An ‘ugly’ century by Rohit Sharma which had team before self written all over? Pakistan being Pakistan to stun favourites England in their second game? Or could it be Ben Stokes’ out-of-this-world catch in that opening match against South Africa?
The first week of the ICC World Cup, which has just zipped by, has not been exactly short on its high points — though more are surely at store as the tournament wears on.
After a few one-sided games which set the tone, it burst to life with the Pakistan versus England game which saw both sides scoring 300-plus runs getting my vote as the best match so far.
What’s more, only one game has been rain-affected so far but it’s still early days.
The Indian cricket media has been agog with the maturity of it’s vice-captain, who overtook former Indian captain and one-day legend Sourav Ganguly’s record of 22 centuries as he carried his bat through with an unbeaten 122 to give India the winning start — most crucial in any team’s campaign in a competition like the World Cup.
It was, by South African captain Faf du Plessis’ own admission, a ‘Test match like condition’ which saw Sharma curbing his natural instincts and leaving a lot of deliveries in the early part of the innings — though he was lucky to let off at least thrice by the normally alert Proteas.
What was interesting to note in the Men in Blue’s approach towards what looked a modest but tricky target was their patience and willingness to shift the gears — remember the last competitive cricket they played was in the T20 slam bang format of Indian Premier League — and this can only calm the nerves of legion of their fans.
This bring us to Pakistan, who pulled off the upset win against a well-rounded team like England barely within days of being skittled out for 105 runs by the West Indies pace battery at the same venue. The former greats’ army can be often an unforgiving one — more so in Pakistan cricket — as Shoaib Akhtar came down hard on captain Sarfraz Ahmad for being a ‘fat and unfit captain.’ A compromise candidate when he was named in the first place, the affable wicketkeeper-batsman has no illusions about his abilities but has been able to do what bigger names in their cricket had failed in the past — to have the players, including seniors, rally around him and boast of a glittering ICC Champions Trophy in the cabinet of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
As luck would have it, Sarfraz scored an immensely useful half-century against England which helped them to take the total past the 300-run mark. An upbeat Pakistan team can be a dangerous proposition and with a weak Sri Lanka coming up next (on Friday), one can expect them to rake up another win at Bristol.
Finally, to the Ben Stokes’ gravity-defying, one-handed catch at backward of square? My search of the official ICC upload on youtube says 1,661,257 views ... and still counting!