Afghanistan qualify for the Champions Trophy as Netherland's run out of luck

The toss. Are Afghanistan the best defensive bowling unit in the World Cup?

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The Netherlands won the toss and did a deal with the devil to get Max O’Dowd back into the runs. Sadly that pact ended with four run-outs, so any advantage their top order gave them was absolutely ruined. Eventually, their batting started when they lost five wickets. But this time they only added 74 runs for the last five wickets, a disappointment for them. Mohammad Nabi was the best of the non-run outs as Afghanistan went for defensive spin bowling and it worked. The Netherlands got Gurbaz early, but really it was another comfortable total for the second-best chasing team in the tournament.

Are Afghanistan the best defensive bowling unit in the World Cup? (SAK)

Afghanistan have the 2nd best economy rate for all the teams in this World Cup. India being first is not a surprise, and we’ve talked a lot about them already. But Afghanistan have now won 3 games (v PAK, v SL, v NED) while chasing. They restrict the opponents to par or below-par totals, and then their batters chase it like Trott.

Their spinners have not picked up a lot of wickets, but their economy rates are right up there with the best. Nabi and Rashid are both among the least expensive bowlers in this tournament, which is what you would expect from your experienced pros. Mujeeb doesn’t have great raw numbers, but he has been very crucial in most of these wins.

The reason why we’re emphasizing on this is because the dot balls created a lot of pressure on the Dutch batters today. They looked for runs that weren’t on, though that doesnt take anything away from AFG’s fielding efforts.

Netherlands’ luck runs out (JK)

Max O'Dowd's run-out was pretty standard, and perhaps a little unlucky. He was looking for two of a paddle sweep. He ran hard, but he didn’t factor in that fine leg will be running onto the ball from his right hand, and will get a good view of the stumps.

Engelbrecht smashes this straight to Rashid Khan’s throwing and takes off here. There was never a safe run here. Madness. Ackermann should have said no, and then he does ball-watch as well. But clearly, Engelbrecht panicked because he was struggling to rotate strike and burn his man.

This is not really a run-out. It’s really more of a stumping. Scott Edwards doesn’t know where the ball has gone and steps out of his crease, and ofcourse Ikram has the ball and it’s over.

Roelef decided to get Engelbrecht back by also hitting the ball straight to a fielder and taking off. Either they don’t rate the Afghanistan fielding at all, or the lack of ones just got to them.

Afghanistan certainly deserve a lot of credit, on three occasions good pick up and throws were needed and they got it. And even Ikram was completely alert.

Afghanistan’s runs (JK)

Afghanistan are now taking the piss with these chases. Yes, this one was easy enough, but they went out of their way to make it look comfortable. If Roelof hadn’t got a drag on wicket, they would have made this even easier.

So far they are averaging almost 50 when batting second per wicket. I can’t think of any time in their history they would have a mark like this. Usually, their wickets come a little cheaper when they play well.

They are still struggling when batting first, averaging almost half as much on 25. But that just further shows how incredible they have been in the second innings. The composure under pressure has been outstanding. I thought that the Dutch would put pressure on them. They just never did.

The other thing I like is the splits. I talked earlier about how they don’t have any massive scorers. This isn’t Gurbaz going nuts, or Hashmat holding them up, Their top five have all chipped in. This is what I love the most, that they are doing it as a group.

And a quick word on Rahmat Shah, doesn’t he look pretty? He is so proper, it feels almost icky to see him in white ball cricket. He should be scoring 45 on a wet wicket at Derby.

What I love about his play of spin is how he uses the crease. The thing that he did here was go right back or right forward, meaning that you never trap him on the crease. This is how you play spin, but he was perfect at it.

Toss off (JK)

So it is getting more and more clear that teams have no idea what to do in this World Cup when they win the toss. Remember the World T20 in Dubai when winning the toss had such an impact that even now people still it as a toss tournament?

