It's Trott's fault that Afghanistan chase easy against Sri Lanka

Notes on Mujeeb, Theekshana, and the Mandela effect

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Sri Lanka actually started this pretty well, they got to 134 with only two wickets down when Kusal Mendis tried to put pressure back on and slog-swept Mujeeb. From there, Sri Lanka weren’t really in the match. Their middle order didn’t do much at all, Theekshanna carried their tail, and they set a limp score. When Gurbaz went early, maybe they had a chance. But this new Afghanistan is one of the best chasing teams in the World Cup. They go after totals like they’re walking through a park on a Sunday afternoon. Sri Lanka dropped a couple of catches to help, but Afghanistan looked like they would have done this anyway.

Now Afghanistan has three times as many wins as their previous World Cups combined, and back-to-back wins. The only bad news is that in losing to Bangladesh, they might have robbed themselves of a cheeky semi-final spot.

They were as bad as they could be last World Cup, and as it stands, we don’t even know how good they can be here. Four wins should be their floor. But five, well, dare to dream.

Afghanistan’s batting (JK)

It feels like Afghanistan have been batting better in this World Cup. So we looked it up, and they are now exactly as they have been in terms of average per wicket, and also top three, as they were in the previous cycle.

This is actually a good thing because this means that they are now playing to their level, and that has improved. Two chases now we’ve seen them playing this incredibly composed cricket. They are chasing in a way South Africa would love to. Hell, England would love to make runs like them.

And Jonathan Trott is their coach, a man who had some high-scoring, but slow, years in ODI cricket. As the commentators suggested, they are playing like Trott. They followed his one-paced method from the whiteboard. Just stay out there, and make the other team get you out. This was a Trott’s chase, this is a Trott’s team, and part of their composure has to be Trott’s fault.

Omarzai’s oddness (JK)

Omarzai’s bowling patterns are different from everyone else in this tournament. He bowls a lot shorter, and you may think, well, fine, but why does that matter? Well, Omarzai is a fast medium seamer, who is really a batter. It is so weird for a part-timer to bowl this short, Marcus Stoinis is another like this. The difference is Afghanistan are really making him bowl almost frontline bowler jobs.

And so far he is the most expensive bowler in the tournament. He has taken wickets but fetched quite a few runs along the journey as well. I love how random he is as a cricketer.

What about with the bat? Well, he is weird there too, coming into this game he was averaging twice as much against spin than seam. This tournament. it was like 90 to 13.

What if we split it up by types of seam? Well, he is basically non-existent when he faces the left-arm seam. Today he faced more than ten balls from Madushanka but scored well. He is such a bizarre player, I’m in.

Rashid’s over (JK)

I’ve talked to some players about Rashid Khan and why he has struggled against the best ODI teams. And while they admit some of it is probably a small sample size, they said the best batters know that if you sit on him, he will chase wickets. He’s an aggressive guy, he loves taking wickets, and he doesn’t want to be Sunil Narine.

In T20 the players are attacking him as well, so it doesn’t matter as much. But in ODIs, as he starts to chasse against good players they can milk him, which leads to him going harder and bowling worse. He is at his absolute best when just dropping on a length, with some balls moving one way, and the other. You can see on this graphic that he was hitting the same place again and again. And yet one of these turned and bounced away, and this one came back in.

Dhananjaya de Silva has not had a great tournament. In this case, he doesn’t pick it, and the ball just comes back through his defence and it’s beautiful. If he landed every ball on this line and length, changing only his pace, place on the crease, and delivery, I don’t see how he wouldn’t be a huge problem for all batters.

Theekshana and Mujeeb (SAK)

This wrong-un from Mujeeb is a beautiful delivery. Spins back, and hits him dead in front. He bowls the wrong-un so often, yet batters don’t pick it. Another wrong-un. This was the wicket which changed the game. His wrong-un has a lot of overspin here.

