Will Quinn | 11:01am gmt 06 Oct 2009
Two weeks ago, ten of Cricket Web's writers took a shot at predicting the course of the Champions Trophy in South Africa. The results are in, and it's time to see how they got on...
1. Who's going to win the thing?
South Africa may have a reputation for flopping on the big stage, but no one here saw their Champions Trophy failure coming.
Oh dear. These predictions didn't take long to go wrong, as only one of the ten successfully predicted Australia coming away from the trophy- Englishman Martin Chandler coming away with the credit. An astonishing seven of them failed to see South Africa's usual big-tournment collapse coming and predicted the home side winning the trophy. I suspect there was some wishful thinking in Manjunath Reddlapalli's answer of "India", while Brendon Goff can at least walk away with his pride intact after going left-field and picking New Zealand.
2. Which four teams will reach the semi-finals?
It goes from bad to worse for the Cricket Web team, as not one of the ten correctly called the semi-final line-up. England's unexpected progression was what stumped most of them, with only site owner James Nixon naming them as one of the four, but Pakistan were also widely under-estimated with just two Aussies, Cameron Burge and Simon Fitzsimmons, correctly predicting their progress. The wooden spoon is shared four ways as almost half of the writers expected all three of India, South Africa and Sri Lanka to get past the first round. Don't give up the day job, eh.
3. Will it be more or less fun than the 2007 World Cup?
The general consensus is that the 2009 Champions Trophy was fairly good in comparison to the last World Cup. In fairness, most of the team saw that coming, with only Brendon and Simon daring to be pessimistic enough to predict an even worse tournament. If, as Martin suggested, the future of the 50-over game truly was on the line, then it looks like the format could stick around a while yet, riding on the wave of a backlash against recent criticism. They were all wrong really though, because the truth is that no Champions Trophy will ever be as good as the 2007 World Cup until they let Ireland play.
4. Who will be the tournament's star player?
The widespread embarrassment continues with some shocking responses to this question. A.B. De Villiers was tipped to dominate by Paul Wood and Ganesh Venkat, but after a promising start against New Zealand he fell away in the next two games as South Africa crashed out. James's Albie Morkel shout is left looking decidedly iffy, and one has to question what on earth Martyn Corrin was thinking when he suggested Luke Wright, but the real laughter is saved for Manjunath, who said Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be the tournament's star player. Dhoni finished the tournament with a grand total of... three runs. At an average of three.
You can't fault the others though- three responded with Shane Bond, with Simon not too far off the mark with Cameron White. So for once, it's not all bad.
5. Who or what will be the tournament's surprise package?
James absolutely nails one here, successfully predicting England's progression from the group stages on the back of excellent bowling before "being brought down to earth again by Australia in the semi-finals". Martyn didn't quite go so far by suggesting that England winning a game would be the big surprise, but it's nice for him that for once his team exceeded his expectations.
Brendon and Cameron continued their solid form by talking up New Zealand's chances, and Simon did well to predict Sri Lanka's bowlers playing well before letting themselves down when it mattered most, so it's a good outing for the Aussies. The joke is firmly on Ganesh though, whose surprise package was "South Africa not choking". That's probably my favourite cricketing prediction of all time.
6. Anything else?
It all goes badly pear-shaped for James here. Not only did he predict finalists New Zealand failing to win a single match at the tournament, he also expected the West Indies to shock Pakistan in the game where they were bowled out for 133. Richard Dickinson tries his best to outdo him though by predicting England failing to win a game, while Manjunath expected the finals to be rained out. The majority of the miscallenous predictions were neither here nor there, but Simon finishes off well by predicting India's utter failure.
So it's yet another spectacular flop, but it takes more than a few failures to discourage cricket fans from trying their hand at future sight. We'll doubtless be back with more predictions before too long...