10th over: Afghanistan 46-3 (Hashmatullah 3, Nabi 0) Udana bursts a cracking delivery past Hashmatullah’s nose. This feels like a Test match, with two slips in place and Sri Lanka hunting wickets. It’s the only way they can win the match. They need seven more; Afghanistan require 141 runs from 31 overs.
9th over: Afghanistan 44-3 (Hashmatullah 2, Nabi 0) Timothy Harnedy has sent an email on behalf of the 2023 World Cup committee.
“As previously discussed we decided that, following the unpopularity of the 10-team format for 2019 we would invite 16 teams to compete in 2023, over the following rounds:
- Round 1: India to play each of the other teams.
- Final: India vs the team with the best result in Round 1.”
WICKET! Afghanistan 44-3 (Hazratullah c T Perera b Pradeep 30)
What a brilliant catch from Thisara Perera! The dangerous Hazratullah top-edged a pull towards fine leg, where Perera chargedaround from the boundary and dived to take a spectcular two-handed catch centimetres above the ground. That’s an outrageous piece of fielding. Nuwan Pradeep strikes in his first over, and Sri Lanka are back in this.
8th over: Afghanistan 43-2 (Hazratullah 30, Hashmatullah 1) The new batsman Hashmatullah edges his first ball well wide of slip for a single.
WICKET! Afghanistan 42-2 (Rahmat c Mathews b Udana 2)
Rahmat Shah has gone. He felt for a good delivery from Udana, angled across him from over the wicket, and snicked it straight to Angelo Mathews at slip. A classic left-armer’s dismissal.
7th over: Afghanistan 41-1 (Hazratullah 29, Rahmat 2) Hazratullah has calmed down a little after a madcap start to the innings, and Malinga’s fourth over passes without incident.
“A reality check might be in order,” says Derek Hill. “Against a mercurial Pakistan, England fielded poorly, bowled indifferently and yet still took wickets, posted 330+, had two centurions and fell just short of a record run chase. We played as poorly as we have done for some time yet still looked like we might stumble over the line. I think rumours of a crisis have been greatly exaggerated.”
Yes, I agree with this. But this is 2019, and I must therefore call you an effing cee on a digital platform. What gives you the right to react maturely, talk logically and retain equilibrium? Who do you think you are?
6th over: Afghanistan 37-1 (Hazratullah 27, Rahmat 1) Hazratullah almost offers a return catch to the new bowler, the left-armer Isuru Udana. Sri Lanka are still in this game because the ball is doing plenty, but they need to take wickets at regular intervals. The required run rate is barely four an over.
“Good afternoon Rob,” says Ravi Raman. “Sorry to speak against the majority opinion but who exactly would be the other teams that make up the 16? Kenya, Netherlands, Singapore, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Zimbabwe…? None of them have shown the mettle to compete at this level.”
Any ideas on how they might develop that mettle?
5th over: Afghanistan 34-1 (Hazratullah 25, Rahmat 0) “The perils of dashing off emails to OBO whilst at work (and I CANNOT multitask),” says Martin Coult. “When I said (in the previous email) ‘the top seven’ – I meant the ‘top six’ – which leaves eight not nine. *Hangs head in shame*”
WICKET! Afghanistan 34-1 (Shahzad c Karunaratne b Malinga 7)
Hijinks, and then a wicket. First, the hijinks: Hazratullah cleared his front leg to drag Malinga over midwicket for four, a thoroughly disgusting and highly effective stroke. And then he was dropped! Hazratullah pulled a short ball miles in the air towards deep square leg, where Mendis put down a simple chance.
Just when Sri Lanka looked set for a complete and total loss of noggin, Malinga took his first wicket. Shahzad chipped a slower ball towards midwicket, where the captain Karunaratne dives forward to take a good low catch.
