Ball One – Sri Lanka – obviously big favourites – win the toss and elect to bat. Do they have an eye on Net Run Rate? Sangakkara may fancy running up 300+ minimum then shooting out Canada – is that better for the NRR than New Zealand dismissing Kenya for 69 and knocking them off in 8 overs? Such is the working of the NRR that I’m afraid I don’t know and I’m not sure many do. If teams are tied on points in the group stages, wouldn’t it be better to have a T20 play off? Football plays an shortened 30 minutes match (called Extra Time) in tournament knockout rounds without any problems. (I shall post David Barry’s thoughts in the comments – he is as enlightening and generous as ever).
Ball Two – Pressure does things to bowlers, but is it too much to expect an international bowler to keep to one side of the wicket and one length? If the bowler is going full and straight with the new ball (surely the best bet) isn’t it best to have a man very straight at long-on? Yet it’s a position seldom used by fielding captains in powerplay cricket.
Ball Three – Of Kumar Sangakkara’s 283 ODIs, this is the 270th in company with Mahela Jayawardene. Incredibly, all 94 of Kumar’s Tests have been played with Mahela also in the side. Such a record speaks of their consistency and tremendous fitness records – what fine servants they have been to Sri Lankan cricket and the game as a whole.
Ball Four – Mahela plays ODI cricket pretty much the same way that he plays Test cricket – okay, he does play more shots in ODIs, but not too many that he wouldn’t play in Test cricket if the ball is there to be hit. That approach was good enough to bring him the fourth fastest century in World Cup history, albeit off some very ordinary bowling. He’s been around forever, but he’s still only 33 and might fancy yet another World Cup after this one. Purists will hope that he does.
Ball Five – John Davison has the experience and the record to show that he has what it takes to play good innings in the World Cup, but he was given no chance by new young speedster Thisara Perera. Knowing that a batsman is at his most vulnerable facing his first delivery, the strapping Lankan hit the perfect line and length straight away and sent Davison back to the pavilion first ball. He’ll dismiss plenty more top order batsmen if he continues in that vein.
Ball Six – Ajantha Mendis is into his work in the powerplay and spins a web of deceit with balls that offer to turn, and usually don’t… but occasionally do. In some ways, he is a slow version of Glenn McGrath – he gets in close to the wicket to bowl stump to stump, gives the batsman little to hit and looks to move the ball half a bat’s width to beat the stroke. Great fun to watch too – I hope he plays plenty of matches in this tournament.