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Preview - World Cup Quarter Finals

23 Mar 2011, 09:48 IST

Preview – World Cup Quarter Finals
Mar 23 2011

A total of 653 runs for 13 wickets – that’s how the world cup started and straightly put into picture that batsmen will dominate throughout and also India stands a fair chance to win the world cup given the home conditions. Slowly but surprisingly bowlers became the back bone for a team’s victory. South Africa was exceptional. In all their 6 league games, South Africa bundled out their opponents in under 50 overs. And, it’s not only the spinners who shined but attack of pace men just in the late 20s (25 to 30 overs) did the trick many times. With the tournament heading to the knock-outs and bowlers firing even on flat beds, the tournament is heading for a treat to the vision – a battle equally between bat and ball.

Pakistan, the dark horse of the tournament, has been a revelation so far. They haven’t played any international match at home ground since 2009 and lost their bowling spearheads to spot fixing scandal and came into the tournament underprepared. But half way through the tournament, bookies can post a serious bet on Pakistan winning the event. Such is the redemption brought in by Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younis. They stalled Australia’s winning streak and Pakistan have the best middle order in Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq and Umar Akmal who can at any situation play sensible cricket and lead to victory. Bowling has been Pakistan’s strength this tournament with Shahid Afridi leading the wicket-takers list. He is ably supported by Umar Gul. Mohammad Hafeez assures a key wicket when needed and Shoaib Akhtar is back to his racing ways. The team has the talent but their top order is a matter of concern. All combinations of Hafeez, Shehzad and Akmal failed and Kamran Akmal’s fielding at times is pathetic. By facing the last of the qualifiers from Group B, Pakistan stand favorites but if they could not sort out their opening problems, they might crumble in the later knock-outs against better bowlers.

West Indies managed to enter quarter finals by brilliant performances against Bangladesh and the associates and also because of the drama in few of England matches. But the irony is that, WI have not won any match against test playing nations in the last 20 months and they even lost their group matches against the other qualifiers from their group. They lose from positions of easy win. Only bright spots in the depleted looking WI side are Chris Gayle at the top and the bowling combo of Kemar Roach and Devendra Bishoo operating together. Ravi Rampaul’s career best performance brings in a healthy selection problem. Though not a favorites to win the QF, West Indies can provide an upset if their middle order fire.

Pakistan vs West Indies
Pakistan has not played the world cup outside Sri Lanka. So it might be tough for them to adjust to a different condition suddenly and the Mirpur pitch may not assist bowlers during the second half. West Indies on the other hand have won Bangladesh triumphantly here which is a boost. Team winning the toss and bowling has a fair advantage because of the dew conditions

India, the overwhelming tournament favorites before their 29 runs collapse against SA, face their toughest game of the tournament. With already a revenge taken, India would be waiting to take another revenge for their 2003 world cup loss. That day it was said that giving Zaheer the new ball costed India the match but today it has to be Zaheer Khan, the savior. Being the tournament’s second highest wicket taker, Zaheer Khan couldn’t get a useful partner at the other end to bowl in tandem. Their last league match seemed to have sorted out their bowling combination, India still are looking forward for Harbhajan Singh to perform at crucial overs. Going in with a strong batting line up, India need to post a big total to eclipse their bowling unit. With Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj in top form, Dhoni must make sure that there is no unnecessary batting order change and no more collapses and no more flops in batting power play. Fielding of India was excellent in their last 2 league games but the position of fielders needs consideration especially during batting powerplays.

Australia have so far not produced good batting innings except for Shane Watson. They are no were seen among the top scorers this tournament and they are void of a century. The team, packed with front-line pacers is a nightmare to any top team on any condition and on any pitch. With India being their quarter final opponent, Australia will very well play their three seamers and exploit the weakness of the best batting side with short pitched deliveries. The re-emergence of Brett Lee and the re-inclusion of Michael Hussey have added moral support to the team. Aussie team will definitely rely on one more fine partnership between their openers Watson and Haddin but with little more attack during the mandatory powerplay leaving aside their snapped 34 victories

India vs Australia
Having lost their last 4 matches at Motera, India would look to see the other end. On the other hand, Australia has won comfortably in their league game here against Zimbabwe. With both teams capable of posting huge scores as well chase them comfortably, this quarter final is going to be a cracker with everything dependent only on the players’ mindset. Ricky Ponting might be careful for a different reason – be cautious to not touch another object in the dressing room.

South Africa, the tournament’s current favorites have worked as per plan. With the prediction that team topping Group B might get a cake walk if they finish on top by facing a low confidence New Zealand, SA did exactly that. Having beaten India by an all round performance, SA go into the quarter finals with the best batting, bowling and fielding unit. Well packed with seamers and spinners, the only concern for the team will be the conditions at Dhaka. They have bundled out their opponents and also have given a big score to chase. Smith and low energy performances from Kallis needs to be addressed before they take up the big stage. They can very well be assured that the Dhaka pitch will not behave like the Chennai one but sudden attack from New Zealand batsmen may send them low.

New Zealand has so far never faced any upsets in previous world cups and this time around it was another smooth sail as the last of the qualifiers in Group A. The team is optimistic with the return of their injured players Vettori and Mills. Last appearance at Bangladesh was sour memories for New Zealand having lost 4-0 to the host but now it’s a different opposition and different purpose. Having to face the top team of the tournament, New Zealand have to look up to their batsmen for a fight to stay. McCullum, Guptill and Taylor are in good nick and fielding has been very impressive so far. They even have a decent bowling attack but their inability to face quality spin will be a cause of worry.

South Africa vs New Zealand
With another match to be played just a day ahead, the pitch at Mirpur might add more pressure for the team batting first to post a huge total on board so as to give time for their bowlers to perform on dewy conditions. With both teams having lost to another opponent in their group urgently, the result of the match is only in the batsmen’s hand.

Sri Lanka, having played all its matches at home condition except the last one where they won comfortably, has the upper hand in their quarter final match when they take on England, once again in home turf. Muralitharan was their trump card in their last game against New Zealand. All of their bowlers are in terrific form with the Premadasa pitch assisting the bowlers being an added advantage. They may have won against New Zealand, but the loss to Pakistan and a no result against Australia mean that they didn’t get to test the necessary bowling combination of employing 3 spinners. All 4 top order Sri Lankan batsmen have scored century but their other middle order and tail ender’s couldn’t stand. Sri Lanka need to make sure that their top 4 perform and doesn’t expose their bowlers when batting.

England has the capacity to upset any one any time. They have proved that twice – against South Africa and West Indies and nearly against India. Any score is gettable with the likes of Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott in the line-up but there is not enough support from others. Not only in batting, the bowlers too didn’t get enough support from their fielders. If you try to find out any key strength in the team you cannot say any. The team has been hampered by injuries even before the tournament started and once the event started there were few more – Kevin Pieterson, Stuard Broad and recently Shahzad who have fallen prey. Eoin Morgan’s addition may be cheerful but the experience players in the squad couldn’t ignite the fire. James Anderson has provided the worst performance of his career even in pitches where fast bowlers of other teams shone. To win the quarterfinal in the lion’s den, England’s only strategy should be restrict the opponent to an avaerage score.

Sri Lanka vs England
Sri Lanka has played 5 of their league matches in Colombo and more than that it’s their home turf. But England have not been there so far. So Sri Lanka must win this comfortably but England can look forward to Anderson in Colombo pitch which has assistance to bowlers than how it was in Indian conditions

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