Match Day 6

And just like that, England–the team I didn’t think had a chance–are through to the knockout stages after a convincing albeit unentertaining win over New Zealand today in the Welsh wind and rain.

They are through on their own merit, don’t get me wrong, they did what they were supposed to do: they won their matches. But they are also through because it rained, as all three other teams had a match abandoned due to rain. If New Zealand had gone on to beat Australia had gone on to beat Bangladesh, the table would look like this:

Australia: 4
England: 4
New Zealand: 2
Bangladesh: 0

Meaning England would have had to beat Australia on the final day in order to maybe squeak into the knock outs on Net Run Rate, as they certainly couldn’t rely on Bangladesh beating New Zealand.

But it rained, and England are through, and Australia are on the outside looking in, and New Zealand are in deep trouble, and Bangladesh are in with a shout. Who could have predicted that? Not me.

Now while some might be upset at how the rain has thus far affected the tournament, and that it’s a shame that Australia–the number one ranked side in the world and the World Cup trophy holders–could be packing their bags early, they really isn’t much to complain about. Rain is a part of cricket, it’s in the marrow of its bones. It’s another subplot to this game we love because it is full of so many subplots, layers, tunnels within tunnels. So while I understand complaints about the farcical ending to the Australia-Bangladesh match, that’s on Duckworth-Lewis, not on the rain, and it certainly isn’t on England. I mean, it’s not like they cheated. They won their matches, it rained, and they are moving on.

Plus now they get the added benefit of potentially knockout the Old Enemy out of the tournament in what would otherwise be a dead rubber. And nobody likes a dead rubber.

Speaking of that, what are the implications here? Who goes through?

Here’s how it shakes out (all of the below assumes a New Zealand win):

If England beat Australia, then England and New Zealand go through.

If Australia beat England, then England and Australia go through.

But since this is the 2017 Champions Trophy and it’s June and it’s the British Isles, you have to assume rain.

If England beat Australia and the Bangladesh-New Zealand match is abandoned, then New Zealand (probably) squeak through via NRR.

If Australia beat England and the Bangladesh-New Zealand match is abandoned, then Australia go through as before, Net Run Rate not needed.

Now, if it rains in Birmingham on Saturday and Australia-England is abandoned, then New Zealand go through with a win over Bangladesh, based on NRR (again, probably).

But, hey, since they have to play the games, I shouldn’t count out Bangladesh here: if they beat New Zealand and if England beats Australia then, yes, Bangladesh goes through. Holy hannah now that would be something. I’d avoid the Aussie bars in the UK for the time being if that happens, haha.

My prediction? England and Australia make it to the knockouts. Which is too bad, because I rather like New Zealand.

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Tomorrow brings us more matches from Group B, and it feels like it has been years since we have seen these teams. Pakistan against South Africa is tomorrow with India against Sri Lanka the next day. South Africa and India are through to the knockouts with wins, which makes these must win matches for their opponents. I think Pakistan are out, but I wouldn’t bat an eye if Sri Lanka put up a fight.

Unless it rains, of course.

Until tomorrow.

Match Day 5

Australia were cruising to victory over Bangladesh in London today but the covers just came on and the players headed for the changing rooms. What a gift for England and New Zealand an abandoned match would be! And it looks like rain is going to continue off and on for the rest of the evening:

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Australia and Bangladesh sharing a point would throw this group into turmoil. It would put England in command with two points and a game in hand, put Australia on two points with only one match left to play (against England) and New Zealand and Bangladesh would each have a point a piece. Tomorrow’s match between England and New Zealand is already a must win for both squads (more so for England, despite what Cricinfo says) and today’s rain adds even more implications to what is shaping to be THE match of the group stage. And the rain would mean that Australia would have to beat England to move on. Something that’s not impossible, of course, in fact most would give the edge to Australia, but it’s a still a tricky tie and a win is not guaranteed.

Oh, and the weather tomorrow in Cardiff? Rain in the morning then clearing after noon. Thank goodness.

There’s still talk of more cricket tonight in London, though, so I’ll stop counting my chickens. And even if the storm blows through and Australia hit whatever target they pull out of the Duckworth/Lewis hat, tomorrow is still set up to be an interesting day.

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If the rain holds and Bangladesh get their (rather undeserved, frankly) point, then they could, potentially–very potentially–go through to the knock outs. It would take them beating New Zealand AND England beating Australia, and those are two very big asks. But still, it could happen. It won’t though, We all know that. If you ran New Zealand versus Bangladesh through a computer simulation, the Kiwis would win 99 out of 100 matches. They are simply the better side, and in cricket there just aren’t the giant killings you see in other sports (football, mainly). The better team wins in cricket. That’s just how it works. The games still need to played, of course, and in most cases who the better team is is not entirely certain, and when it is certain the margin is thin enough for other factors to come into play (the toss, the conditions, home field advantage). But not in this case.

