Some of the gentlest questions can provoke the feistiest answers. How do you think, I asked Ed Joyce, the associate nations will fare in this World Cup?
“Please don’t call us an associate, we feel like a full member nation and it’s down to us to show that,” the Irish batsman replied. Words that, in the case of Ireland so far, have been dramatically turned into action. There were no wild celebrations after the defeat of West Indies. The feeling was, it was just a job done – a job, furthermore, that was expected to be done. This was the third time, after all, that Ireland had chased down a score above 300 in the World Cup.
In truth, the result told us as much about the demise of West Indies as about Ireland’s rise. There was a discernible shifting in the balance of power in the global game. Now it is left to the ICC, which is supposed to be the governing body, to do its job.
The next World Cup is in England in 2019. The number of teams has already been reduced from 14 to 10 to provide a shorter, more compact tournament with fewer one-sided games – although it will last three days longer than this one.
The top eight in the ICC rankings in September 2017 will automatically qualify, leaving the way for two more teams who will emerge from a qualifying competition in Bangladesh for a tournament, let’s not forget, that will be played in England.
Madness enough. But Ireland and her fellow associates, as it were, have other problems. They need more games against better sides so they know what they are doing. Ireland have become in effect a production line for England – Joyce, Eoin Morgan, Boyd Rankin have all been on that line – and if and until Ireland can secure Test Match status this trend may continue.
Then there is Scotland. In terms of the world game, Scotland are at an embryonic stage. They started with a loss here but need not be ashamed of their performance against New Zealand. They defended a small total admirably.
Still, New Zealand look a confident, self-assured and well-led team. They have few weaknesses. With the ball swinging, Trent Boult and Tim Southee are extremely dangerous, while Daniel Vettori in the middle overs provides a dual role of either keeping it tight or pushing for wickets.
So that is 30 of the 50 overs accounted for. Of the remaining 20 it appears, if they keep the same balance, they will be bowled by a combination of Corey Anderson, Adam Milne and Grant Elliott. While they can, of course, be mighty effective on their day, the inexperience of Anderson and Milne, combined with the lack of penetration from Elliott, could provide many scoring opportunities. But it gives the Kiwis options that other teams, their opponents tomorrow England included, do not possess.
For England, the plan could be to get through the new ball without being overly aggressive, keep wickets in hand and attack Milne, Anderson and Elliott or Nathan McCullum if he plays. On the batting front, Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson provide the greatest threat. Please do not overcomplicate it, England. Team meetings can be awash with theories.
The host broadcaster on the game I commentated on between New Zealand and Scotland showed a “weak zone”, an area bowlers could target. Unsurprisingly, it was just above the top of the off stump; that would be the area of vulnerability for most top-order batsmen. It tests technique and it is difficult to score from.
Initially, the bowlers should keep it simple and aim for top of off stump with a couple of slips in place. If a batsman gets in, then Plan B might be to vary the pace: not just faster balls and slower balls but every ball at a slightly different pace. Top-order batsmen like the consistency of pace from the bowler’s release point to the moment they strike it.
If the batsman continues to prosper, a more drastic option might be to have all your fielders on the edge of the circle. He is a boundary hitter, so starve him of them and he may try something rash.
In essence, be brave, accept that you may go for the occasional boundary. But remember: wickets in the middle overs of the modern game have become essential, as sides are now finishing so strongly in the last 10 overs.Reuse content