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Archives for March 2007

Tennis ball the secret for Slinger Malinga

Martin Gough | 19:22 UK time, Saturday, 31 March 2007

Martin GoughGuyana - Want to develop a bowling action like Lasith Malinga? Try bowling with a tennis ball.

Malinga grew up in Galle, in the south of Sri Lanka, doing just that. If you have tried to bowl over-arm with a tennis ball in the office, or your mother’s lounge, you will have found the exaggerated bounce a problem.

Try it side-arm and it skids through normally, although you may not be good enough to take four wickets with successive balls in an international, as Malinga managed against South Africa last Wednesday.

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England unconvincing yet again

Martin Gough | 22:10 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2007

Martin GoughGuyana - Michael Vaughan complained that England players had been struggling with the “boredom factor” during a week in Georgetown and their approach to overcoming Ireland in their opening World Cup Super 8 fixture betrayed that.

There were two points where it looked like the side that upset Pakistan in the group stages could seal another major scalp.

A sixth-wicket partnership of 51 in just five overs at the death between Paul Collingwood and Paul Nixon saved England from posting a target well within Ireland's reach.

And the third-wicket stand between William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien was beginning to look dangerous when Andrew Flintoff ended it on 61 in the 29th over...

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Only a handful of Barmies and Blarnies

Martin Gough | 16:59 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2007

Martin GoughGuyana - Perhaps reinforcements await the Barmy Army in Antigua, where England play the next two games in their Super 8 campaign.

At a rough estimate, around 50 hardy souls made it to Georgetown to see their batsmen struggle against Ireland but they have a message to those sitting in beach resorts waiting for England to join them.

“Everyone we’ve met has been really friendly,” said Matt, who planned his trip here six months ago, along with a couple of old friends from Bristol University, and will be following England through the second round.

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On the bus through Malinga fuss

Martin Gough | 19:58 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2007

Martin GoughGuyana - All around the cricketing world people must be asking, “Where were you when Lasith Malinga became the first bowler to take four wickets in four balls in an international?”

For Ireland’s players, the answer was, “On the way home”.

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An unexpected sting in the tail

Adam Mountford | 09:52 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2007

Guyana - It's amazing how something can take off during a TMS cricket commentary. Halfway through South Africa's innings in Guyana a very large and frankly terrifying looking insect attached itself to the window of our BBC commentary box... fortunately on the outside.

The insect then proceeded to show off its long antennae for the remainder of the broadcast as if it were listening intently to the commentary. Jonathan Agnew gave the bug a mention and then photographed the beast on his camera phone so that listeners could see it on the blog and perhaps assist with identification.

The texts and e-mails then starting arriving by the hundred…

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Malinga brings fireworks for Guyana opening

Martin Gough | 21:55 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Martin GoughIf a new cricket ground has ever had a baptism better than Guyana’s National Stadium did on Wednesday, I don’t think my nerves could take it.

Lasith Malinga, the 23-year-old poster boy of the Sri Lanka team, became the first bowler ever to take four wickets with successive balls in international cricket and it was just a shame he couldn’t celebrate a victory as well after that display.

What had seemed like a stroll in the park for South Africa turned into a nail-biter of a finish, with one run scored from 11 balls before Robin Petersen’s edged four off Malinga sealed it.

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Out and about with England (by coincidence)

Martin Gough | 01:50 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Martin GoughGuyana – One way or the other, all of the advice in the last couple of days has been that I should leave Georgetown, so I did just that on Tuesday, taking the 130-mile flight south to the Kaieteur Falls.

To say they are five times as big as those at Niagara, to recount that the depth of the single drop is 741 feet – one of the largest in the world – and even to highlight that about 23,400 cubic feet of water per second comes crashing over is to do them an injustice.

The best thing about Kaieteur is that the area is almost completely unspoilt, visited by around 4,000 people a year, who either fly in the sort of 15-seater aircraft we used to land at a tiny airstrip, or climb from the valley of the Potaro River.

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Making the front page

Martin Gough | 14:50 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Martin GoughI had a rude awakening this morning, firstly from a car horn being blown outside at 6am, then from the front page of Guyana’s Kaieteur News.

Under the headline “BBC’s Martin Gough insulting journalism” a comment piece roundly lambasts yesterday’s blog in which I described my first two days in Guyana.

