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Cricket World Cup: Sehwag sets the early pace as England struggle with Ashes hangover

India and Sri Lanka reassert their position as pre-tournament favourites while Ricky Ponting takes out his aggression on a poor, defenceless television.

HERE AT THE SCORE, we understand the plight of the cricket fan. The games are on while everybody’s at work, the highlights are often on when people are snuggled up in bed. What’s a cricket lover to do?

As ever, we’re anxious to help out where we can, so we’ve picked out some of the key talking points from the opening four days of the tournament. Among other thing, there’s a bit of praise for Virender Sehwag  …

Day One: India (370-4) def. Bangladesh (283-9)

Unsurprisingly, most of the post-match analysis focused on the performance of Indian batsman Virender Sehwag who scored 175 runs off 140 balls. Sehwag’s performance was perfectly disciplined, hitting conservatively until he had racked up his first century and then going into overdrive as he aimed to pass Gary Kirsten’s 188* to become the highest-ever scorer in the history of the Cricket World Cup. He didn’t quite make it, but his total was enough to place him fourth in the all-time list.

To their credit, Bangladesh put on a respectable performance for the home crowd in Dhaka as they chased the total of 371. They clocked up 50 within the first five overs, but ultimately, the challenge set was far too demanding. They will take consolation from the fact that all of their remaining games take place on home turf and that three wins may well be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals. Next up – Ireland on Friday in Dhaka.

Day Two: New Zealand (72-0, 8.0 overs) def. Kenya (69 all out, 23.5 overs)

This one was a bit of a mismatch, providing yet more ammunition for those who claim that the four associate nations (Kenya, Ireland, Canada and the Netherlands) serve other purpose but to clog up the schedule at the Cricket World Cup.

If Sehwag’s batting was the talk of the tournament’s opening fixture, this game was one for the bowling aficionados. New Zealand’s fast bowlers attacked and attacked hard. Man of the Match Hamish Bennett led the way, taking four wickets for just 16 runs, while Tim Southee and Jacob Oram took three wickets apiece.

New Zealand will face a much sterner test in their next group game when they take on Australia in Nagpur on Friday.

Sri Lanka (332-7) def. Canada (122 all out, 36.5 overs)

Day two of the Cricket World Cup and the Mahela Jayawardene show rolled into town. The 33-year-old is revered in Sri Lanka and performances like the one which he turned in on Sunday morning make it easy to see why.

Alongside Kumar Sangakkara’s 92, Jayawardene kicked off his tournament with ten boundaries as he powered to a century within 81 balls, establishing a solid platform which the Sri Lankan bowlers had little difficulty in preserving.

Day Three: Australia (262-6) def. Zimbabwe (171 all out, 46.2 overs)

Australia didn’t quite have it all their own way in the Indian city of Ahmedabad yesterday. They were held to just 262 by the Zimbabweans who attempted to use the slow wicket conditions to their advantage, deploying spin bowlers for the majority of the innings. The Aussies finished strongly, however, scoring 90 runs off the last ten overs to leave Zimbabwe with a reachable target.

Zimbabwe’s batting order failed to live up to their part of the bargain. The top half of their order surrendered in the face of the Australian attack, leaving Zimbabwe on just 88 after five dismissals.

Though his side picked up an opening two points, Australian captain Ricky Ponting wasn’t too pleased with his own performance. As he watched replays of the incident in which he was run out for just 28, he took a bat to the TV set in the dressing room. The poor TV never saw it coming …

Day Four: England (296-4, 48.4 overs) def. Netherlands (292-6)

Finally, the honour of the associate nations was defended as the Netherlands ran England very close in the first genuinely exciting game of this year’s tournament. Ryan ten Doeschate made a name for himself, picking up the Man of the Match award as he scored 119 off 110 balls during his time at bat.

English cricket fans will be focused on the quality of their fielding, however, which fell far short of international standard at the best of times. At one stage late on, England even had a wicket overturned after it was revealed that they had more than the permitted two players outside the 30-yard circle during the powerplay. Seriously shambolic stuff.

All’s well that ends well though, as an 88 from Andrew Strauss paved the way for England to salvage some pride. A couple of bad bounces and this one could have been very different. England will know that they need to buck up, fast.