4th over: Afghanistan 29-0 (Shahzad 7, Hazratullah 20) Another beautiful piece of timing from Hazratullah, who whips Lakmal wide of mid-on for four. Sri Lanka are already in all kinds of bother. The ball is still doing plenty, mind you, and later in the over Lakmal beats Shahzad with a fine inswinger.
Meanwhile, here’s Virat.
3rd over: Afghanistan 22-0 (Shahzad 7, Hazratullah 15) Malinga offers a little bit of width to Hazratullah, who waves a gorgeous drive through extra cover for four. Afghanistan need a further 165 runs for their first World Cup victory over another Test-playing nation.
“Thoughts on England,” says Phil Harrison.
“1. Yes. Don’t panic.
2. Woakes should bat ahead of Mo.
3. Harsh to blame them but one of Root/Buttler should have seen that chase through. A similar stand between, say, Kohli and Dhoni would have culminated in one of them still being there at the end.
4. Someone needs to tell Roy to calm down. Fella looks hyper. It can’t help.
5. I agree with Vic’s piece. Sometimes, you bat first. Runs on the board are a bigger deal in tournament cricket.”
2nd over: Afghanistan 17-0 (Shahzad 7, Hazratullah 10) There’s plenty happening for the Sri Lankan bowlers. Suranga Lakmal’s first delivery curves back into the left-handed Hazratullah and just misses the off stump. He follows that with a short ball, and the hitherto defensive Hazratullah sodthisforalarks it over midwicket for a huge six. That, it’s fair to say, is not the length to bowl on this pitch. It’s been a high-octane start from both teams, and Shahzad gets hisd first boundary with a one-handed square drive.
“Afternoon Rob,” says Tom Hopkins. “I’m thinking of investing in an Afghanistan shirt. Too hipster? Not only is their story amazing (why the ICC isn’t shouting about it is a sad reflection on their priorities), but it’s rather striking!”
I wouldn’t worry about it being too hipster. Based on the evidence of my last visit to London, you wouldn’t stand out if you strolled into your local wearing an Afghanistan shirt, yellow jodhpurs and a monocle.
1st over: Afghanistan 6-0 (Shahzad 3, Hazratullah 3) Sri Lanka need early wickets, and Lasith Malinga almost gets at least in the course of a brilliant opening over. Shahzad edges just wide of slip and then Hazratullah natmegs himself after digging out a blistering yorker.
“Two groups of six,” says Seth Levine. “Membership of groups determined by ICC seeding, so top six divided three & three in each group so no group of death. Winner of Group A plays runner up in Group B and vice versa in semis. You’re welcome.”
You’ve made the mistake of putting sporting integrity before money. It would never fly with the BCCI – only five games guaranteed, and only 33 matches overall. But as a cricket fan, I do like that system.
“Trying to work out the logistics of four groups of four,” says Sarah Balfour. “Not entirely sure it’d work, because it’d mean 24 matches in the group stages if each team only played each other once (six per group)… my idea was to have the top 2 progress to a group of 8, then the top 2 of each to play semis, plus a 3rd/4th place play off. Two stronger groups and two weaker groups would at least mean that at least two unfancied teams would progress to the last eight, rather than having 2 strong and 2 weaker per group (that said, the latter idea would make for a more exciting group stage…). Not viable, is it Rob…? That’s what I’d like to see, but it’d go on forever, especially with rain delays. But, any road, I don’t like how it is now.”
No, I agree, it should be at least 12, probably 14 and maybe 16. You could possibly have two groups of seven with the top two going into the semi-finals. It’s not ideal – 45 matches in the tournament – but there would be enough jeopardy to make the group stage interesting. I suppose dead matches would be a problem. Oh I don’t know. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.
WICKET! Sri Lanka 201 all out (Pradeep b Rashid Khan 0)
Rashid Khan is far too good for the No11 Pradeep, who offers no stroke to a delivery that skids on to hit the off stump. Rashid finishes with fine figures of 7.5-1-17-2. Afghanistan’s revised target is 187 in 41 overs.
