Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Old rivals seek first blood before Ashes

All eyes on De Kock in SA-SL encounter

Old rivals seek first blood before Ashes

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Watching Australia stroll past Sri Lanka on Thursday night, it was tempting to view today’s clash with England in an Ashes context, report agencies.

With five Tests to come and, who knows, perhaps another meeting in the final of this tournament, this is the first of seven possible ties this winter.

Certainly, these two suddenly look overwhelmingly likely to make it out of Group 2, with a place in the semi-finals all but confirmed for today’s winners.

Australia have a strong cross-format core who England will see plenty of this winter while England are a bit different. In this format, England are the more confident side, even if Australia are also two wins from two. Sri Lanka, England’s opponents on Monday, faded badly after a promising start, but did expose some shortcomings in Australia’s team balance.

Both sides will be pleased with their starts to the tournament, but one of them will have to do something new: set a target. That does feel a significant disadvantage when so much is resting on the toss; 12 of the last 13 matches have been won by the chasers. That is partly due to dew in night games, but also because the setters have been cautious.

So far there has been some decent fun fare, but the tournament is crying out for a close game — and perhaps a high-scoring one, too. There might be some atmosphere, but in most games it is not shining through the broadcast, elements of which are pretty stale at ICC events these days.

Hopefully, the old rivals can breathe life into the tournament — and provide a tasty appetiser for a thrilling winter of cricket.

In the day’s first match, star batter Quinton de Kock’s expected return after agreeing to take the knee will bolster South Africa when they take on an inconsistent Sri Lanka at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah today.

De Kock’s pullout for refusing to be a part of the anti-racism gesture in the game against West Indies kicked up a storm which subsided with a lengthy statement from him on Thursday in which he made himself available, saying he is fine taking a knee if it “educates others”.

The Proteas, led by Temba Bavuma, got off to a nervy start in the Super 12s after Australia beat them by five wickets on October 23.

However, they came back to crush West Indies by eight wickets on Tuesday. They are currently placed at third in the points table. The Lankans, on the other hand, won four games in a row in the World Cup, but Australia defeated them by seven wickets to halt their winning run in the event.