I understand that, on merit, Bangladesh deserve to the be there. But I can’t help but wonder how much more competitive and entertaining this group would be if the West Indies were there instead of Bangladesh. As it is the three other teams can count on an almost a guaranteed two points. And that simply isn’t fair, to the group, the tournament and to Bangladesh.

We shouldn’t have a team needing to rely on rain in order to salvage points from matches. That’s no way to run a tournament.

But that’s neither here nor there. Bangladesh are in the tournament, and if it rains tomorrow in Cardiff, and in London on Friday, and on Saturday in Birmingham–three things not altogether unlikely–then this group could turn from being highly predictable to the opposite. In spades.

Cardiff tomorrow:

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London on Friday:

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Birmingham on Saturday:

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Ahh, June in the British Isles, what a time to hold a cricket tournament.

 

London

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Last Saturday 200 Twin Cities Arsenal supporters and I gathered at The Local Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis to watch the FA Cup final. Before kickoff there was a moment of silence held for the victims of the Manchester bombing. The moment of silence was impeccably observed at the ground … and at the the Pub. You could hear a pin drop in the bar, servers and bartenders stopped what they were doing, and we all just bowed our heads and paid our silent respects to the people who lost their lives for nothing more than attending a pop concert. It was awe-inspiring.

Minneapolis based Arsenal supporters are motley crew, emblematic of the Great American Melting Pot. We are Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and Who Gives a Shits. We are black, white, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, gay and straight and in between. We are from Zimbabwe and Duluth and Cyprus and Ohio. We are doctors and truck drivers and barbers and shoe salesmen. But despite these differences–differences that in the world outside football might be a bridge too far–we all stood, we were all silent, we were all respectful. And I think that moment of silence at the Pub, that spirit of comradery, that belief that we are all one, that we are all in this together, that we are all human … that is how we will defeat our enemies. I am going to hold that moment of silence in my heart for the rest of my life, and I think others that were there will as well.

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I love London. It is my favorite city in the world. I have walked those streets, crossed those bridges. And so this attack and the one in March have a personal affect on me. But I know, and we all know, that London will be fine. It’s the capital of the western world, it’s big and diverse and rich and beautiful, and so it has always been under attack by the evil in this world, and it will always be under attack. But whether it’s Nazis or ISIS or some future enemy we have yet to imagine, London will be fine.

And this is where it would be okay to point out my hypocrisy. There have been terrorist attacks all over the world that have claimed more lives than yesterday’s. In May alone there were 147 terrorist incidents. 15 of these took place in Afghanistan–a cricket loving country if there ever was one–and one of those killed more than 100 people and injured close to 500. That attack was just on May 31. Five days ago. And yet it was ignored by the west (for the most part) and ignored on this blog. London will be okay, but I don’t know if we can say the same thing for Kabul. And it’s not just Afghanistan, there were three terrorist incidents in India stemming from the Kashmir conflict that claimed the lives of 10 people. And there was the bombing in Mastung, Pakistan that took the lives of nearly 30 people. Plus attacks in Gwadar and Quetta and Kohat.

I have no answer to the charge of hypocrisy. I am guilty, no doubt. My only defense is that I see London as a spiritual home, and I promise to do better, to see the world as a global citizen, and not just a citizen of the west. This is something that cricket has helped me to do, but I still have a long way to go. We all need to do more than pray for peace, we need to be that peace every single day of the year.

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And speaking of cricket, while it seems to trite to talk about a silly bat and ball sport after what happened last night, the games must go on, and in those games, maybe we can find the spirit of togetherness I found in the pub that Saturday morning. Furthermore, to see enemies India and Pakistan playing a peaceful game of cricket should give us all hope for the future, despite what happened in the Kashmir region last month (see above).

India for their part dismantled Pakistan in damp Birmingham in a rain shortened match, winning by an impressive 124 runs. And with today’s match we have now seen all eight teams play, and the cream is definitely rising to the crop: South Africa and India look the most impressive, with New Zealand nipping at their heels. Tomorrow Australia play Bangladesh in London and despite obvious security concerns, the game will be played as scheduled.

Until tomorrow then.

Stay safe, everyone.

Match Days 2 & 3

Yesterday threw up a not unexpected curve ball: rain. New Zealand looked dominant and Australia probably felt lucky to get away with their shared point. It’s too bad for the Kiwis as they looked like the better side yesterday and a win would have booked their ticket to the knockouts, but now they have to negotiate a tricky match against the hosts, England, and get past the Bangladesh banana peel. Meanwhile Australia are still in the group’s driver’s seat, based solely on their formidable ODI form as of late. I mean, they are the defending World Champions.

The shared point might have affectively closed the door on England, however. Their hopes surely would have sat with one side leaving the match on zero points. But with both walking away with a point England’s match against New Zealand is now probably a must-win affair, and even a win in that match guarantees them nothing. But then again even before the tournament started the match was a must-win game for England. And that’s the thing about this tournament–as Mark Nichols pointed out on Cricinfo a few days back–there’s no margin for error in this tournament. In the World Cup, the field is so wide and the differences in quality so vast–which is a GOOD thing, don’t get me wrong–that a side can suffer through two or even three slip-ups and still move forward. This tournament? Not so much. Lose a toss on a batting friendly pitch and you might be going home. It feels like every ball matters, ever run in, every wide, every fielding change.