36th over: Sri Lanka 199-9 (Lakmal 14, Pradeep 0) “Dear Rob,” says Uma Venkatraman. “Ireland and Scotland should have been included, making it 12 teams. Have four groups of three teams; top team in each advancing to the semi-finals.”
It’s a nice idea but the game’s governing body would never allow it, and I doubt the ICC would be too happy either.
WICKET! Sri Lanka 199-9 (Malinga b Dawlat 4)
Dawlat sees Lakmal back away and follows him with a short ball; Lakmal swats it through midwicket for four. He repeats the stroke two balls later, although calling it a ‘stroke’ probably isn’t the right word for such agricultural work. It’s poor bowling from Dawlat – but he redeems himself with a dipping slower yorker that Malinga can only drag onto the stumps.
35th over: Sri Lanka 190-8 (Lakmal 5, Malinga 4) Rashid Khan hurries through his seventh over at a cost of one run. He can only bowl eight, because of the reduction in overs, so I’m sure Sri Lanka will be happy to see him off without taking any risks.
“Two groups of six,” says Martin Coult. “Top seven go through with two ‘best’ losers from the two groups. Quarter + semi finals + final.”
The problem I have with that – apart from a nine-team quarter finals – is that you’ll have a month of group matches just to get rid of a few weaker teams, so there’s no jeopardy. I think you need to go straight to the semis from the group stage; either that or dust off the Super Sixes.
34th over: Sri Lanka 189-8 (Lakmal 4, Malinga 4) Dawlat Zadran bowls the first over after the long rain break. After a few sighters, Malinga backs away to panel a short ball over mid-off for four.
“Right,” says Matt Dony. “New format. Get everyone involved. One group of 20 teams, everyone playing each other twice in nominal ‘home’ and ‘away’ fixtures. Spread it over 7 or 8 months. Show the highlights on Saturday night. (Watching in awe as the ‘best’ team come a close second is optional.)”
“Satisfy those who love cricket and those who love money,” says Tom Carver of his 71-game World Cup. “Lots of cricket and lots of money.”
“Two groups of eight,” says Tom Carver. “Top four of each progress into two groups of four. Top two of each progress into semis. The final.”
That’s 71 matches. Did the 2007 World Cup not drain enough of your will to live?!
Play will resume at 4pm!
Great stuff. The match will be 41 overs per side, with a 10-minute break between innings.
“Two groups of six teams,” says Stephen Wolstencroft. “Top three in each progress into two groups of three teams. Winners of each group play in the final. India, Australia and England will almost certainly progress to the second phase, every team gets at least five games, most matches should mean something, and there’s still room for an outsider or two to shine. Sorted.”
No semi-finals? It’s a no from me. I’ve never liked groups of three, either, though that might be residual grief from Brazil at the 1982 World Cup. What about two groups of six with the top two going into the semis?
“Hi Rob,” says Sam Collier. “The discussion of scorecard notations reminds me of the admittedly less amusing question of how to record the relay catches that have become almost absurdly commonplace in today’s game. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to record both players (in order of touching the ball)?”
Yes, I guess so, as we do with run-outs. That said, it would – to nick a phrase from the great Mike Costello – toss a grenade into the landscape of Statsguru.
“I wouldn’t say that an engaging format does not exist for a 12/16 team event,” says Abhinav Dutta. “Four groups of 3/4 with the top two progressing to either a round robin playoff for the SF/Final or the QF rounds. I think the 2007 WC had a decent format but India and Pakistan’s poor performance was enough reason to toss it into the seas. Given how much cricket panders to the BCCI and their coterie, the question is less about a lack of solution and more about power IMO. The minnows of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but a few meaningless ODIs (in the grander scheme of things)!”
Yes, that’s the problem – ideally, the format needs to satisfy those who love cricket and those who love money. Good luck with that.
