Lutters’ World Cup lines – part three

IF you had doubts over the relevance of the 50-over game in modern cricket (and I was one of those who did), you just had to watch the India versus England game on Sunday to be convinced that it was alive and well.

This game will have viewing figures for the rest of the tournament on an upward curve, but I fear that many will be disappointed due to the fact that no other games will live up to the tension that ensued for probably the next decade.

England gave a decent account of themselves as the whole game went on. India, the pre-tournament favourites, have had their weaknesses exposed, mainly in the bowling department.

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This will probably not be too much of a problem, however, as the wickets aren’t brilliant for any bowlers who get the ball down the other end at more than 80mph. I hasten to add that if I were up the other end and the ball was travelling towards me at 80-plus mph, then there would be a major problem.

The game was a real nail-biter, with India getting a good total on the board, but England getting off to a flying start.

You have to feel sorry for Kevin Pietersen (I usually wouldn’t waste the effort) as his full-blooded drive was caught by Munaf Patel, who was at best trying to avoid being decapitated.

Strauss trumped Tendulkar’s fantastic innings by playing an even better one, and the England skipper’s partnership with Ian Bell, who was given not out on a technicality with the referral system, got England in to a very strong position.

Talking of the referral system, or technology in general, Strauss quite clearly edged two behind, but the noise of the crowd meant that no-one heard the faint nicks and therefore nobody appealed, with Strauss almost certainly unaware that he’d hit either.

India’s best bowler, Zaheer Khan, then took the wickets of Strauss and Bell in consecutive balls and the balance swung back in the hosts’ favour. But some big-hitting from England’s lower order meant that the game ended in a tie. This was probably the best result for cricket, but both sides would have felt that they’d thrown a good opportunity away.

So what happens with England now? Stuart Broad had a stomach bug (gained after a meal out as far as I can make out from Graeme Swann’s tweets) and was replaced by Ajmal Shahzad, who bowled (and batted) alright. Ravi Bopara was dropped for Sussex skipper Michael Yardy, but one has to assume that Broad will be back for the next game.

The major worry for England is James Anderson, who is so good with the red ball but awful with the white one (Steven Harmison was the same). Anderson has leaked runs in the two games so far (an economy rate of around eight per over is poor) and he can’t bat. Broad can bat and is England’s best limited overs bowler. A no-brainer me thinks.

Yardy bowled pretty well and can bat, so I would expect him to play in the next game, as spinners (I’m being generous here) are crucial to success in the sub-continent. The man who is under pressure from Bopara must be Paul Collingwood, although the Durham man’s bowling may yet save him.

England play Ireland next, which should be a breeze, although knowing England it will be a torrid affair.

Then come South Africa, who will be as difficult a proposition as the hosts India. So I may have to watch a bit more of this tournament, which will probably please the wife as she won’t have to talk to me! No change there then.