Speaking of which–and also on Cricinfo–Andrew Miller extols the virtues of this tournament. And it’s nice to see the punditry finally coming around on it. It’s a great tournament, and I know it’s future is in doubt, but I hope it sticks around. Here’s Miller:

Or perhaps there was just something inherently satisfying about a tournament designed to produce a hectic sprint for the title. The eight best teams in the world, engaged crowds, a maximum of five matches each … one false move and you’re as good as out. It’s the exact same formula, in fact, that the ATP uses for its hugely successful end-of-season World Tour Finals, and in an era when the World Cup – for all the money it generates – has found itself locked into a cumbersome six-week schedule that drains the goodwill of even its most ardent supporters, such a simple nod to top-notch entertainment is a valuable PR exercise, apart from anything else.

The “PR exercise” is a bit of a backhanded compliment, but he has a point there too. And it’s why I am pulling for England to do well. A home team storming their way to the final and winning it all at the Oval would be something truly grand for not just the ECB, but for the game as whole.

Furthermore, this tournament is giving us something very ODIs do, even those in the World Cup: full stadiums. They are predicting the grounds to be at least 90% full over the next two weeks of play. Big, diverse crowds spread out across three cities and a home team storming to a trophy: that sounds like a recipe for a great tournament.

England vs New Zealand is Tuesday in Cardiff. Mark your calendars, it should be a good one.

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Today it’s South Africa v Sri Lanka at the Oval in London. Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to field, and South Africa put up a hefty but achievable score of 299. I don’t see Sri Lanka beating India in their second match, making this one yet another must-win affair in a tournament full of them. We’ll see how it goes, but my money is on South Africa successfully defending their total. But I’ve been wrong before. Heck I am wrong most of the time.

Tomorrow brings us India vs Pakistan in Birmingham. Another match to savor. It’s interesting to note as well that–based on 2011 counts–nearly 20% of that city’s population identifies as either Indian or Pakistani. This should make a full crowd and a rollicking ground. I can’t wait. Until tomorrow then.

Match Day 1

And there we are, the first match in the books. As the robots predicted, England won and they did so with pomp and style (which the robots could not have predicted). That’s probably it for Bangladesh for this tournament unless they can pull off shockers against Australia and New Zealand. And wouldn’t that be something?

England, meanwhile, got the job done thanks to a four-fer from Liam Plunkett, a century from Joe Root (which, honestly, the robots could have predicted) and a whiplash 95 off 86 from Alex Hales. Cricinfo also pointed out that it was the first time 300 has been successfully chased in the Champions Trophy AND it was also England’s third highest successful chase of all time. Of course, the “well, it was only Bangladesh” qualifier is accurate here, but it’s still not an easy total to chase, no matter the competition.

Next for England are New Zealand and then Australia. The pressure on England to win the New Zealand tilt is off a tad after their dismantling of Bangladesh, but it’s still more or less a must win, mostly because it’s the more winnable of their final two group matches. In other words, I just don’t see them beating Australia.

One thing, of course, that the robots could not take into account was England’s home field advantage. It matters a little less in England than it does in Asia, but it still matters. And it might just be the edge they need to prove the robots wrong, beat New Zealand, and move on to the knockouts.

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I followed the match via Cricinfo’s ball by ball coverage, which is preferable to listening to a video stream or listening to the radio coverage. I like it because I have all the information I need and don’t have to deal with dodgy streams or pesky IT employees wondering where all their bandwidth is going. Also, haha, when I have the screen narrowed to the tablet version, it just looks like work stuff to the uninitiated:

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Cricinfo, by the way, was one of the first websites to create a mobile version, and their responsive design is still top of the line. Kudos where it’s due.

Unfortunately, this is how I will be following the entire tournament. This is because most matches are during a work day, of course, but also because I was wrong, the tournament is not being streamed on ESPN3, it is only streaming on Willow TV and not on their online player but via Sling TV. So the only way to steam the matches is to A) pay for Willow.TV and B) pay for Sling TV. Someone correct me if I’m wrong here. Here’s a comment on one of my posts from a few days ago which sums it up better:

“I too thought I could watch the Champions Trophy on Willow; however, it seems Sling TV is the provider. If you have a Willow.TV subscription, you get a code to use for Sling TV. I have been watching warm-ups on both Sling and ESPN, through a Roku device (which I recommend for watching cricket, especially if you’re trying to cut the cord).” – Commenter Justin

Reading that again it looks like I would only need the Willow TV subscription. Hm. I’ll have to investigate. If anyone has further info, do let me know.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow brings Australia vs New Zealand, which should be a cracker, with the winner probably booking their spot in the knockouts. Until then.