“To witness the gutter journalism from a BBC Sport correspondent is the largest indication to date that British society has certainly declined,” it says.

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Team of the tournament (so far)

Adam Mountford | 08:30 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2007

I am writing this at Barbados airport - I have a little time to kill as I've just found out the flight to Guyana which was supposed to have been held for me has actually left and the next one isn't for seven hours!

But I am not moaning as it gives me an opportunity to engage in a favourite activity amongst cricket's time to pick a World XI - and this time I'm going for the 'Team of the Tournament so far'.

These teams are always highly subjective, but picking them is good fun. My criteria is to go for a side based purely on performances in the Caribbean and therefore I have only chosen from the teams which have qualified for the Super 8's. I've also tried to include a player from each team.

I have no doubt that the XI chosen will now suffer a downturn in their fortunes - but here goes.

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Welcome to Guyana

Martin Gough | 20:13 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2007

Martin GoughAfter a fortnight in the holiday resort of St Lucia, we arrived in the pouring rain of Guyana on Sunday morning to receive a harsh culture shock.

Guyana, the only non-island nation in West Indies cricket, is bordered by Venezuela to the west, Surinam to the east and Brazil to the south so, unsurprisingly, it has a South American feel.

But there was a more immediate hit as the drive from the airport towards the capital Georgetown took us past a community sprawling on the banks of the Demerara River, its houses poor and surrounded by water – puddles and drainage ditches.

Few of those people are likely to turn up to matches in the next two weeks at the brand new Providence Stadium on the other side of the dual carriageway.

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St Kitts leaves a sweet taste in the mouth

Adam Mountford | 15:34 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2007

Following Australia's thrilling victory over South Africa at the Warner Park Stadium in St Kitts there was a special prize-giving which was rather unexpected.

Denzil L. Douglas, the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, awarded Herschelle Gibbs and Matthew Hayden citizenship of the islands. He said it was to celebrate their historic achievements in the Group A matches.

Herschelle Gibbs makes history

Gibbs struck six sixes in an over against Holland to become the first player to achieve the feat in an international match; and Hayden struck the fastest century in World Cup history off just 66 balls.

It was a very nice gesture from the PM... although a few cynics thought he just fancied the chance to get on the telly and tell the world about the wonders of St Kitts.

But even if that was the case you can understand why he wants to sell his special islands as the country is putting real emphasis on the legacy of the 2007 World Cup.

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England closer to convincing

Martin Gough | 21:18 UK time, Saturday, 24 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - In beating Kenya by seven wickets with 10 overs to spare at the Beausejour Stadium, England progressed to the World Cup’s second round for the first time in three tournaments

To a degree, they also managed to draw a line under last weekend’s late-night drinking spree, which saw five players fined and Andrew Flintoff lose the vice-captaincy.

England have still only beaten three Test-playing nations in the World Cup since 1992 - Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in 1999 and Pakistan in 2003 - and have yet to provide irrefutable evidence they can improve on that record.

But they have at least taken a step in the right direction.

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St Lucia looks to the skies

Martin Gough | 12:54 UK time, Saturday, 24 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia – It quite often rains in the morning here but not as heavily, or for as long, as it has today. As I arrived, dark clouds shrouded the Beausejour Stadium, with officials darting between the light marquee covers that have so far just offered shelter from the sun.

As the scheduled start time approaches, the rain has stopped – although there are still some threatening clouds - and we are all waiting to see how long England and Kenya will have to wait to start their must-win game.

This is the first time in a fortnight that it has been better weather for ducks than for tourists and the generally good weather must be a relief to the island’s tourist board, which is hoping for a bonanza on the back of the exposure St Lucia has gained from cricket.

The World Cup boom that was widely forecast has so far failed to materialise. There are no cruise ships in the harbour to cater for the extra fans. In fact, hotel rooms are still easily available.

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Pakistan players speak about Woolmer

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 14:48 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2007

BBC Sport's Alison MitchellKingston - After bowing out of the World Cup, Pakistan headed back to the team hotel in Kingston to pay their own personal tribute to coach Bob Woolmer.

Each player took it in turn to stand at a small lectern, packed with media microphones balanced precariously over each other, and say a few words about their coach and father figure.

It was explained beforehand that they would be speaking in whichever language they chose. They mostly chose English, and all spoke eloquently and poignantly, without notes...

