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Batsmen under control _ for now _ at Cricket World Cup

June 7, 2019
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Australia's Mitchell Starc, left, celebrates the dismissal of West Indies' captain Jason Holder during the Cricket World Cup match between Australia and West Indies at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, Thursday, June 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

BRISTOL, England (AP) — Batsmen on the rampage at the Cricket World Cup. Fans in genuine danger from a barrage of wild sixes. The first 500-run team total in a one-day international any day soon.

Those forecasts appear to be on the wild side right now as the super-high totals widely predicted for the tournament have failed to materialize. Forget 500, we haven’t seen 400 yet on iconic but small-ish English grounds.

With 10 games completed in the May 30-July 14 tournament, the always unpredictable Pakistan holds the tournament top score of 348-8 against host England. That was on Monday at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, where England set the current ODI highest score of 481-6 last year, enjoying the record even more as the opponent was archrival Australia.

So what’s the reason for the comparative lack of runs?

Players’ nerves at a major tournament surely haven’t helped, because there’s significantly more at stake in every game than there is in a regular ODI series. The wickets have not been prepared to be as run-friendly as many (batters) had hoped, along with England’s traditionally overcast and often dreary conditions.

And in a long, all-play-all 10-team tournament, some players may not be fully letting rip.

In the first nine days, that magical 500 has been a long, long way off.

The Associated Press takes a look at what else we’ve learned so far at the tournament:

TURN OF THE SPIN

This World Cup has been great PR for the spinners.

South Africa wrist spinner Imran Tahir grabbed the headlines by dismissing England’s Jonny Bairstow in the very first over of the tournament.

While Bairstow became the first opening batsman out for a golden duck in the opening innings of a World Cup, the 40-year-old Tahir’s achievement — the first spinner to bowl the first ball of a men’s World Cup — seemed more significant for the game’s future direction.

Bangladesh gave South Africa a taste of its own medicine when its spinners smothered the Proteas at the Oval. The spinners had South Africa locked up from the start by offspinner Mehidy Hasan bowling from the second over. Tahir has been back at it again, also bowling the first over of South Africa’s third game against India.

SOUTH AFRICA SLUMPS

Faf du Plessis’ South Africa has been the surprise team of the tournament but not for good reasons, with three straight defeats against England, Bangladesh and India.

The opening loss against top-ranked England wasn’t unexpected but the margin of defeat — 104 runs — in retrospect was a clue of what was to come. A 21-run loss to under-rated Bangladesh flattered South Africa and India rubbed it in with a six-wicket win on Wednesday.

Off the field, the revelation that star batsman AB de Villiers made a last-minute offer to come out of international retirement to play at the tournament but was turned down hasn’t helped. Nor has experienced fast bowler Dale Steyn being forced to go home with a right shoulder injury.

Third-ranked South Africa knows it must radically improve but it won’t be easy. Next up are the intimidating pacers and big hitters of West Indies in Southampton on Monday.

(DON’T) LET IT RAIN

Any tournament in England is likely to have some rain — in any month — but the first 10 Cricket World Cup games were all completed.

Persistent rain prevented any play at all in the 11th game between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, however, at Bristol’s County Ground on Friday.

It was only the second match across five men’s Cricket World Cup tournaments in England, dating back to 1975, that not a single ball was bowled in a game.

STOKES AWAY

He says he was in the wrong position and the ball “just stuck.” Many others hailed England allrounder Ben Stokes for the catch of the tournament, set to be replayed for years to come.

Best watched in real time, to appreciate the sheer speed and artistry, the ball was coming hard at Stokes. He tracked back side on, timed his jump, threw his right arm high, and caught the ball while falling backward. South Africa lower-order batsman Andile Phehlukwayo had likely never been dismissed in such spectacular fashion.

Stokes modestly played down the catch.

“I had a panic on for the catch, I was further in than I should have been. Luckily it stuck,” Stokes said. “It was a regulation catch if I was in the right position.”

Another contender for best catch so far? West Indies’ Sheldon Cottrell’s dismissal of Steve Smith in his team’s 15-run loss to Australia.

Cottrell reached out to momentarily grab a catch just inside the boundary and, to avoid making the catch invalid, tossed the ball in the air as he weaved outside and back inside the rope before collecting it again in both hands.

OLD RIVALS

With an unrivalled record of success at the Cricket World Cup, five-time winner Australia has used its opening games to show it’s not a team built on sand. An easy victory against Afghanistan was followed by an occasionally tense win over West Indies.

The defending champion turned around a long drought in the ODI format to enter the tournament on an eight-game winning streak after rallying from 2-0 down for a 3-2 series win in India and sweeping Pakistan 5-0. Former captain Smith and vice-captain David Warner have returned from their 12-month bans for their roles in a ball-tampering controversy in a test match in South Africa.

England is ranked No. 1 and a pre-tournament favorite, but has never won the World Cup and its 14-run loss to Pakistan with sloppy fielding and 20 extras brought back some doubts for long-suffering fans.

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AP Sports Writers Steve Douglas, Foster Niumata and John Pye contributed to this report.

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