Friday, February 25, 2011

South Africa lay down marker

South Africa started their World Cup campaign with a confident seven wicket victory over the West Indies in Delhi. AB de Villiers and debutant Imran Tahir were the Protes' stand out performers as South Africa laid down an intimidating marker with a thoroughly professional job.

Leg-spinner Tahir, making his first South Africa, was the main threat to the Pakistan batsmen, finishing with impressive figures of 4-41. West Indies recovered from losing Chris Gayle early to take the score to 113-1, with Devon Smith and Darren Bravo taking the game to South Africa. Johan Both picked up the first of his two wickets with the scalp of Bravo to break the partnership, Tahir quickly picked up the wickets of Smith and Ramnaresh Sarwan to put the West Indies on the back foot and the Cricket World Cup predictions suggested they would struggle to recover.

From their relatively strong position, the West Indies quickly collapsed to 222 all out withTahir and Dale Steyn tearing through the tail to end the innings, the fast bowler finishing with 3-24. South Africa won't have been to worried about reaching their target of 223 but things looked a little worrying when they slumped to 20-2 after Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis went in quick succession and the Cricket World Cup betting tips suggested there was hope.

Graeme Smith's 45 got the innings back on track but it was AB de Villiers who stole the show with a stunning 107 not out at over a run a ball. JP Duminy supported de Villiers to take the South African's over the line with a useful 42 not out.

On this kind of form, South Africa look a very tempting bet to finally lift the World Cup after coming close on numerous occasions. It is going to take a quality side to beat Graeme Smith's intimidating side.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

South Africa handed Kallis boost

Jacques Kallis has recovered from his rib injury sustained against India in the recent one-day series and the all-rounder will line-up in his country's opening game of this year's World Cup. The 35-year old had been facing a real fitness race since sustaining his injury and his return will be a major boost to his side's chances of picking up their first World Cup trophy.

The experienced all-rounder had been restricted to a role as a batsman during the warm-up matches against Australia and Zimbabwe but should be able to bowl against the West Indies. Kallis confirmed his return to fitness and also made it clear that while the West Indies mustn't be underestimated South Africa are in good form going into the match, even if the cricket betting odds do make his side strong favourites.

"Everything has gone according to plan, I am 100 percent fit for the match," he said.
"They are a dangerous side. They have a few players who can change the game on their day. We have been on top of them recently and played some good cricket."

Having the world's best one-day all-rounder in their side will boost the South African's chances of challenging for this year's title. Kallis has racked up 11,002 ODI runs in his career to date at an average of 45, while taking 259 wickets in the 307 one-day appearances of his illustrious career to date.

At 35, this could well be Kallis' last chance of winning a World Cup and the talented all-rounder will be a crucial cog in the South African's machine.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pakistan ease to warm-up victory

Pakistan were rarely in trouble as they eased to an 89-run victory against Bangladesh in a World Cup warm-up game in Dhaka. Pakistan were thankful to centuries from Ahmed Shehzad and Misbah-ul-Haq as they set the Tigers an intimidating 286 to win. World Cup co-hosts Bangladesh never looked like reaching the target and fell 89 runs short in their replay.

Pakistan chose to bat first, with teenage opener Shehzad showing why he is so highly thought of on the sub-continent. Despite being dropped twice on his way to his century, Shehzad batted beautifully in his innings of 103 from 120 deliveries. Vice-captain Misbah was the only other Pakistan batsman to shine with his 100 coming at a run-a-ball, with four sixes in his confident innings. The most up to date ICC Cricket World Cup betting suggests these two players will be key to their side's chances in the tournament.

Bangladesh's captain Shakib Al Hasan was once again his side's star bowler with his 3-49, Rubel Hossain weighed in with three wickets himself, although the fast bowler was more expensive as he went for 73 in his ten overs.

The Tigers run chase was in trouble from the start with Tamin Iqbal clean bowled by Abdul Razzaq from the first ball of the innings. Imrul Kayes and Junaid Siddique steadied the ship with 71 for the second wicket before a collapse saw them crash to 196 all out with eight overs left. Razzaq did most of the damage with his 3-31 and was ably assisted by Mohammad Hafeez and Abdur Rehman who picked up two wickets apiece.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Afridi bold about Pakistan hopes

In complete contrast to his Indian counterpart Pakistan captain Shaid Afridi was bold, brash and very quotable in a pre-conference ahead of the World Cup.
Afridi believes the recent off-pitch problems that have dogged Pakistan cricket means they are "the most dangerous team at the World Cup" and reckons they will at least make the semi-finals.

The message was in stark contrast to the one sent out by MS Dhoni, the Indian skipper. Dhoni's side, as hosts, will be under intense pressure to perform from the passionate if demanding home support and they will need to clock up some good live cricket scores. Therefore the 29-year-old played down his sides chances and gave the gathered journalists very little in terms of sensationalist headlines.

But headlines – and derogatory ones at that – have followed Pakistan around for years so Afridi perhaps saw this as a chance to redress the balance.
The main stories have, of course, centred round the spot-fixing scandal that saw Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt banned for between five and ten years following an ICC investigation.

Disastrous first-round exits in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups also mean the pressure will be on to avoid a repeat and livescores goalwire fans will be watching.

