India pipped Australia to top spot as the World Cup group stage reached its climax after five and a half weeks and 45 fixtures – four of them yielding no result.
The inclement weather was an early talking point but the incessant rain thankfully gave way and allowed the cricket to take centre stage, with some memorable headlines created.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the highlights and lowlights of the tournament so far.
Shakib Al Hasan: The Bangladesh all-rounder may sometimes fly under the radar but he underlined his status as the world’s premier all-rounder by consistently delivering for the Tigers with bat and ball. One of only three players to go past 600 runs – India’s Rohit Sharma and Australia’s David Warner are the others – Shakib also took 11 wickets with his left-arm spin. No turner claimed more scalps on pitches that have not been ideal for the slow bowlers. His presence will be missed at the knockout stages, where only Rohit and possibly Australia’s Mitchell Starc have a chance of pipping Shakib to player of the tournament.
Rashid Khan: As mentioned, the surfaces have hardly been obliging for spinners but the Afghanistan leggie came into this tournament with a hefty reputation, not least because he is ranked third in the world among one-day bowlers. However, six wickets at an average of 69.33 tells its own sorry tale. The 20-year-old endured a particularly haunting day against England, leaking 110 runs in nine overs, the worst figures in the tournament’s history, as he was routinely carted over the boundary rope by a rampant Eoin Morgan. It is the first major setback in the prodigiously talented bowler’s career and he will doubtless bounce back but this has been a few weeks to forget.
“No way. Ben Stokes, you cannot do that.” Nasser Hussain, commentating for Sky Sports, summed up the mood of the entire nation when England’s all-action all-rounder took a wonder catch in the tournament opener. Stationed at deep midwicket, a quite astonishing leaping effort with his outstretched right hand saw off South Africa’s Andile Phehlukwayo. Stokes later admitted: “I had a little bit of a panic on to be honest, I was a little bit further in than I should have been. I was actually in the wrong position. It would have been a regulation catch if I was in the right place. It’s one of those that sticks or doesn’t.” There have been other contenders but for sheer disbelief, Stokes’ grab will take some topping.
Rain, rain, go away
An unseasonably wet June led to three abandonments and one no-result – unprecedented in the tournament’s 44-year history. While tournament hosts England were fortuitous to avoid the rain, Sri Lanka had two washouts. And of the three matches Bristol hosted, only one saw any action as Australia started their campaign by beating Afghanistan. Pakistan’s abandonment against Sri Lanka dented their semi-final hopes as New Zealand claimed fourth spot – behind India, Australia and England – on net run-rate.
The gruesome twosome
Speaking of Australia, it has been difficult to block out the receptions afforded to ball-tampering pair Warner and Steve Smith, who have been regularly jeered around the grounds as a result of their roles in ‘Sandpapergate’. Curiously, despite Warner being the instigator of what happened in Cape Town last year, it is Smith who is receiving the louder boos. Their team-mates have been at pains to state the issue has not affected the batting duo and that certainly seems the case with Warner, who has made three centuries and contributed 638 runs at 79.75 to Australia’s cause.
Manufacturers behind the ‘Zing’ wicket system were left “stumped” by the number of incidents involving their bails at the World Cup. There were at least six instances of the ball hitting or being edged into the stumps without the flashing electronic bails being removed. The issue led to criticism from a number of players and David Ligertwood – a director at Zing, which invented and produces the product – says events came as a surprise. He told PA: “The Zing wicket system has operated in well over a thousand games and this issue has not happened frequently. This recent cluster currently has us stumped.”
Rihanna? At Chester-le-Street?
Pop star Rihanna caused a stir when it emerged she was in one of the hospitality boxes at Durham’s ground to watch the West Indies take on Sri Lanka. A former class-mate of Windies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite, the Barbados-born singer’s presence inspired Nicholas Pooran, who registered a maiden one-day international century. Sri Lanka ultimately prevailed but Windies captain Jason Holder was delighted by her support. He said: “It was a pleasant surprise. It was great to see her here. I just want to personally thank her for coming out. I guess it’s not easy for a celebrity to just come down to Durham to watch the West Indies play.”