Heavy Blows

Although I spent most of the afternoon out watching rugby in the glorious Devon sunshine, yesterday seemed to me like the day when the first Caribbean World Cup really hit its stride.

England eased past Kenya with the type of display which has all too often seemed beyond them in the one-day arena, typified by some excellent fielding and a characteristically smooth and stylish innings by Ed Joyce. The signs are that they're starting to regain their focus and may just be able to get back to the form they were showing at the end of the Australian tour, but it'll be difficult to be certain about this until they play another major nation. And, with Ireland awaiting them in Guyana as the Super Eights open, it'll be a while before that happens.

However, the day's other game, between Australia and South Africa in St.Kitts, showed England what they're up against. Here were two of the game's biggest beasts flexing their muscles and landing some heavy blows in glorious weather, amid breathtaking scenery, in front of a large and noisy crowd and on a pitch oozing runs. In the end, as 377 played 294, Australia were the ones left standing, and you have to wonder who, when they're playing like this, will be able to live with them. The type of coruscating strokes which flowed from the bats of Hayden, Gilchrist, Ponting and Clarke are a given, but they'll be especially happy with the way their bowling and fielding stood up to the pressure which South Africa applied. The ageing McGrath (much like the ageing Shaun Pollock) took some stick but Nathan Bracken and Shaun Tait, whose brand of 90 mph plus inswinging yorker has barely been seen on the international stage since Waqar Younis was at his best, held things together and made important breakthroughs when they were most needed.

They'll take some stopping, and, of the teams I've seen so far, Sri Lanka look best placed to do so, although it's hard to judge where the West Indies stand and they certainly can't be ruled out.

Nor can South Africa, and the lasting impression left by their innings was the strokeplay of AB de Villiers, the achingly talented and versatile former prodigy who's had a few troubles over the last year or so, but who, at Warner Park, showed what he can do when the muse is really with him.

This, it seemed to me as I watched the highlights this morning, was how the World Cup in the West Indies was meant to be, and it went some way towards blunting the pall of gloom cast by the Woolmer murder and confirming the correctness of the ICC's decision to continue with the competition.

If this is what it's going to be like, then bring it on.

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