Shakib grabs the headlines
A few years ago Shakib Al Hasan was sitting back on the balcony having played a rash shot in an ODI against Sri Lanka. When he heard the commentators discussing his dismissal in derogatory terms and saw himself on camera, he grabbed his crotch in truculent rebellion. He received a three-match ban and $3800 fine for his troubles.
On Monday, the Bangladesh all-rounder didn't quite treat the West Indies bowlers with the same disdain he showed the commentators back then, but it wasn't far off. Shakib made a match-winning 124*, hooking in front of square with gusto and on-driving like an inverse robocop Sachin. When he top-edged a Shannon Gabriel delivery for a flukey four, the mountainous fast bowler gave him the sort of look usually reserved for a husband who's forgotten their wedding anniversary and wife's birthday in the same year they lost the holiday home in a game of Texas hold'em poker.
It was a terrifying moment, but the Tigers stalwart survived and went on to condemn the West Indies to what was to be only their second most gut-wrenching loss of the week. For Shakib, the only thing he grabs these days are life's golden chances.
Morgan's heaven, Mali's hell
There was once a time when it was suggested Irishman Eoin Morgan shouldn't lead the England team because he refused to sing the national anthem. Now, even with Britain in the midst of the patriotic fervour of Brexit, he could probably belt out The Pogues' back catalogue over the top of God Save the Queen and people wouldn't mind too much. Despite England's second wobble of the tournament this week, Morgan is, alongside Her Majesty, probably the most secure leader in Britain.
On Tuesday he subjected Afghanistan, and Rashid Khan in particular, to a maximum-laden 148 that took England to an unassailable 397. On the same day, a T20I took place where there were fewer total runs (13) than Morgan scored sixes (17) as the Mali women's team, on international debut, were all out for just six before opponents Rwanda got to seven in four balls. A couple of days later Mali were all out for an improved ten, although sadly Uganda had already put 314 on the board. A tough week then, although the Mali women will almost certainly win an international match in a shorter time than the 26 years it took New Zealand's men.
Broad makes his mark
Stuart Broad might not be playing ODIs for England anymore, but he has still had a strong week in the World Cup. First of all, he was one of the many cricketers who sprung to the defence of Rashid Khan after Iceland Cricket's Twitter account posted a message congratulating him on bringing up his hundred against England during Morgan's assault. His hundred as in runs conceded. As the high chief of cricketing social media Jimmy Neesham pointed out, there are some things you just don't joke about and leg-spinners going for runs is one of them.
Then on Wednesday, the ghost of Broads past shimmied into view in the gritty, tense thriller into which South Africa versus New Zealand eventually evolved. Kane Williamson won the game with his absurd and heroic equilibrium, but he was so very nearly gone in an incident which combined two of the England quick's most well-known features.
We’ve just heard that Rashid Khan has scored Afghanistan’s first century of the #CWC19! Wow! 110 from 56 balls. The most runs ever scored by a bowler in the World Cup or something. Well batted young man. #ENGvAFG #AFGvENG pic.twitter.com/3vklzCeIJt
— Iceland Cricket (@icelandcricket) June 18, 2019
The New Zealand skipper prodded at an Imran Tahir delivery when on 76, the ball continuing into the gloves of Quinton de Kock. Tahir headed off celebrating without even initially turning around to appeal. These days this is known as a "celebrappeal", and has the ever-optimistic England quick as its most famous exponent. His teammates and the umpire were unmoved and so was Williamson, who like Broad in a notorious flashpoint of the 2013 Ashes, didn't walk. South Africa, very much unlike Broad, didn't call for the review and were left to rue that decision when Ultraedge showed a spike. Williamson admittedly rather ruined the analogy by claiming he would have gone upstairs had he been given out, indicating he genuinely believed he hadn't hit it, but never mind. Broad, even in absentia, had still made his mark.
Sri Lanka doosra all logic
Back in a 1998 Test, Arjuna Ranatunga chose to bowl first against England on an Oval road so that Muttiah Muralitharan would get a rest. If he chose to bat first, Ranatunga figured his side would rack up such a huge total, and that the brilliant off-spinner would then inevitably bowl England out so cheaply, he would have no real option but to enforce the follow on. So England were sent in. Sri Lanka won by ten wickets.
It seems a long time since a Sri Lankan captain could have anything like the sort of confidence in either discipline that Ranatunga had that day. Their efforts in the tournament before this week had been insipid at best, so much so that the big news from their camp was that the SLC had made an official complaint about the players' hotel not having a swimming pool, which seems both a prissy and, more to the point, unnecessary demand for the English summer.
On Friday, it was England who were sunk, torpedoed by Lasith Malinga's torpedoes and the death of a narrative which had dictated the tournament's final four were already decided. Sri Lanka defended a modest 232 and even their most seasoned and incisive followers were left bamboozled by the result. Amid all the chaos Dimuth Karunaratne is emerging as an intelligent captain but his side is unintelligible.
