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    April 16, 2007

    Bridgetown set for battle of the bounce

    Without doubt, the two least interesting teams at the World Cup are England and South Africa. England lurch from one tragi-comic performance to another. As in Australia, they have opted for a flat-cap, belt-and-braces strategy: hope Saj can keep it to less than six an over and pick up a twofer with his slower balls, let Monty wheel away innocuously, completely ignore Bopara, and refuse to change the batting order despite painfully slow scoring.

    Lawrence Booth, writing in The Times, says that England don't innovate with their shot-making, and Richard Boock thinks that Graeme Smith's captaincy isn't up to scratch. These are teams struggling for confidence and form, and one of them will probably be thrown to the lions in a semi-final against Australia.

    Between them, England and South Africa have two full-time spinners, both left-armers. These are also the only two left-arm bowlers in either side. South Africa have two left-handed batsmen, England have three. Ally this to the fast and bouncy Bridgetown pitch, and this match will see large periods of play in which a right-arm fast-medium bowler bangs it in on (or just short of) a length on (or just outside of) the off-stump of a right-handed batsman.

    And yet the nature of the game makes it exciting. Both sides need a win, both sides are haunted by their own inadequacies. The familiar nature of the bowling might not be such a bad thing either: if there's one type of bowler and pitch that both sides should be used to, it's the type they'll encounter here. Fielding could be the key. South Africa, as I said two months ago, drop too many catches. This was highlighted again in their loss to New Zealand. England aren't a good fielding side, but a side with some good fielders. Bell's fielding has improved, and Bopara, Collingwood, and Pietersen eat up the ground in the outfield. But Vaughan, Panesar, and, to a lesser extent, Strauss must be hidden, and Flintoff has dropped from his standards of a couple of years ago.

    I'm with Athers: I expect England to lose. In a way, I want England to lose. They have learned nothing, they have been at once rigid and poorly prepared, and they haven't even had the decency to play with any kind of flair. South Africa might be a bunch of robotic, unimaginative chokers, but at least they have batsmen who can hit the ball hard and bowlers who can slice through a side and keep their head at the death. I don't want South Africa to win, but I won't complain too much if they do.

    Also: I really haven't been keeping up with who other counties have signed. But it seems that Warwickshire have signed Kumar Sangakkara! And RP Singh (what happened to him?) has cunningly stationed himself in Leicestershire should India suffer any injuries on their tour of England.

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    Thus spake Geoff @ 3:04 PM |
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