India pack a punch among light-weights
With the group stage of the Champions Trophy now at an end it is not precisely
clear what we have learned about the top eight teams in the world. The
semi-finalists are those many predicted and India look a very strong bet indeed
(if that's allowed) to win the thing.
But what's mainly apparent is that, India aside, there is a heck of a lot of mediocrity (or would inconsistency be kinder) in the 50-over format. Australia are in a mess, ditto Pakistan, West Indies remain mercurial and New Zealand are hard-working. South Africa can't (yet) match their Test form and have suffered through injury, while England seem inflexible and reliant on the idea that one of the middle order will fire in each game. The fact that Sri Lanka nearly came up short yesterday against the Aussies shows how much their game remains heavily based around their veteran batsmen.
With an England v India final still on the cards the tournament may reach the climax the ICC must have been willing since the start. But on the evidence so far - including Dhawan's batting, Jadeja's spin and Dhoni's captaincy - it could be a one-sided affair unless England step up a gear.
Ravi, your county needs you
I wrote last week about Ravi Bopara finding solace in Chelmsford should all go pear-shaped with England. Having been bowled out for 20 by Lancashire on Friday, and with Bopara going strong in the Champions Trophy, it might be that Essex need him more than he needs Essex. 'Freak' occurrence the record collapse might have been, but languishing in the County Championship's second division for all but one of the last ten seasons rather suggests that a change of management is in order.
The return of the one-piece hand-helmet
Nostalgia reigns supreme in the world of the cricket bat. With the Scoop making a comeback last year, Gray Nicolls made any child of the 70s or 80s trill with joy when it restored the Dynadrive for 2013. Slazenger's old-style re-packaging of the V12 and V6 has been equally magnificent and one can only hope that the Symonds Tusker and Duncan Fearnley Magnum will one day return too.
But what about the rest of the kit-bag? For years no self-respecting batsman would pull on a pair of batting gloves which weren't adorned with a single extra-protection panel across index and middle fingers. Think Michael Slater in his pomp. And for those preferring the angelic-boxer look, there was the one-piece hand-helmet beloved of the late Tony Greig.
Next year, Gray Nicolls, I want to see Test Opener gloves and the Powerspot bat back on the menu.