The first day of the tournament did not produce any surprises. In the opening game, New Zealand beat Sri Lanka quite easily, displaying the strengths that have made them serious contenders for the trophy this year. They showed the power and depth of their batting, with lower order batsmen being able to build upon the excellent start provided by their openers, and ended up amassing a formidable total of 331/6.
While New Zealand displayed its strengths, Sri Lanka revealed once again its weaknesses in that it depends heavily on its veteran top order batsmen. Despite a fairly good start chasing a big score, we saw the familiar collapse of the top order and the lack of depth that would enable the team to fight back with only captain Angelo Mathews putting up any kind of fight, and they were all out for just 233 in 46.1 overs. The only hopeful sign was the good batting performance by opener Lahiru Thirimanne who has been going through a lean patch. Sri Lanka is in the odd position of having five members of its team having served at one time or other as captains in international games. This must be some kind of record.
In the later game between traditional rivals Australia and England, there was no upset either and the scores in the game were surprisingly similar to the NZ/SL game and Australia also had an easy win. Australia batted first and scored 342/9 off their fifty overs with England bowler Steven Finn getting a hat trick by capturing three wickets off the last three balls of the game. England were never really in the chase and ended up being all out for 231.
There was a controversy over the last wicket when the England batsman James Taylor was hit on the pad and went for a run. While there was an immediate appeal for lbw, a fielder picked up the ball and threw down the wicket before the other batsman James Anderson could complete the run. The problem was that the umpire had immediately ruled that Taylor was out lbw. Taylor appealed that decision and that ruling was overturned. But then the question arose as to whether the ball was ‘dead’ as soon as the umpire had given the original lbw decision, which means that Anderson should be not out. But after some discussion the umpires gave him out anyway. This is the kind of ambiguity that occurs in games with intricate rules and is going to be debated. Though the outcome of the game was not affected, it prevented the young Taylor from getting a score of 100. [Update: The authorities have ruled that the umpires made a mistake on the field and that Anderson should not have been given out.]
Both games demonstrated the validity of the old cricket adage that “catches win matches”. Both winning teams held on to most of their opportunities for catches while the losing teams dropped some key ones, although there were some good catches by the Sri Lankans as well.
Today sees two more games. In the first South Africa plays Zimbabwe. On paper South Africa should win easily but Zimbabwe played well in the warm up games and may be hoping to be giant killers.
In the second match we have two teams with another long-standing rivalry in India versus Pakistan and I will be looking to see if my wild card prediction of Pakistan can pull off an upset.