Theekshana and Mujeeb have similar profiles as spin bowlers in certain ways. So they aren’t exactly your conventional off-spinners. You can see here that the way they hold the ball while bowling the carrom and the googly is identical.

Mujeeb has had impactful performances in two of the wins (today and Eng) in this tournament, but his overall numbers aren’t as impressive. Theekshana hasn’t gone for plenty but teams seem to have nullified his wicket-taking threat, so he has barely taken any wickets.

Glenn Phillips has absurd numbers. Is he still just the golden arm of the World Cup?

But most of the other off-spinners have kept things tight, but they just haven’t picked up as many wickets. It’s probably because teams look to knock the ball around without taking a lot of risks off them.

Theekshana was a proper wicket-taker coming into the tournament. I had him in my tier 1 ahead of the WC. I wasn’t that sure about Mujeeb in ODIs, so he was tier 3 on my list.

Madushanka’s power (SAK)

Death, taxes and Madushanka taking early wickets in this World Cup. This was a classic left-arm seamer’s first over dismissal. Very Boult/Shaheen vibes to this. Only Marco Jansen has more wickets with the new ball in this tournament. He has also conceded just 4.44 runs per over in this phase, so he is very economical as well.

But let’s take a look at his numbers phase-wise. He prefers the new ball but he’s proved to be valuable in the other phases too. He has a really nice short ball - he also set up Ibrahim Zadran quite well today. He’s still in the development stage of his career.

Angelo’s run out (JK)

Not enough is said about the run out of Chameera. Let me set the scene, Chameera is a weird number eight, because he can’t really bat. He’s like a career 12 average kinda guy, so being in before the 40th over was not ideal. But what happened next was worse.

Chameera blocks a wrong’un from Rashid, and the ball dribbles out to point. Chameera doesn’t look like he wants a run, but then suddenly both guys sprint. And Chameera is run out at the bowler’s end. I think part of the confusion is that a tail-ender is with a proper batter, and the ball is in that in-between spot where it could be either player’s call. But Mathews should just have said no. It was to the right of a fielder who had a look at the stumps at the bowler’s end, always a risky run. But more importantly, it was the last delivery of the over. Why was Mathews running a risky single to get off strike? Why would any batter do that?

What is the point of all that experience if you can’t get the very basics right? They looked ragged at times in this match, Sri Lanka. They are a better team than this, and they will feel like they let this one slip.

Sri Lanka’s spin (JK)

So this is wild, we knew that Sri Lanka did not have Hasaranga for this tournament, but in Wellalage, they had someone who should have been a decent replacement. Dhananjaya de Silva had great numbers coming in. And Theeksanna was a quality player who missed a game. Yet at this stage, they are, by some distance, the worst spin-bowling team when it comes to wickets. And really, you could argue they are starting to argue with Pakistan on the worst spin bowling tournament here.

What is remarkable about this is that the best side is an Asian side, and so are the two worst. The rest are clumped together. Though Afghanistan is probably the second best, at least on economy. But the three outliers are all World Cup-winning teams from Asia, and as it stands, India is playing a different sport than the other two.

Cricket’s Mandela effect (JK)

Aaron Finch said on the commentary today that he remembered Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana tearing it up in the 1996 World Cup. He is not alone, many people say that. The only problem is it did not happen. This is cricket’s Mandela Effect, which is a game for something that loads of people believe isn’t actually true.

Kalu was one of my favourite players, even before he started opening in ODIs. I loved the freedom he batted with, he made a great 50 in the Boxing Day Test, and I stood behind the nets on day one watching him. So trust me when I say, he did not make any runs.

He faced 52 balls in the tournament, scoring 73 runs from them. He actually made more runs in the following tournament but at half the speed. The reason it is remembered is because Sanath still made runs, many people conflated what Kalu had done just before the World Cup in Australia, and that Kalu did get quick starts, he was just out eight minutes later.

But it tells you a lot about myth, and also that Kalu changed cricket so much in three innings in a tri-series that his legend lives on.