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Cricket World Cup: Can England stop West Indies duo?

Kieron Pollard & Sulieman Benn
Pollard (left) and Benn have been two of the Windies' standout performers

By Sam Sheringham

The West Indies built their cricketing reputation on lean-and-mean fast bowlers and graceful stroke-players, so it may surprise a few people that their most potent weapons at this World Cup are a stocky all-rounder and a 6ft 7in spinner.

Kieron Pollard and Sulieman Benn have been two of the stars of the tournament so far, with Pollard smashing two lightning half-centuries and Benn taking 12 wickets.

If England are to keep their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals alive by beating the Caribbean outfit in Chennai on Thursday, they will have to find a way of stopping the destructive duo.

Here, we size up the strengths and weaknesses of the two West Indies stars.

KIERON POLLARD

If Kieron Pollard's main aim at this World Cup was to prove that he is more than just a Twenty20 specialist, he is going about it the right way.

In three innings, the 23-year-old who came into the tournament with a one-day average just a shade over 20, has faced 83 balls and scored 154 runs.

In their most recent match against Ireland, Pollard came in with his team plodding along on 130-3 after 32 overs.

Eight fours and five huge sixes later - including a brutal one-handed swipe off Kevin O'Brien - the Windies were well on their way to a total of 275 - one that proved far too much for Ireland on a tricky Mohali pitch.

Kieron Pollard wagon wheel

Pollard eventually holed out six runs short of what would have been a maiden one-day international hundred, but as cameos go, it was enough to send a shiver down Jimmy Anderson's spine.

"You scratch your head a few times in a team meeting," said Ireland captain Will Porterfield after his encounter with the Windies star. "He is a pretty special talent."

So how can England poleaxe Pollard?

Over the last two years, Pollard has done the over-whelming majority of his scoring on the leg side, with 460 of his 653 runs and 23 of his 28 sixes coming on that side of the wicket.

Kieron Pollard heat map

Meanwhile, as our heat map shows (see right), more than half of Pollard's dismissals have come to balls pitched on a length on or outside off stump.

Bowlers are often most successful in the 50-over format when they vary their pace, line and length, but the evidence suggests Pollard is not a batsman to target with short-pitched deliveries and yorkers.

The challenge to England's bowlers will be to consistently pitch the ball wide enough outside off stump to starve him of his favourite shots, but not so wide as to give him easy pickings on the off side.

Deny him runs and Pollard is liable to try something silly.

Feed his leg stump habit, and England could be packing their bags by Friday morning.

SULIEMAN BENN

If Thursday's Chennai wicket plays anything like the one on which England defeated South Africa, then spinners Graeme Swann and Sulieman Benn are certain to have a significant say in proceedings.

And if the evidence of the tournament so far is anything to go by, then it is Benn, rather than the man sitting fourth in the one-day bowling rankings, who is the more likely match-winner.

The slow left-armer - who has opened the bowling in all four Windies games so far - is joint-second in the wicket-taking stakes, with 12 victims at an average of just 12.50 and a strike rate of a wicket every 17 balls.

Swann, meanwhile, has nine wickets, costing 23.55 a piece and a strike rate of 33.

SWANN v BENN AT THE WORLD CUP
Graeme Swann v Sulieman Benn
5 ----------- Matches ------------ 4
49 ---------- Overs ----------- 33.5
4 ----------- Maidens ------------ 3
212 ---------- Runs ----------- 150
9 ---------- Wickets ------------ 12
3/47 ----- Best Bowling ----- 4/18
23.55 ------ Average ------- 12.50
4.32 ------- Economy -------- 4.43
32.6 ------ Strike Rate ------ 16.9

While two of Swann's victims have been caught in the deep, Benn's wickets have all been pleasing to the cricketing purist, with four batsmen bowled, two leg-before-wickets, two stumpings, and all four of his catches taken behind the wicket.

Unlike the Netherlands, Ireland and Bangladesh, who were coming up against the giant twirler for the first time at this World Cup, England should know all about Benn.

He took eight wickets in the first Test at Sabina Park in February 2009 - when England were bowled out for 51 - and 3-16 against them in the notorious Stanford Super Series match the previous November.

Although not a huge turner of the ball, Benn uses his height to deceive batsmen in the flight and elicit sharp bounce from the pitch.

England's best tactic against Benn may be to try to knock him out of his rhythm by getting after him early on, pouncing on his occasional tendency to drop too short.

They may also wish to play on the suspect temperament of a man who has made a habit of on-field spats with opponents and was dismissed from the field by his own captain during a one-dayer against South Africa in 2010 for refusing to bowl over the wicket.

That said, good luck to any England batsman trying to smash Benn over the ropes.

Despite the best efforts of Kevin O'Brien, Tamim Iqbal and Ryan ten Doeschate, Benn has only been hit for six once in 33.5 overs at the tournament.

The batsman? South Africa's imperious AB de Villiers.

West Indies' Sulieman Benn celebrates with team mates

Lacklustre Bangladesh beaten by Windies



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see also
Strauss and Swann laid low by bug
15 Mar 11 |  Cricket
Swann backs England to progress
14 Mar 11 |  England
Ireland are beaten by West Indies
11 Mar 11 |  Ireland
Bangladesh rally to shock England
11 Mar 11 |  England
Windies brush aside woeful Tigers
04 Mar 11 |  Cricket


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