One week into this World Cup and it’s already proving to be a fascinating tournament with lots of fantastic cricket and also some unexpected results, Pakistan’s upset over tournament favourites England being the most eye-catching.
Pakistan were trounced in their first game by the aggressive West Indians, but they were a completely different team at Trent Bridge against England, fixing with energy and fight as they piled up a big total and then bowled skilfully, especially their left-armers Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir.
England remain tournament favourites, but no team can afford to be complacent in this World Cup. The other favourites — India and Australia, who underlined their growing credentials with a good win against West Indies — also look in good shape as we enter the second week.
India looked excellent against underperforming South Africa after they finally started their campaign. They have a good team balance, top-class spin bowling and Jasprit Bumrah was exceptional.
South Africa, meanwhile, have been very poor in terms of tactics and that has shown. From team selection to situational adaptability, they have been found wanting. I did not understand them not playing David Miller in the first game and then their approach with all-rounder Chris Morris, treating him as an optional backup player initially was puzzling.
Their one bright light has been Kagiso Rabada, whose bowling has been inspirational with genuine pace, control and heart. That heart and courage is what South Africa need more of now after three straight losses.
India play to their strengths and Virat Kohli has been the opposite of Faf du Plessis, who needs to score runs and be more tactically astute. Kohli is inspirational, thinks out of the box, is passionate and proud. That rubs off on his team and he gets the best out of his players.
Sri Lanka had to battle hard against Afghanistan for their first victory. It was a relief to win, settling some nerves but we made it tough for ourselves.
The adjustment of the batting order, promoting Kusal Perera to the opening position, worked for a while with Kusal and Karunaratne putting on 92. That should have helped us to a big total but then we had a familiar collapse. The batsmen showed a lack of situational awareness, energy and intent. The dismissals were soft and bad running contributed. Afghanistan adjusted very well to the conditions after the first 12 overs and bowled with aggression and guile but we should have done better.
Sri Lanka’s gamble with the five fast bowlers ultimately worked, helping them out of trouble as Nuwan Pradeep and Lasith Malinga picked up wickets, but I feel we made a mistake by not playing Jeevan Mendis — he is a good player of spin and his leg spin is needed to give us variety.