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Men’s Cricket World Cup 2011

In Some Cricket Matches.. by Bill RicquierLeave a Comment

In a very real sense the 2011 edition of the Men’s World Cup, held jointly in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, was the perfect competition. For the first time in men’s World Cup history, a home side won. And that home side was India, now well-established as the powerhouse of world cricket, certainly off the field. Indian TV revenues seemed to be keeping the global game afloat. The Indian Premier League, the fourth edition of which started just a week after the World Cup final, was holding out new financial and technical possibilities. On the field the Test team had at one point reached the number one spot: in ODIs, however, World Cup holders Australia were still in poll position.

And India of course had the world’s most famous cricketer. Sachin Tendulkar, who had made his international debut way back in 1989, had achieved everything there was to achieve in cricket – except win the World Cup.

After the financial disaster of 2007 when India and Pakistan were both kicked out within days of the tournament starting, the administrators’ most fervent prayer was that India would stay involved for as long as possible. Hence, there were two groups of seven, as opposed to four groups of four, with each team playing six games and the top four in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals. So there were four Associate countries as opposed to six (Ireland, Canada, Kenya and The Netherlands). Entirely predictably the four Associate countries, together with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, failed to qualify.

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Group B was the more interesting, mainly because of a series of exciting and unpredictable matches involving England. They started with a bit of a scare against the Dutch for whom Ryan ten Doeschate made 119; England had to chase down 291. Then they tied with India in Bangalore, each side making 338. Openers Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss made hundreds: James Anderson conceded 91 runs in 9.5 overs. Next, sensationally, they lost to Ireland, again in Bangalore, Kevin O’Brien, who was later to make Ireland’s first Test match hundred, scoring 113 off 63 balls with six sixes and 13 fours. Ireland reached the target of 328 with just five balls to spare. (It remains the highest successful World Cup run chase.) Then England calmed down and won the rest of their qualifying games.

India started strongly, making 370 against Bangladesh in Mirpur, but Bangladesh made 283 in reply, and India’ bowling did not look especially threatening. Their fielding also seemed underwhelming for much of the tournament. But India always seemed to be able to pull something special out when it mattered, and they had some very special players. Yovraj Singh, who had lost his place earlier in the year, roared back into form, and Suresh Raina played a number of crucial innings. Tendulkar made two hundreds in the group games, and masterminding everything was the hugely impressive captain M S Dhoni.

It was South Africa, though, who came top of the group, winning five games out of six.

In Group A it was Pakistan who were the front runners, winning five games out of six, principally because of superb bowling. They had lost Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir because of. the spot-fixing scandal, but in Umar Gul they had one of the best ODI bowlers around, and the evergreen Shahid Afridi also had a good tournament with the ball. When Pakistan beat Australia in Colombo it was Australia’s first World Cup defeat since they had lost to Pakistan at Headingley in 1999.

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Sri Lanka were the other standout side. Their captain Kumar Sangakkara averaged in the tournament, openers Tillikeratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga were more consistent than anyone else, and their bowling attack was varied and threatening.

The quarter finals were a strange mixture – two demolition jobs, two tense contests. In Mirpur, Pakistan beat the West Indies by ten wickets. It was the same result in Colombo, where centurions Dilshan and Tharanga made light work of England’s 229. Also in Mirpur, South Africa – there’s no other way to put it – choked chasing New Zealand’s modest 221 for eight. And in Ahmedabad not even a brave hundred from Ricky Ponting was going to stop India moving to the semi-final stage.

Semi-finals

At the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo Sri Lanka eased into their second successive World Cup final, beating New Zealand by five wickets. It was New Zealand’s sixth unsuccessful semi-final.

New Zealand’s total of 217 never really looked likely to be enough, even though sides batting first at this venue in day-night matches seemed statistically to have an advantage.

The New Zealand innings never got going. Scott Styris top-scored with 57 but he took 77 balls to get them. Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan shared eight wickets.

Sri Lanka got off to their customary sound start. They were 160 for one in the 33rd over when Sangakkara was out for 54. Then four wickets fell for 25 runs in 10 overs and all of a sudden things looked a little different. But the solid Thilan Samaraweeera and the talented Angelo Mathews saw the Sri Lankans home.

India versus Pakistan in Mohali was the administrator’s dream semi-final. A Pakistani victory, with the resultant security issues for the final in Mumbai, would have been the ultimate nightmare.

India won a tense encounter by 29 runs. In the end Pakistan had only themselves to blame.

Virender Sehwag blazed away at the start, making 38 of a first-wicket stand of 48 with Tendulkar. Tendulkar went on to make 85, but he was dropped no fewer than four times (he also had an lbw reprieve – this was the first World Cup to feature the DRS). The middle order struggled against off spinner Saeed Ajmal and the pacey and dangerous Wahab Ria, who took five wickets, but the doughty Raina saw his team to a competitive 280 for nine.

While the creative and belligerent Mohammed Hafeez was batting Pakistan always seemed to have a chance but they kept losing wickets regularly. Misbah-ul-haq made 56 but left the big charge too late. Each of the Indian bowlers used took two wickets.

The final

2 April 2011, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. People will always ask how it compared with Lord’s in 1983 when Kapil Dev’s Indians beat Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering West Indians in the World Cup final.

Well, the main thing was that this was at home. In fact it was the first time a host nation had won the World Cup.

The next thing was that India were expected to win the match. Sri Lanka were worthy opponents, and India had not had a perfect tournament, but the Indian players had risen to many challenges and after a slowish start were clearly reaching their peak.

Sri Lanka did not help themselves by making four changes for the final. One of these was forced in that Mathews was injured, but the bowling attack was re-shaped, Mendis and Rangana Herath, two of their most economical bowlers, being omitted; Muralitharan, meanwhile, played despite injury.

Anyway, Sri Lanka won the toss – even this was fraught because match referee failed to hear Sangakkara’s call and he had a second go – a d batted. The highlight of their innings was a wonderful century by Mahela Jayawardene, who was the main contributor to 91 scored in the last ten overs, taking the score to 274 for six. Yovraj had been India’s most valuable bowler, with two for 49. Zaheer Khan, the leading wicket taker in the tournament, with 21 (equalled by Afridi), took two for 60.

Sri Lanka started the next phase of the game strongly. India were nought for one a d 31 for two, with Sehwag and Tendulkar both falling to Malinga. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli rebuilt. Sri Lanka’s support bowlers struggled. When Kohli fell to Dilshan Dhoni, whose highest score in the tournament so far was 34, promoted himself to join Gambhir. The game slipped away from Sri Lanka. Muralitharan did not even complete his allocation of overs.

Dhoni is one of the great chasers. He has had more challenging chases than this looking at it purely from a clinical, almost mathematical perspective, but given the context he would surely prize this innings above all others.

Dhoni finished with 91 not out. Gambhir made 97. It was appropriate that Man of the Tournament Yovraj (who averaged 90 with the bat and 25 with the ball), joined his captain at the end to take the score to 277 for four.

The ground erupted. Tendulkar and coach Gary Kirsten were paraded around the Wankhede Stadium. All India celebrated. It was truly a famous victory.

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Bill Ricquier

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