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Security variable

Martin Gough | 14:10 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - A police siren fills the air, a motorcycle out-rider appears followed by minibuses with lights flashing and an ambulance, cars are ordered to pull to the side of the road.

Finally, with the sort of security afforded a visiting head of state, the Canada team is ferried to the big game.

Meanwhile, back at the England team hotel, anyone can walk in from the street and receive his or her own personal blank stare when wishing coach Duncan Fletcher a good morning.

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After the Jack Russell comes the Badger

Martin Gough | 18:05 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Martin GoughPaul Nixon’s nickname is Badger and it’s easy to work out why when you see him in action behind the stumps.

Apart from the fidgeting and clapping, there is the constant chatter from the 36-year-old, who was a surprise call-up to England’s one-day squad in January.

This was picked up on the stump microphone with New Zealand’s Scott Styris at the crease on Friday: "Come on boys, this is it. Styro's in - he can't afford to get out now. Oh no. Now he's in, he can't afford it.

“One bad shot, that's all it takes. He can't afford that, not now. Come on boys."

Mad as a badger, and the first real character behind the stumps for England since Jack Russell.

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Schoolgirls dance as New Zealand reign

Martin Gough | 21:36 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - It wouldn’t happen in county cricket. When rain stops play there, people slope off to the tea bar, the second-hand bookstall, or just go home early.

But Beausejour Cricket Ground got noisier when bad weather interrupted New Zealand’s comprehensive 148-run victory over Kenya.

Again, with ticket sales poor at the ground – which can now only hope to fill its expanded 21,000 capacity when the tournament returns for the 25 April semi-final – there were blocks of bright school uniforms in each of the stands.

The temporary stand at deep midwicket, targeted by Craig McMillan for two of his five sixes in a tempestuous 48-ball 71, was populated by the girls of St Joseph’s Convent in Castries, all singing and dancing.

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Could Kenya make life tougher for England?

Martin Gough | 13:50 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - After the frenzy of the last few days, a mood of calm returned to the England team hotel this morning and it was very much business as usual.

Perhaps this evening there will be fewer candidates for Big Chef’s 32oz steak as the six players and two coaches involved in Friday’s Big Night Out have donated a combined £10,000 to charity

Opening batsman Ed Joyce took his turn in front of the media – of which more later – and professed no regrets about turning his back on Ireland in the hope of playing Test cricket.

It was suggested to him that Ireland could be England’s first opponents in the Super Eight second round of the World Cup.

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Flintoff says sorry

Martin Gough | 20:52 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - On a rainy Monday morning after the weekend before, the strip of hotels, bars and restaurants in Rodney Bay – the resort a 10-minute drive from Beausejour cricket ground – had a hungover feel to them.

The Rumours nightclub, where six England players partied with fans until the small hours of Saturday morning, was closed and looked an unlikely site for an international incident.

The chain of events that saw the players fined, with Andrew Flintoff stripped of the vice-captaincy, was pretty much out in the open.

And Flintoff, the main protagonist, was in contrite mood as he apologised to the nation.

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Remembering affable Bob

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 07:49 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2007

BBC Sport's Alison MitchellKingston - I’m not quite sure where to start this blog as the last 24 hours have been something of a blur.

The disturbing news that Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer had been found unconscious in his hotel room in Kingston reached me just after midday, in the lobby of the Sunset Jamaica Grand Hotel in Ocho Rios.

Just hours before, the Irish team, together with hundreds of green-clad supporters had been celebrating their remarkable victory over Pakistan with the party of all parties on St Patrick’s Day.

Never before have I experienced such a dramatic and sobering change of mood...

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England's tepid victory overshadowed

Martin Gough | 21:17 UK time, Sunday, 18 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - England’s 51-run victory over Canada would not have lived long in the memory were it not for the events that surrounded it.

By mid-afternoon in St Lucia, discussion of Andrew Flintoff’s late-night escapades had become frivolous next to the news of the death of Pakistan coach, and former England batsman, Bob Woolmer.

Before taking the Pakistan job in 2004, Woolmer worked as a high performance coach with the non-Test nations.

He would have been impressed as Canada recorded their highest World Cup score, with key contributions from home-grown batsmen Ashif Mulla and Abdool Samad in a stand of 96 for the fifth wicket.

England will struggle to use the score line as evidence their World Cup campaign is back on course.

They learned little in an uninspiring win and were arguably less impressive than in defeat to New Zealand.