In that 1998 Test, the game's most potent ever bowler ended up with sixteen wickets as England were utterly befuddled. Watching Sri Lanka has become like trying to pick Murali. People have an inkling what might happen. Really, though, they're just grasping in the dark.
Shami the money
Mohammed Shami is perhaps the least heralded of India's three-pronged pace attack at the World Cup. He may not have the swing mastery of the currently injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar, or the ball-on-a-spear brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah, but he would run through a sea of fire if he thought it might help his team.
On Saturday, Bumrah had already put the brakes on Afghanistan's momentum as they very nearly chased down India's 224. He removed the set pair of Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi in quick succession, the former with a bouncer that in slow motion made both the batsman and pitch shudder with its velocity. He then returned to bowl a 49th over so miserly that even Kohli, who seems to have caught some sort of nervous disorder off Steve Smith, momentarily stopped fidgeting.
As well as Mohammed Shami's unforgettable hat-trick, there were six double-wicket overs during yesterday's #CWC19 matches!
— ICC (@ICC) June 23, 2019
Shami was left to defend 16 in the final over. On his first ball, he missed his yorker and Mohammad Nabi thwacked him to the long on boundary. "That's the difference between a Bumrah and a Shami", remarked Ramiz Raja on commentary. Four balls later the bowler had a World Cup hat-trick and India had the win. "Fantastic! Magical! Brilliant!", Ramiz exclaimed. It seemed a bit at odds with his earlier criticism of Shami but, as the man who took the catch to win the 1992 tournament, Rambo knows how to handle dramatic endings.
You have one job, Sachin
There was shock news this week for Sachin Tendulkar, when the BCCI's ethics officer ordered that he, and many others, could only do one of the following: commentary, IPL mentoring, coaching, or working for the national governing body. The shock here is not that the BCCI has an ethics officer, although that may come as a surprise to some, but that the edict will likely impact heavily on the multidisciplinary incomes of some very high profile players, many of whom are working on the current World Cup.
Whether or not the order comes to pass is another matter given the clout of Sachin, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman et al who sadly have to hold down more than one job to make ends meet. Yet if it does, Tendulkar can rest assured he can just sneakily send Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to work in his stead. Sounds a bit unusual, you may think, but apparently, the two are doppelgangers. Well, not to many people, but they are to Khan's senior advisor, Naeem Ul Haque, who this week tweeted a retro cricket photo with the caption "Imran Khan, 1969". It was, in fact, a shot of Sachin during his Ranji debut season for Mumbai in 1988-89. The inevitable memefest ensued.
These are probably not the most harmonious times in global politics, so congratulations to Mr ul Haque for at least uniting the cricket fans of Indian and Pakistan. Albeit in ridicule of Mr ul Haque.
Cottrell's deadliness in vain
The problem with iconic endings to films is that they tend to obscure memories of whatever brilliance has gone before. Everyone recalls Brad Pitt at the end of Seven receiving a full delivery even more unwelcome than one from Malinga, but less so a preceding couple of hours, despite their excellence.
Saturday saw several iconic images at the end of West Indies versus New Zealand as Carlos Brathwaite was comforted by Williamson after the all-rounder just failed to get his side home. Even Ben Stokes was moved to tweet his commiserations having seen his past nemesis down on his haunches, the spirit animals of Brett Lee and Freddie Flintoff hovering above.
Pity then poor old Sheldon Cottrell, whose efforts earlier in the day may now go down as a mere footnote to the mesmeric finale. The fast bowler was involved in the dismissal of, as it happens, seven of the eight batsmen to fall during New Zealand's innings, taking four wickets, two catches and effecting one run out. He has been a consistently bright light in the murky depths of the West Indies' efforts this World Cup.
Yet it seems Cottrell, for all his famous salute celebration attracts, is used to going unnoticed.
Bc my skills are better on the field than in 280 characters 👋🏿 https://t.co/0cBoTbOX1V
— Sheldon Cotterell (@SaluteCotterell) June 23, 2019
When a journalist enquired on Twitter how it was only possible he had only 904 followers, the quick replied modestly by saying, "Bc my skills are better on the field than in 280 characters ". Maybe true, but he would currently have to write like C.L.R James for his tweets to match his sporting efforts.
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The ECB has also decided to do away with their old process of announcing separate red and white-ball contracts, announcing instead a single contracts list for players across formats.
Shakib sent back Scotland's Michael Leask for nought with his left-arm spin in Muscat to surpass former Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga's feat of 107 wickets (84 matches) in the shortest format.
Broad said it would be great to have the injured Jofra Archer in Australia and have that express pace, but his side's bowlers would need to move the ball and to be relentless.