But a fresh looking squad with the likes of Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad and Wahab Riaz showing promise mixing nicely with some more experienced names, now could be the time for Pakistan cricket to write headlines for all the right reasons and give their tarnished cricketing image a much needed boost.

Lee confident about Aussie World Cup chances

Brett Lee is excited about the forthcoming Cricket World Cup and reckons Australia stand a good chance of winning the tournament.

The veteran pace man missed out on the 2007 World Cup due to injury and he only recently returned to the Australian side following another spell on the sidelines with an elbow injury.

Lee has retired from Test cricket but continues to play for the one-day side and Australia could go into the World Cup on the sub-continent with confidence high after their comprehensively beat England 6-1 in their one-day series and the Cricket World Cup betting suggests they should do well.

Australia open their World Cup campaign against Zimbabwe and Lee will be looking to continue his impressive record in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where he has taken 24 wickets in 21 games.

Lee claims Australia have a "terrifically well balanced squad" going into the cricket World Cup and they have a lot of "variation" among the bowling attack.

He told he is excited about spearheading that attack, stating: "We all have our roles to play and my role is an attacking one, I want to be the enforcer of the group and be the leader of the attack.

"I will look to offer as much knowledge to the bowling group as possible."

However, not all the Cricket World Cup betting news has been good for the side.

Australia have drafted Jason Krejza and Callum Ferguson into their World Cup squad due to injuries to Nathan Hauritz and Mike Hussey, with chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch stating the duo are excellent replacements and should excel in the tournament.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Minors Triumphs

After England’s success in the Ashes betting odds, perhaps the last man to return home victorious may reassess some of his comments. Mike Gatting, in his role as Managing Director of Cricket Partnerships at the ECB, has been disparaging about Minor Counties cricket. However, with captain Andrew Strauss ex-Oxfordshire, and vice captain Alistair Cook ex-Bedfordshire both giving the side an excellent start and strike bowler Steve Finn (ex-Hertfordshire) the leading wicket taker after three Tests, perhaps the Minors deserve some credit among betting fans.

Add to that the fact that the County Championship has been lifted by a player who started his career at Minor Counties level in each of the last two years and the case just grows further. In 2009, Will Smith (ex-Bedfordshire) had the honour, whilst last year it was Chris Read of ex-Devon fame who led his side to glory.
It does not stop there, as James Taylor (ex-Shropshire) was the first teenager for 18 years to reach 1,000 runs in a first class season, emulating Sachin Tendulkar’s feat with Yorkshire and, with Taylor in the development squad, the two players could meet in the International arena in the next 12 months as England host and then travel to India.

Meanwhile, Worcestershire gained promotion in the Championship with Jack Manuel ex-Staffordshire leading the batting and Jack Shantry ex-Shropshire their leading wicket taker in all competitions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Zealand look for positives

New Zealand will need to bounce back quickly from their one-day series loss against Pakistan and prepare for the World Cup later this month. The Black Caps found themselves way short of what was required to overcome a rejuvenated Pakistan side and they will need to strengthen in all aspects of their game if they are to have any chance of doing anything in the upcoming tournament and the Cricket World Cup betting reflects this. The hosts lost the fifth match of the series by 41 runs, Pakistan taking an unassailable 3-1 lead heading into the final match.

On a slow pitch in Hamilton Pakistan managed to defend their modest total of 269, the Kiwi's falling to 227 all out with three overs to spare. The obvious failing came in New Zealand's top order, only Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill scoring any decent runs as the Pakistan bowlers took wickets on a regular basis.

Stand-in skipper for the day Taylor was left frustrated by his side's performance and admitted the team was suffering from a lack of confidence.

“When we're getting ourselves into those positions, the confidence is probably not there and when that's the case, results don't seem to go your way," he said.

"We're just losing wickets at crucial times, whether it's brain explosions or what we just keep losing wickets at times we can't afford to.”

The Kiwis should be boosted by the return of skipper Daniel Vettori before the World Cup kicks off for them against Kenya on the 20th. The inspiring all-rounder was missing from the line-up for the fifth game defeat with injury but is expected to return ahead of the tournament.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

World Cup hopes in jeopardy as long tour takes strain

It isn't just the poor form of his batsmen that Andy Flower has to worry about it as he prepares for the World Cup.

He also has to deal with a mounting injury list as the long tour down under begins to take its toll and those keeping an eye on the livescores will know the situation is now far from ideal.

The cricket calendar is already too crowded, with administrators keen to cram in as many games as possible.

Cricket though, unlike football, is played with smaller pools of players, meaning an ever-increasing strain is put on those stars to keep performing. Injuries can crop up at any time, like Stuart Broad's stomach injury at Adelaide, but that risk increases as the play more games without a rest.

There is also the fact these games are often played aboard – in England's case this winter on the other side of the world – so there is a mental strain to consider with players becoming homesick and unsettled. This tour began in October and will only come to an end this month and anyone who has been following the cricket live scores will have noticed how the side's performances have tailed off.

Already Flower has lost Tim Bresnan (calf) and Graeme Swann (back) as well as Broad. Ajmal Shahzad was then ruled out of the remainder of the series with a hamstring tear while Chris Tremlett will miss the fifth one-day international in Brisbane with a side strain.

There are just 16 days between England's final one-day international against Australia and their opening World Cup game against Holland. The race is on not just to get players prepared, but simply off the treatment table.