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June 1, 1999


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Two on top

This is the modern World Cup. It would have been unthinkable for the preliminary league of 30 matches to finish without its fair share of controversy, intrigue and the odd upset result. The matches in the early part of the league were going so much according to form that things were getting too predictable. And then came the upsets.

The biggest upset wins were those of Zimbabwe, who beat both India and South Africa, and hence qualified to the Super Six with four points.

When announcing their latest odds, the British bookmakers slashed their odds dramatically from 300 to one to 25 to one.

The mood in the Balti houses of Britain were one of national celebration yesterday as Bangladesh, once known as east Pakistan, scored their biggest ever win by beating Pakistan, now the firm tournament favourite with many bookmaking firms.

To see intrigue in such a result is a natural western reaction, while Zimbabwe beating South Africa is a straight forward cricket upset. That is the way of the western world.

There is always a buzz about Pakistan in international cricket. In their early matches, when the batsmen were struggling to adjust to the swinging ball, teams were losing so many wickets, so early, that bookmakers in Bombay were reported to have shut shop. It is believed that later they took a decision not to do business in matches involving Pakistan.

Such was the intensity Akram's men then attained, that they sailed through with five straight wins untill they dropped their guard at the very end. Akram was generous in his praise of Bangladesh's performance, saying they could deserve Test status within a year. He also promised that his side would learn from the mistakes they commited in the game in Northampton on the bank holiday yesterday.

Despite Pakistan's poor batting in the chase against Bangladesh, bookmakers have made Pakistan the favourite. They have now displaced South Africa, although it is possible to get seven to four (in the decimal system, a return of 175 per cent on investment) on both teams with different bookmaking firms.

While most firms have Pakistan down to a fraction short of seven money, Stanley, and Surrey offer seven to four against them being the team to stand victorious on the balcony at Lord's on June 20.

The price on South Africa ranges from a low of six to four with Stanley, to a high of two to one with William Hill.

The best price on Australia is seven to one with Stanley, while it is possible to place money on India at 2 to 1 with Chandler. Most other firms fancy India a bit more, with Stanley offering the lowest quote of six to one. With Surrey, it is still possible to get 25 to one on New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

Rahul Dravid (aggregate of 369 runs) goes into the Super Six with 27 runs more than his world record-breaking partner Saurav Ganguly. Gavin Hamilton of Scotland has the privilege of being third with 217 runs although his team were only one of two sides to lose every match in the World cup, the other being Kenya.

Geoff Allott of New Zealand is currently the top wicket-taker, with 15 victims, which places him two ahead of South Africa's Lance Klusener (13). Saqlain Mushtaq of Pakistan has 12.

The West Indies may be out of the World Cup - blown away by New Zealand meeting the requirement in terms of the net run-rate in their big win over Scotland - but their two war horses who may be long in the tooth finished as the most economical bowlers of the league.

While Courtney Walsh was miserly at 2.3 runs per over, his partner in pace Curtly Ambrose was just a shade more generous in giving them away at 2.35 per over.

The resourceful utility batsman Moin Khan ended up as the league's fastest scorer, making his runs at a rate of 131.25 (translating to 131.25 runs per 100 balls). Lance Klusener, Sachin Tendulkar and Thomas Odoyo of Kneya were others who have scored at the brisk rate of more than run a ball.

Sri Lanka are the forgotten world champions, but Sanath Jayasuriya, who set new standards in big hitting of the new ball, made it to the top of the big hitters list with a 62.75 per cent of balls faced going to the boundary. Adam Gilchrist, in whose form lay the key to Australia's performance, managed second place, with a percentage of 61.54.

The top 10 batsmen: 1. Rahul Dravid (Ind) 369 runs, 2. Saurav Ganguly (Ind) 342, 3. Gavin Hamilton (Scotland) 217, 4. Ridley Jacobs (WI) 205, 5. Nasser Hussain (Eng) 194, 6. Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) 192, 7. Andy Flower (Zim) 182 , 8. Roger Twose (NZ) 177, 9. Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 173, 10 Steve Tikolo (Ken) 167.

Top 10 bowlers: 1. Geoff Allott (NZ) 15 wickets, 2. Lance Klusener (SA) 13, 3. Saqlain Mustaq (Pak) 12, 4. Allan Donald (SA), Darren Gough (Eng), Courtney Walsh (WI) all 11, 7. Mark Ealham (Eng), Allan Mullally (Eng), Neil Johnson (Zim), Glenn McGrath (Aus), Shoaib Akhtar (Pak) and Blain (Scotland) all 10.

Top 5 fastest scores: 1. Moin Khan (Pak) 131.25 runs per 100 balls, Lance Klusener (SA) 111.56, 3. Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) 101.05, 4. Thomas Odoyo (Ken) 100.00 and 5. Wasim Akram (Pak) 97.62.

Top 5 bowling economy rates: 1. Courtney Walsh (WI) 2.30 runs per over, 2. Curtly Ambrose (WI) 2.35, 3. Dion Nash (NZ) 2.85, 4. Steve Elworthy (SA) and Shaun Pollock (SA) 2.91 and 5. Gavin Larsen (NZ) 2.95.

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