What on earth has happened to the traditional and predictable order of international cricket? We are used to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe being hammered, Australia bullying everybody in sight (particularly their old foes England) and India arrogantly demanding that they get their own way. But of late the cricket world has been in a state of turmoil.
First we had Zimbabwe beating India in a Twenty-20 International ... which is absolutely incredible when you consider the tiny population of Zimbabwe versus the more than one billion people who live in India, all of whom are absolutely fanatical about cricket. And in Zimbabwe cricket is not even the most popular sport, lagging a long way behind soccer. AND several of Zimbabwe's best players are not available for the national team (Brendan Taylor, Andy Blignaut and Tatenda Taibu, to name just a few), meaning that Zimbabwe never fields their first choice side. Yet not only do they manage to be competitive, but they can BEAT countries like India?
Zimbabwe followed that up by chasing down a target of over 300 in a One Day International against New Zealand - the same team that had narrowly lost the World Cup final earlier in 2015.
Then Bangladesh recorded a first-ever One Day International series win over Pakistan, followed that up with a similar victory against India, and proved it was no fluke by doing the same against South Africa! Three series wins in a row by much-maligned Bangladesh against major opposition ... amazing.
Perhaps most incredibly, Australia have been absolutely humiliated in The Ashes by England. The first two tests in the series were relatively closely-fought matches, with one victory apiece, but in the third test Australia simply collapsed like the proverbial house of cards as England romped home to victory by 8 wickets. Afterwards the Australian team made much of the fact that the series wasn't over and that they would fight back. But the fourth test was an even more one sided contest. Gone was the tough cricket and "mental disintegration" tactics so successfully employed by former captain Steve Waugh ; instead we witnessed a feeble and intimidated set of Australians being bullied into submission by England. Australia were bowled out for 60 (yes, 60) in their first innings, England only batted once and won by the massive margin of an innings and 78 runs. How the tables have turned ...
[Aside : I wrote this blog before the fifth test of the series, in which Australia did indeed bounce back to beat England. However, they still lost the series (and The Ashes) 3-2]
But world cricket needs the underdogs to fight back, and I laud the fighting spirit shown by (particularly) Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Long may it continue!