Cricket news from ESPN Cricinfo.com

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Tigers and tremors: Is Cricket on the turn?

The Kingston Test of 2009 and Chittagong World Cup defeat last March make it a precarious business for any Englishman to criticise the performances of the West Indies and Bangladesh over the last few years, but in terms of drifting both those sides have been pretty continental in recent times. Not aided by internal wrangles that would make Machiavelli hold his nose in disgust, it's been a largely frustrating and fruitless time for the teams which are perhaps the recipients of more goodwill from neutrals than any other nations in world cricket.

The Tigers' spine-nibbling progress to the Asia Cup final and the Windies' ODI win over Australia on Friday might not mean that cricket's Geiger counters need to be reset overnight, but there is without doubt a slight tectonic waft in the air. Although their loss to Pakistan on Thursday did its bit for the status quo by allowing anyone watching to admire Shakib Al Hasan's brilliance then sigh at his team mates' capacity to turn promise into anticlimax, Bangladesh did more than enough to suggest something might be afoot in the accepted order of things, notwithstanding the CB and England series efforts lingering in the weary legs of India, Sri Lanka and their ultimate conquerors, Team Misbah. Looking in the Dhaka book a week ago and seeing anything other than Tendulkar's hundredth hundred might be nigh on heretic to some, but in terms of cricket ticking on into the future it's worth noting that that was also the home side's first win over India since 2007. A win is a single win is just one win, but there's something in the cricketing atmosphere that suggests it wasn't.

Using The brute Force: Kieron Pollard nudges a single back past Shane Watson

Good for no one but Bet365, intuition does me as well as analysis in making predictions, but after years of dank stagnation my Windies waters are stirring. The series lead-taking win in the 3rd ODI could easily be put down to Kieron Pollard pulling one of his clunking yet irresistible rabbits out of his hat, but even without the results in the previous two matches it seems increasingly difficult to look at this Windies line-up on paper and just dismiss them as middling fodder. This might be silly talk, but to me any side rocking up with Darren Bravo, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and - I'm happy to have my balls kicked incessantly here - Darren Sammy in it does not look like it's going to be a flimsy pushover in the next few years. Even more so if you add in the aforementioned batsman-cum-Rancor Pollard and dare to dream that the WICB and Chris Gayle might stop behaving like lions squabbling over the last bit of wildebeest. The inconsistency of the batting and lack of genuine fear-factor - but do give Andre time -from the bowlers of course mean that the Windies are still just having a fondue in St Lucia rather than A Fire in Babylon, but a few smoke signals are better than nothing.

False dawns turn up almost as often as real ones, but it's been a spritely few days for Bangladesh and the Windies and a pretty springlike couple of months for cricket in general: a CB series that seemed to last half as long as it actually did; two Kohli innings as beautiful as his mouth is caustic; new ball bowling of almost Messianic control and finesse from Vernon Philander in the ongoing Test series against New Zealand; perhaps above all, Suresh Raina looking utterly sublime dealing with a ball around his head.

Brace yourself for impact. Cricket is in a wobbly mood.

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