What’s the point of Super Eights?

It’s all been fairly entertaining stuff so far, then. Every major tournament needs a victory for the host nation, a close finish and an upset in its first week, and the World Twenty20 has delivered all of them four days ahead of schedule. Sixes have been hit, dances have been danced and grounds have generally been full enough for the local TV directors not to have to focus on the same group of fans for a whole match.

Still, it wouldn’t be an ICC event if you couldn’t complain about the format. And although this tournament is positively size zero in comparison to the World Cup, the organisers again seem worryingly keen to make sure absolutely everybody plays absolutely everybody. It will take twelve matches to reduce twelve teams to eight, and another twelve to reduce the eight to four. What’s wrong with quarter-finals? Most other sports seem to have them, and they work a treat.

Super Eights, while snappily-named and sound in theory, take all the sting out of a major tournament. At the last World Cup, around a third of Super Eight games, at a conservative estimate, were dead. That should reduce this time as a result of the lower number of matches played, but the ICC should take a long hard look at the Super Eights format. Keeping the games meaningful is surely more important than making sure India and Pakistan meet every time.

Use the force, Luke

I was a little sceptical about Luke Wright’s succession to the England 20-20 squad on the basis that he scored the most runs in this year’s campaign, not least because Chris Schofield was picked for taking the most wickets. Graeme Swann must be uber-gutted! But while I am delighted the selectors have decided to go with a specialist squad, I had developed the opinion that Wright was just a slogger-got-lucky.

Not for the first time, I was dead wrong. His 60-ball hundred last night for Sussex against Gloucestershire was stunning. While there was the odd smear and hoik, almost every shot was orthodox, including a dreamy cover drive and on drive, all hit with terrible power and timing. Gloucestershire are not the very worst of attacks – I’m sure Wright will meet some worse bowlers at the 20-20 World Cup – but he made them look inept. Even Michael Atherton was purring by the end, shifting his stance from, “if you’re good enough for international 50 over cricket, you’re good enough for 20-20” to “if this lad’s good enough for 20-20, he should be good enough for 50 overs too.”

There were various comparisons, such as he grips and rips like Tendulkar or has the speed of hands through the ball as Ali Brown. Indeed, not since Brown have I seen an Englishman so dismantle an attack in the way Jayasuriya or Gilchrist do for fun. As a right-hander, he had something of Michael Slater about him, although I’ll go for a more modern Aussie as a comparison, who likewise has plenty more to prove. Shane Watson batted in a very similar fashion in the World Cup, matching power and timing with elegance. He bowls a bit too and has the same bottle blond hair. Time will tell whether Luke Wright can mix it on the same stage.

Who is your second favourite team?

Interesting email from James:

Have you done a thread about favourite teams other than England? I was trying to work out who I’d like to win the world cup if not us the other day, and I’d be interested to know what others think. I’ve always supported the Windies as a “second team” and sort of assumed everyone else did too, but that may not be so…

I’m with him on the Windies, but I also want Kenya, Scotland and Ireland to do well. So apart from your “main” team, who’s your second?

Illegal World Cup merchandise

No, I’m not selling any – merely pointing you to Ryan’s blog who warns how impossible it will be for the Caribbean to police the sale of un-kosher World Cup goods.

Mello in New York

No, it's not a typo. Mello is the World Cup mascot and Ryan has a few photos of him (it?) in New York seeing the sights.

Mello in New York

World Cup on the BBC?

I wasn’t aware the BBC were broadcasting next year’s World Cup but according to their blog, it’s true.

I really can’t wait for November; an entire winter of The Ashes followed by the World Cup. And then suddenly we’ll be back into the 2007 season! Madness.

Australia v South Africa, 1999 World Cup video

Terrific video of the 1999 World Cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa. Yep – that one. Seems years ago, now…

England get the 2019 World Cup

So England have been awarded the 2019 World Cup. After the disasterous “only we can do it this badly” performance in 1999, I hope we actually plan it this time. Depressingly, I’ll be 37-years-old when it comes round!

Also they’ll be staging the inaugral Twenty20 World Championship in 2009, the same year Australia are touring here, which ought to be brilliant.

Meanwhile, the Twenty20 World Championship, which will be given a trial run in an invitational tournament next year, will coincide with Australia’s next visit for the Ashes.

The event is planned at two venues, spread across nine days involving the world’s top eight teams.

In a model used for Twenty20 Cup finals day in county cricket, a match starting at 1000 GMT would coincide with evening in Australia and New Zealand.

A second game at 1400 would meet prime time in Pakistan and India and a final match starting at around 1800 would be ideal for TV viewers in the UK.

UK’s budget for market in 2007 World Cup

Parliament says:

Under UK Trade and Investment’s Market Visit Support scheme, there are no market visits planned to the Caribbean for the remainder of the financial year 2005–06. For the financial year 2006–07 commencing 1 April, UKTI’s regional teams are developing their plans for market visits in line with their trade development responsibilities. At present one market visit to the Caribbean is under consideration where a budget of £6,500 has been proposed to support around 10 small and medium enterprises.

In addition, Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, as part of the West Midlands EU funded ERDF project, is taking a group of companies to Barbados, St. Lucia and Jamaica from 17–24 April 2006, as part of a structured export development programme, to investigate specific export opportunities, some of which are linked to the Cricket World Cup. The entire EU funding available will go direct to small and medium sized enterprises in the West Midlands objective 2 area. UKTIs involvement is to provide International Trade Advisers to support the companies in their preparation and to help them follow up any opportunities identified.

Test Cricket today. Hurray!

Tests are the best!

Australia take on South Africa in the First Test at Perth. South African captain Graeme Smith is ‘braced for bullies‘ and given that his side lost to a weak West Australian state side by an innings, the Australian urge to kick sand in South African faces is strong.

A personal confession, here. I loathe South African cricket, which has done nothing but bombastic boasting, boring and unadventurous captains and hilarious World Cup chokes since they were re-admitted in 1992. The last two times Australia toured the place, we heard a great deal in the South African press about how they were going to stuff us, and Australia responded by crushing them by an innings in the First Test. I suppose I owe it to my readers that I can’t be entirely objective about South Africans, and should bear that in mind when they read my stuff.

South Africans must be pretty anxious about the crowd because Andre Nel says that they aren’t worried about being abused by the crowds. If you weren’t worried about it, why would you talk about it? It is not like South African crowds are prim and proper-Johannesburg is not known as ‘the Bullring’ for nothing.

Australia have included Nathan Bracken in the lineup, instead of Stuart MacGill, and South Africa are likely to be missing Jacques Kallis. He is one of the few South Africans with a proven record against Australia so they will miss him.

Australia have never lost a series to South Africa since readmission, and have not lost a series at home since 1992-93. I do not think South Africa have the bowling attack to change those facts. Also, Smith does not strike me as the sort of cool figure that can lead his side to an upset victory. But it’s Test cricket so hurray!