World Cup favourites get a wake-up call before the tournament
The World Cup warm games have started off on a pretty exciting note, with the first two days of the fixtures witnessed three of the title favourites ending up on the losing side. While it was Pakistan that stood on the receiving end on Friday, India and England were thrashed by their opponents on Saturday.
Here, we shed light on what went wrong for the three cricketing giants and also discuss the respective areas that need to be addressed by them.
Pakistan stunned by Afghanistan
It was an Asian derby in the first warm-up match of the tournament as Pakistan took on the spirited Afghans at Bristol. Opting to bat first, the green brigade managed to put on 262 runs on the board, thanks to a brilliant century by Babar Azam. Star spin duo Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi picked up three wickets each to halt Pakistan from registering a big score.
Chasing the respectable score, the Afghans were lifted by a matured knock by Hashmatullah Shahidi, who remained unbeaten on 74 to steer his side home to victory.
Area to focus for Pakistan: Batting
Barring Babar Azam, none of the Pakistani batsmen took charge of the situation and went on to make a telling contribution to the team's score. While Shoaib Malik managed to get into the 40s, the senior campaigner failed to kick on when the team needed him.
Pakistan will certainly need to put up a better show with the bat if they are to justify the experts who consider them to be among the title favourites this year.
India pipped by New Zealand
India will enter the fray as one of the frontrunners to win the mega title. Loaded with match-winners, the men in blue are expected to take the tournament by storm this year. However, their first warm-up game against New Zealand came as a bit of a damper to the fans.
Electing to bat first, the Virat Kohli-led side lost 4 wickets in the first 15 overs and was never allowed to get away with the game. With the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni failing to deliver the goods, India's batting unit looked totally out of sorts against a top-class bowling attack. The team was helped by Ravindra Jadeja's fifty down the order as it scampered across to register 179 runs on the board.
The target never really bothered the Kiwis, who rode on the back ok Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor to stomp home to victory.
Area to focus: Over-dependence on the top 3 batsmen
One of India's main challenges would be to overcome their dependence on their top 3 batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have been doing the bulk of the scoring over the past few years and a collective poor show by them inevitably throws the wheels in disarray. The middle and lower-middle order will need to be up to the task and put on a solid show if the situation isn't helped by any of the top three batters in the team.
England overhauled by Australia
Touted to be the fiercest team to participate in the competition this year, England witnessed a minor hiccup in their build-up to the World Cup. Facing Australia in its first warm-up game, the host nation was expected to blow away its nemesis in great style. However, what followed was not very pleasing for the English fans.
Batting first, Australia were powered by a terrific century by Steve Smith to score a competitive total of 297. Coming out to chase, England lost wickets at regular intervals and couldn't quite get the momentum running in their favour. Excellent half-centuries by James Vince and stand-in skipper, Jos Buttler proved insufficient as the team fell 12 runs short of the target.
Area to focus: Seizing the key moments
It would be fair to say that England looked in pretty good shape despite missing some of their star players. However, it was during a few key moments that Australia held their nerve to come out on top in the game. With not having much success in ICC tournaments, England will be keen on handling pressure well at crunch moments to script a successful campaign. After all, as many experts point out, it is one of their best chances to bring the cricket crown home and they wouldn't want a psychological issue mess it up!