Anticlimactic end to a dull World Cup

Shadab Khan. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Shadab Khan. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Having once hacked his way to a half-century in the backyard against his much younger sister, cricket writer Adrian Seconi reflects on a World Cup that did not deliver as much drama as that fine knock in Karaka St 40 years ago.

Alien v Predator

Midway through the tournament, someone clever described the Cricket World Cup as being drunk - there had been a couple of big upsets.

But the final turned out to be a rather sober experience for India. You could actually hear the Australian team roar on to the field to celebrate when Glenn Maxwell clunked the winning runs.

The 90,000-strong sea of blue watched in stunned silence. India had dominated the tournament, winning 10 straight.

It was their World Cup to lose, but only heartbreak awaited.

The home team definitely got the worst of the conditions and arguably the pressure got to them as well. Perhaps their biggest regret will be that they were not more courageous with the bat.

And Australia, well, it is just in their DNA. They lost their opening two games but rallied to claim their sixth World Cup.

Opener Travis Head strung together back-to-back man-of-the-match performances. He played some fearless knockout cricket, which you just have to admire.

Even a bona fide cricket tragic, Black Caps diehard and unnamed colleague (let’s call him Ben Allan), when asked if he was looking forward to the final, shrugged and described the game as Alien v Predator, would have to acknowledge that as a special effort.

Jimmy Anderson. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Jimmy Anderson. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Too many sixes are boring

Fun fact: there were 644 sixes and 2239 fours swatted in 48 games.

That is great and all, but how many of those games were gripping encounters that kept you entertained until the last ball?

One. That is how many.

New Zealand mounted an epic effort to chase down Australia’s total of 388. Lockie Ferguson needed to hit the last ball for six to win it. Greg Chappell was screaming at brother Trev to bowl it underarm.

South Africa’s one-wicket win over Pakistan had people sitting on the edge of their seats as well, but the Proteas won that with 16 balls to go.

Arguably, there was more tension crammed into the 2019 final than there was the entire 2023 tournament.

The balance between bat and ball was off. And not just off by a little bit, but a lot.

There were 40 hundreds scored and only seven five-wicket bags taken. Ideally, those two statistics would be a lot closer together.

This was a batters’ World Cup and that made for too many one-sided games.

Thirteen games were won by 100 runs or more and another 18 games were won by five wickets or more.

The drama, which was delivered, came from the minnows. The Netherlands, Afghanistan and England all delivered unexpected wins.

Fakhar Zaman. PHOTO: REUTERS
Fakhar Zaman. PHOTO: REUTERS

That Fakhar Zaman

For days, the only reprieve available was in those first few seconds after waking up when everything still felt all good in the world.

But that Fakhar Zaman innings would peep through the curtains in a sustained onslaught on the senses.

The man heaved an unbeaten 126 off 81 balls, including 11 sixes, to help Pakistan secure a Duckworth-Lewis-Stern-assisted 21-run win.

The psychological impact inflicted on the Black Caps must have been akin to that of a teenage girl realising the Wi-Fi is down.

The delirium of posting 401 for six in that game was painfully short-lived.

David Warner (81) and Travis Head (109) delivered the other major beating. They put on 175 for the opening wicket in 19.1 overs to help their side post 388.

The Black Caps chased hard and nearly got there. If only Jimmy Neesham put the penultimate ball - a thigh-high full toss - away to the boundary.

He shanked it and was run out coming back for a second. That was another peeping-through-the-curtains moment the next morning.

Rachin Ravindra. PHOTO: REUTERS
Rachin Ravindra. PHOTO: REUTERS

That Rachin Ravindra

Call it the passing of the baton if you like, but it was a joy to watch Ravindra teamed up with Kane Williamson in a classy 180-run stand against Pakistan.

The 24-year-old had a wildly successful World Cup, which we won’t rehash here. Suffice to say the Black Caps have pinned an awful lot on the young left-hander for the future.

Glenn Maxwell. PHOTO: REUTERS
Glenn Maxwell. PHOTO: REUTERS

That Glenn Maxwell

The Guardian called it "one of the most astonishing one-day innings of all time".

Australia had slumped to 91 for seven. Afghanistan’s 291 for five looked like it would be plenty. And it would have been plenty except they dropped Maxwell on 33 - the Taliban must have outlawed catching the ball on the full along with dancing in the street.

It was a big mistake and the "Big Show" capitalised. He swatted an undefeated 201 from 128 balls.

It was an utterly remarkable innings, no doubt. But was it really the best World Cup innings ever played as some have suggested?

New Zealand’s Martin Guptill smashed 237 not out from 163 balls in a knockout game against the West Indies in 2015.

Seconi’s alternative tournament team

Not Fakhar Zaman (PAK): Will never mention his name again.

Rachin Ravindra (NZ): Cruelly left out of the ICC tournament team.

Joe Root (ENG): Needs the confidence boost inclusion in this prestigious team brings after labouring his way to 272 runs at 30.66.

Kane Williamson (NZ): Battled his way back from injury and scored three half-centuries in four bats.

Daryl Mitchell (NZ): Definitely not naming any Australians.

David Miller (SA): Pumped a century against Australia in the semi.

Tom Latham (NZ): Gets the nod as the gloveman. Might be the last ODI gig he gets.

Mohammad Nabi (AFG): Miserly spinner.

Teja Nidamanuru (NED): Played for Albion.

Shadab Khan (PAK): Worst strike of any bowler at the tournament. Took two for 237. One wicket every 114 deliveries. Can relate.

James Anderson (ENG): He wasn’t there, you dingbat. Yes, but England never turned up either.

The official ICC tournament team: Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Daryl Mitchell, KL Rahul, Glenn Maxwell, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Dilshan Madushanka, Adam Zampa, Mohammed Shami.

• FRIDAY: How the Black Caps might look in 2027.