Afghanistan beat Scotland in a low-scoring but thrilling game yesterday to register its first World Cup win. Scotland batted first and once again its batsmen failed to put up a decent score. They scored 210 all out in their 50 overs, better than their previous outings of 142 and 184 but nowhere near the score that would give their bowlers some room. Afghanistan got off to a decent start with 42/0 but a middle order collapse saw them reeling at 97/7 before Samiullah Shenwari stabilized the innings and almost single-handedly took them to 192 before getting out for 96 and leaving them tantalizingly close at 192/9. So they still needed 19 runs to win off 19 balls with only one wicket left. But Shapoor Zadran, who had earlier shone as a bowler, saw them safely through with just three balls to spare
This has to be a heartbreaker for Scotland. This is the third World Cup for them. They have played a total of 11 games so far and this was the closest they have got to winning a game, while Afghanistan has won in its first appearance at this level, after losing just two games. The blame has to lie with Scotland’s top order batting, consistently failing to score enough to give their bowlers a fighting chance. Even in this game they were at one stage 144/8 and it was only a valiant effort by their bowlers that took them to 210.
In the later game yesterday in which Sri Lanka played Bangladesh, this was expected to be a close game but it turned into a easy win for the former. Sri Lanka’s batting and bowling, both of which had looked shaky in earlier games, this time caught fire. Sri Lanka batted first and scored 332 for the loss of just one wicket, the first time in one-day international history that a team has lost just one wicket, with Tillakaratne Dilshan coming back into form with an unbeaten 161 and Kumar Sangakkara also being unbeaten at 105. The target was just too much for Bangladesh and they were bowled out for 240 in 47 overs.
Neither side distinguished themselves in their fielding, dropping catches they should have taken and unless they improve in this vital area, this is going to cost them games. When Sri Lanka batted, opener Lahiru Thirimanne gave an easy catch when he was zero but it was dropped. Sangakkara also had two catches dropped. Sri Lanka also dropped catches.
In earlier games, England defeated Scotland quite easily. They batted first and scored 303/8 from their fifty overs and bowled Scotland out for just 184 off 42.2 overs. This was England’s first win and they desperately needed it. When batting, England started out very strong with a record stand of 172 for the first wicket off 30.1 overs but after Moeen Ali was out for 128, they failed to capitalize as much as they should have but it was enough to win. The rule of thumb is that if you have enough wickets in hand at the 30 over mark, you should be able to at least double that score within the next 20 overs.
West Indies defeated Zimbabwe but Zimbabwe put up a good fight after Chris Gayle came back into form in a spectacular manner and absolutely crushed the bowling. After surviving a very close lbw decision at the beginning, he notched up a personal score of 215, getting the fastest double century in just 147 balls, while his team scored 372/2, the highest in the tournament so far. Marlon Samuels’s unbeaten 133, that would normally be hailed, was eclipsed by Gayle’s blitz. Zimbabwe did creditably to score 289 off 44.3 overs before being all out.
Ireland beat UAE in another exciting game. UAE batted first and scored 278/9 off their fifty overs. In reply, Ireland just managed to scrape through, reaching 279 with just four balls to spare and losing eight wickets in the process.
But there was an unusual event in this game. A batsman is bowled out when at least one of the two small bails that sit on top of the wickets falls off. In this tournament, there are lights within the bails that come on when they are disturbed, so that we can tell more precisely when the wickets were hit in the event of a run out or stumping attempt. But when he was on 16, Ed Joyce missed the ball and it hit the wickets and the bails lit up. The bowler Amjad Javed and the UAE fielders cheered, thinking that he was bowled out. But incredibly the bails fell back onto the wickets and stayed there and so he was not out. Talk about the luck of the Irish!
It is the lower-ranked teams that have provided the most exciting games so far in this tournament and they seem to be having a great time and showing good sportsmanship.