Hard to argue that teams are getting their decisions wrong when looking at this. This is a massive differential. So is this the World Cup you should lose the toss and let the opposition stuff it all up for you.

And so I figured the best option here was to take India out of this, on top of them being good, it is their home. But the pattern completely holds up.

It gets weirder though. So I looked at the last decade of ODIs inside India, and they have been a pretty good ODI team all that time. They won the Champions Trophy, made the semis in 2015 and 2019, and lost the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Yet when teams were playing them at home in that decade, teams actually won more matches when winning the toss than in this World Cup.

None of this makes sense. Teams should not be this bad at the toss, especially when they are not playing India.

These are the games where it has been so obvious, but people often say this when games are lost when you win the toss. But you could say that ENG vs SA, SL vs SA, NZ vs SA, SA vs NED, ENG vs AFG and SL vs IND were tosses that went horribly for them.

The dew has clearly made some teams worry about bowling second. So they are choosing to bat second. And still losing. That is pretty clear. But that is not the only partner here.

When teams win the toss and bat first, they also lose a lot. If the pattern was in one direction, that would be something, but it’s terrible everywhere you look.

I need to look further, but I don’t really know what to do with what has happened so far.

Sybrand Engelbrecht scores his 2nd World Cup fifty (CS)

Sybrand Engelbrecht is the man who made his ODI debut at 36, at the world cup. Sybrand retired from cricket in 2016 because he couldn’t cement a spot in his domestic side in South Africa, moved to the Netherlands because of a job transfer and started playing cricket as a way to make friends in a new country. Not bad for a Cinderella story.

Netherlands in the Powerplay (SAK)

Max O’Dowd was finally among the runs today. He batted with a lot of free-flowing and positive intent at the top of the order. Ackermann also batted pretty well. They seemed to be on track until there was a flurry of runouts.

Afghanistan have usually been pretty efficient at the top with Mujeeb being a difficult customer to get away with the new ball. However, he also went for a few after taking an early wicket. Farooqi was pretty expensive too.

Is this a batting World Cup? (SAK)

This World Cup is a slight upgrade on both avg & RPO from the cycle, but the difference is pretty much marginal. So despite all the hundreds at the start, this tournament hasn’t really been much different from the cycle.

Similarly, 2019 was a bowling World Cup. In fact, the tournament runs per over was actually lesser than it was in 2015. You would expect that from a tournament in England.

2015 was a batting World Cup, look at the rise in both average and runs per over.

2011 was also in favour of the bowlers when compared with the preceding cycle. But the runs per over was pretty much the same.

Teams definitely looked to score quicker in the 2007 World Cup, as compared to the rest of the cycle. But it came at the cost of a lower overall average.

So, this World Cup is the 3rd best in terms of average - behind 2019 & 2015 - but the highest on RPO. But you also have to account for the run inflation in ODIs over the years.

The wrong foot no ball (JK)

So this is fun. Saqib Zulfiqar has a weird action. He doesn’t use his front arm, he bends down like he’s trying to walk under something, and then he delivers off the wrong foot. And sometimes we say that, but it isn’t true. But Zulfiqar actually does. At one stage he was called for a no ball, but on first view, it didn’t look like his foot was down.

Thanks to Jonny Singer for his help on this.

The laws define the delivery stride as the step in which there is a delivery swing. And the delivery swing is obviously the action in which the ball is released. So as long as the ball is delivered during that stride, it's a no ball.

This might sound weird, but it comes the fact that if we didn’t do this, and a bowler landed his back foot just behind the line, but delivered before the foot comes down, then it would mean that bowler could get like a two-metre advantage on everyone else. Though as you can see,  Zulfiqar just releases the ball as he touches the ground anyway. But it is a weird action.

Shirts (JK)

So I asked AI to help me design cricket shirts for all the teams after seeing someone do it on NBA teams. And I got some bangers here. I think the black and orange look for the Netherlands really works. And I like red as an alternative for Afghanistan. But I love the two with the swirls the most. Would buy both of these.