an exciting start, the two old horses Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim kept the scoreboard ticking.
Both fell in their 70s just when Bangladesh were changing gears. But that didn’t stop Bangladesh from scripting their highest ODI score of 330 for six as their lower order batsmen plundered 70 runs in the last six overs. The South African attack wilted, losing line and length. The short ball did not work as Bangladesh batsmen did not flinch like the Pakistanis did.
The South Africans missed Dale Steyn, nursing a sore shoulder, and as luck would have it Lungi Ngidi pulled his hamstring after four forgettable overs. The Bangladesh bowling and their fielding matched their batting as the Proteas fell short by 22 runs.
The South Africans themselves were at the receiving end of a barrage of bouncers from Jofra Archer, the new poster boy of English cricket, and were bowled for 207 in the opener. South Africa’s worry is that in both the matches their bowlers went for plenty of runs with England and Bangladesh topping the 300-run-mark.
West Indies pacers have clearly come up with a plan to rattle the subcontinent batsmen: short balls. Pakistan couldn’t handle that at all. In these early summer days, the weather in England can be unpredictable with the day matches beginning 10.30 in overcast conditions, tempting the captains winning the toss to bowl. And the top-order batsmen could be under pressure with the ball wobbling a bit.
Afghanistan showed plenty of early courage early on. When the pacers returned they capitulated but not before crossing 200-run-mark. Their acclaimed spin twins Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan could not do much against the strong Australian batting.
Pakistan, who have been in England for over a month, were expected to do a lot better than folding up for 105. It’s incomprehensible for a side that topped the 300-mark thrice against England barely a couple of weeks ago.
After their big hitters raised 421 in their warm-up game against New Zealand, the world was expecting a lot from West Indies’ batting. Instead, their bowling tore Pakistan apart.The only positive for Pakistan was their talented left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir, who took three wickets. New Zealand knew their pace can do wonders with the swing they can get against Sri Lanka. That’s a deadly combination and the Islanders could not get the hang of the movement.
Their skipper Dimuth Karunaratne carried the bat through, becoming only the second player to do so in the World Cup. West Indian Ridley Jacobs was the first man to achieve the feat, in 1999.
South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are certainly not as bad as they were made to look.
South Africa are in some trouble, having lost both their matches. A loss against India will make it difficult for them to make the semifinals.
(The writer is a veteran commentator and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)