Going into the World Cup, it was widely expected that the showpiece event in England and Wales would be a run-fest where record totals would be set by the participating teams.
In fact, in the captain's meet prior to the World Cup, India skipper Virat Kohli had backed hosts England to touch the never achieved 500-run mark in ODI cricket. Not only England, West Indies, too, had put themselves as one of the contenders to break the 500-mark in the prestigious quadrennial event.
In the five-match ODI series just before the World Cup, England and Pakistan, both had set totals around 350 and even chased them quite easily.
However, the story has been quite different till now in the ongoing World Cup.
Conditions have not been that easy for the batters and it's the bowlers who have won the games for the teams. Most of the tracks have been bowler-friendly where batsmen have not been able to smash the big sixes and have found it rather difficult to cope up with the pace and bounce available on the English wickets this summer. Also, overcast conditions with the advent of monsoon has helped the bowlers.
Teams have found it difficult to score even 300 - leave 350 or more - and the batsmen have been bamboozled by the bouncers which have been the weapon in chief of the pacers so far.
The bowlers, including both pacers and spinners, have been able to keep the batsmen in check for most of the times during their innings. And once the team has been able to cross the 300-run mark, the opposition batters have succumbed to the scoreboard pressure and have fallen short of the target by a huge margin.
Even the famed batting line-up of England which boasts of having the likes of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes was not able to chase a target of 349 against Pakistan, that too on a belter of a track at Trent Bridge, Nottingham where the current number one ranked side posted the highest ever total of 481/6 against Australia last year.
Of the 15 matches that have been played so far, only eight times teams have managed to go past the 300-run mark. And only England and India have managed to post totals in excess of 350, with the highest being that of 386/6 set by Eoin Morgan's team. However, that too came against a weak bowling unit of Bangladesh.
It was only on June 9 that the Men in Blue displayed a superior batting performance and took a strong bowling line-up of Australia to the cleaners by posting the highest total ever scored against the defending champions in a World Cup.
In that match, even swashbuckling opener David Warner struggled to adjust with the swing and pace available at the Kennington Oval and managed to score 56 off 84 balls, a highly uncharacteristic half century which many felt was the reason behind Australia's drubbing against India.
Going by what has happened so far, it can only be predicted that teams will find it more difficult to chase down big totals in the upcoming matches as the pitches will become slower and lower and the overcast conditions will favour the bowlers.
(Aakash Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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