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England Fred-less

Martin Gough | 13:02 UK time, Sunday, 18 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - England’s timing could not have been any worse as Saturday provided two lessons in the perils of taking lesser nations lightly as Bangladesh overturned India and Ireland secured a famous triumph over Pakistan.

Skipper Michael Vaughan made it clear after defeat to New Zealand that he would be taking this game against Canada seriously but it looks like his players failed to follow that lead.

England’s management confirmed on Saturday that several players were fined after staying out late after the game – it may be as simple as that, with very little booze involved.

But, when the main debate around the laptops in the media centre is the spelling of the word “pedalo”, trouble can’t be far away.

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Meeting a reggae superstar

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 12:34 UK time, Saturday, 17 March 2007

BBC Sport's Alison MitchellKingston - Spirits have been high in Kingston since the West Indies’ victory over Pakistan.

Before before I go any further, however, here’s one for the Irish: What a ri-ra agus ruaile buaile at Sabina Park when Ireland secured THE most exciting tie against Zimbabwe! (Julian and Martin Coulter taught me that phrase, Irish brothers over here from the States - cheers lads, nice to meet you!). I can only imagine what a hooley there will be should Ireland cause an upset on St Patrick’s Day.

Anyway, back to the the time we left the ground after the Windies’ game, the crowd had moved on, darkness had fallen and the road outside the ground was quiet. Quiet that is, until a wild, raving voice suddenly cut through the night and a reggae rhythm thumped through the darkness getting louder and louder, closer and closer with each beat.

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Witnessing history

Adam Mountford | 09:40 UK time, Saturday, 17 March 2007

Sometimes in my job I am lucky enough to witness sporting history and yesterday was one of those rare occasions.

When I woke up I wasn't sure I'd see any cricket, let alone a world record. There was torrential rain in St Kitts and there were some doubts about whether the South Africa v the Netherlands game could go ahead.

Herschelle GibbsBut the sun came out and thank goodness the match went ahead. To be honest a clash between South Africa and the Dutch didn't quite get the pulses racing - but how wrong I was!

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Fun not proscribed but prescribed

Martin Gough | 16:59 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - Those expecting an edict against fun when they arrived at the Beausejour Stadium on Friday were to be happily disabused but the message seemed to be “Have fun our way”.

Much has been made of the clamp-down on fans bringing musical instruments, including conch shells, into grounds during this tournament.

The sound of the conch and the horn, and the samba beat of the drum still ring out around the ground but if you look for the perpetrators you will find them wearing big plastic accreditation tags marked “Entertainer”.

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Around the Caribbean in 46 hours

Adam Mountford | 15:24 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2007

St Kitts - Post match press conferences are not always the most exciting of affairs, but sometimes something happens to lift one out of the ordinary.

During the Scotland captain Craig Wright's conference after the Australia match here an Australian journalist wanted to ask Wright about the fitness of fast bowler John Blain. Unfortunately what he actually said was "Do you know whether David Blaine will be fit for the next match ?".

To Craig Wright's credit he resisted the temptation to say "I'm not sure how the American escapologist is getting on"... but the moment did lead to much laughter amongst the other media in the room.

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England play with cow power

Martin Gough | 12:58 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - There was a cow grazing in the middle of the parking lot outside the KFC, around the corner from my hotel, when I strolled out the other morning. At the time I wondered what it was doing there. Now I realize it was hiding from the England team.

Just 100 yards around the corner, at the start of the strip of bars and restaurants that occupies the eastern side of Rodney Bay and walking distance from the hotel where all the teams are staying, is Big Chef’s Steak House.

Unconfirmed reports (someone I spoke to at the bar) suggest one England player earlier this week earned a Big Chef Certificate for finishing off a 32oz steak, with trimmings.

So, on the eve of England’s World Cup opener against New Zealand I donned false moustache and dark glasses and went on a 'steak out'.

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Pietersen rising to Richards challenge?

Martin Gough | 17:50 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - Everyone turned up at England training on Thursday morning to cast an eye over Jimmy Anderson, but they paid the price if they didn’t keep an eye on Kevin Pietersen.

Anderson is this week’s injury doubt, leading up to England’s World Cup opener against New Zealand, and that doubt persisted into another day as he got through an extensive fitness test, reportedly “without discomfort”.