“I’d agree with your points 2-5 on England; not sure about the first,” says Adrian Armstrong. “I’m concerned that the tail is in fact only about 17.2% as strong as has been widely assumed. Fine if you’re 300 for 5 batting first; very much less fine if you need to be dug out of a hole. I wonder whether the tail hasn’t been in enough difficult match situations to bat as the occasion demands, either individually or collectively (and regardless of the tragedy that is Moeen’s form with the bat). The logical conclusion to draw is that it’s all the fault of the top order, for playing too well too often for the past three years. No less logical than the Hundred, at any rate.”
I wouldn’t be too hard on them. Woakes played well yesterday, and by the time Archer and Rashid came in it was too late. I do agree, though, that they aren’t as effective under extreme pressure.
“Childish drawings of an aquatic fowl in place of a zero were a staple of scorebooks growing up, although apparently it’s not the done thing in grown-up games,” laments Phil Russell. “There was one scorebook manufacturer that allowed a blank space for ‘notable incidents’ which seems a reasonable halfway house.
“A couple of years ago our team took a wicket through a diving catch by the wide long-on fielder, the ball having reached there via a rebound off the head of deep midwicket. It somehow seems unfair that this was not properly recognised in the scorebook, at least as an assist if nothing else. (For the record I was neither of the fielders involved, the player hit on the head suffered no long term damage as far as we can tell, and they shared the club champagne moment award at the annual dinner.)”
“It’s simple, surely?” says Kristian Petterson. “Just follow the lead of the greatest cup competition ever (TM) – the FA Cup – and have it as a seeded knockout tournament. Sixteen teams in the World Cup proper and, if you felt like it, you could even duplicate the qualifying rounds as well. Could have it done in under a fortnight, I reckon.”
I would pay a lot of money to see some poor clown pitch that format to the BCCI.
Any thoughts on England, now the dust has settled? Mine, for what they’re worth:
1. Don’t panic.
2. Adil Rashid’s form/shoulder is my biggest worry.
3. England’s comments about the ball were unbecoming and hint at a damaging mindset.
4. There’s nothing wrong with losing to an inspired Pakistan.
5. I SAID DON’T BLOODY PANIC.
“Good evening from India, Mr Smyth,” writes Abhijato Sensarma. “I was quite pleased when a fantastic ensemble lead by the inimitable Emma John took the time to response to a question I had asked them via email on the third episode of The Spin podcast, one I’m already hooked on! Since the rain won’t be stopping for a while, I would like to ask you the same question: If this World Cup turns out to be its best edition with innumerable thrillers and the tightest title race seen so far, will you support ICC’s decision of having just 10 teams in the tournament? Or would you still prefer a ‘World’ Cup with more teams even if it’s a ‘compromise’ on sustained quality, considering it includes more of the titular ‘world’?”
No, I don’t think even a great World Cup would justify that decision. But I don’t know what the answer is, because while most of us would prefer 12, 14 or 16 teams, nobody has come up with a satisfactory and realistic format with those numbers.
“I hope you are enjoying writing the non-OBO report…” says Daniel Howell. “Do we know who is currently ahead on Duckworth/Lewis? Are Afghanistan’s bowlers in danger of being robbed by the rain?”
DLS doesn’t come into play until 20 overs have been bowled in the second innings. I think play needs to resume by 5.51pm or the match will be abandoned.
No news from Cardiff, which in this case is bad news. If you want some actual cricket, Tanya Aldred is in cracking form over on our county cricket blog.
Twenty-five years ago this Thursday, Paj Defreitas took a five-for as England beat New Zealand by an innings in the first Test at Trent Bridge. Oh, and Brian Lara scored 501 not out.
Thanks Tom, hello everyone. This isn’t looking too good, I’m afraid. We’re about to start losing overs, and some forecasts suggest we’ll lose the lot of them. That would be pretty cruel on Afghanistan, who were well on the way to the biggest victory in their short but life-affirming history.