That’s not what it looked like from the boundary edge, as the view through my binoculars showed him fiddling regularly with the strapping around the fractured knuckle on the little finger of his right hand.

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England spy on spin paradise

Martin Gough | 16:48 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - At Wednesday morning’s media conference in the England team hotel (white sand and azure-blue sea to the rear), captain Michael Vaughan was asked about his afternoon spying mission.

“Well”, he replied, “Duncan Fletcher and myself will be applying false moustaches and dark glasses at lunchtime and sneaking though the fence to watch Kenya and Canada.”

He didn’t really. Fun to picture it, though.

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St Lucia gets in World Cup mood

Martin Gough | 18:52 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia – This is reckoned to be one of the finest resorts in the Caribbean and a scattering of England fans are already taking advantage, planning their holidays around the three Group C games their side will play on the island.

While most take in the white beaches and azure-blue sea (I have a feeling that’s not the last time I’ll be using those two phrases over the next seven weeks) a hardy handful have gathered at the tiny Gros Islet ground, to the north of Rodney Bay, to watch team practice.

Trainer Nigel Stockill runs the warm-up drills, and adjudicates between the bickering factions in a game of touch rugby.

Fellow big boys New Zealand trained here this morning, while minnows Canada and Kenya took over the Beausejour Stadium, where they play the island’s first game on Wednesday.

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Ponting passes by unrecognised

Adam Mountford | 08:00 UK time, Monday, 12 March 2007

Barbados Airport - I am writing this en route to St Kitts.

Airports during World Cups are fantastic places. They act as crossroads for the world's finest cricketers.

Today the Australia, England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand teams were all in the departure lounge on their way to Jamaica.

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Welcome to Jamaica

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Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 09:21 UK time, Sunday, 11 March 2007

BBC Sport's Alison Mitchell"Welcome to Jamaica, Jamaica no problem!” That was the hearty welcome emblazoned across a green and gold banner in the customs area of Kingston’s Norman Manley Airport.

When people talk about going away for some R&R, they’re usually talking about rest and relaxation. In Jamaica, it’s reggae and rum. Only in Kingston airport would Bob Marley be piped into baggage reclaim while you wait for your cases.

Only here would your official World Cup welcome pack contain a slinky bottle of Appleton rum (courtesy of the Jamaican tourist board - I haven’t opened it yet, in case you were wondering). We’ve also been given the obligatory XXL t-shirt and floppy white sun hat, to be worn in emergencies only.

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Good vibes for the World Cup

Adam Mountford | 09:35 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2007

Greeting us throughout the warm-up matches here in Barbados have been numerous Bajans dressed in distinctive red and orange uniforms. The clue to their identity is the wording written across their backs. These are the Cricket World Cup Vibes - and we are going to be seeing a lot of them.

The Vibes are the volunteers who have been recruited to help make the event run smoothly and I am told over 4,000 of them will be working at the tournament across the nine host countries.

Vibes in JamaicaAccording to the official ICC World Cup guide the term Vibes is an acronym "representing the envisioned impact the participants will make the World Cup - volunteers will be intelligent, inspirational, bright, bold, enthusiastic, energetic, sensational and spectacular". This Red and Orange army has quite a billing to live up to then!

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Ground rules upset West Indies fans

Adam Mountford | 14:50 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

As far as the organisers were concerned, yesterday was day one of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

After years of planning - this was it. They may only have been warm-up matches, but the World Cup machine is grinding into action.

I am in Barbados where in two months' time the tournament will reach its conclusion, with the final at the newly refurbished Kensington Oval.

Though to be honest when I went to the ground earlier to collect my accreditation there still seemed to be quite a lot of work still to be done to get the famous stadium ready for the Super Eight matches in a few weeks' time.

There was plenty of scaffolding on show but I was told everyone was very confident it will be ready on time!

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Faded from memory

Paul Grunill Paul Grunill | 13:32 UK time, Saturday, 3 March 2007

What was the most significant event which occurred over the weekend of 7-8 June 1975?

Music lovers might argue it was Whispering Grass by Don Estelle and Windsor Davies reaching number one in the UK music charts. For cricket fans, however, it was undoubtedly the start of the first World Cup.

Since then, the tournament has been graced by all the greats of the modern era, Viv Richards, Kapil Dev, Allan Border, Imran Khan, Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting to name just a few.

Alongside them, however, are players who disappeared into cricketing obscurity after a brief appearance on the world stage.

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