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Sunday, April 15, 2007

World Cup - Ready for the semi-finals

South Africa squeaked past Sri Lanka (with one wicket in hand). Sri Lanka blasted past New Zealand. New Zealand defeated South Africa in the match (winning by 5 wickets). So, who is the better team? That is still unknown. But, unlike South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand are already definite for the semi-finals at this stage. Bangladesh has caused the Proteans to be in this flux now. The remaining matches of Sri Lanka and New Zealand are of no consequence to them.

West Indies and Bangladesh have theoretical chances of getting to the semi-finals. But, the likeliest one to get through would have to be either South Africa or England. The pitches seem to be helping the faster bowlers in this phase, more than the initial set of matches. That might be see an upset happening in the last 3 matches (semi-finals and finals). The semis will see the Kiwis and Sri Lankans face each other, most likely. Sri Lankans would be fancying their chances against the Kiwis yet again. Their bowling is having a steady look and even without Malinga,
their highest wicket-taker in this tournament, Sri Lanka managed to defeat the Kiwis in the Super 8s.

Hence, it would be a good time for them to give chances to Malinga Bandara so that he can be used against the Australian superpower. The best way, it seems, to defeat the Aussies is to have a spin-based attack (like what the Sri Lankans had in the 1996 World Cup) - have Murali, Bandara, Jayasuriya, Dilshan bowl atleast 35 off the stipulated 50 overs. This way, the total that they would eventually score would be reduced considerably. This looks the only route to defeat the Aussies at their current form.

The Kiwis have not managed to get rid of the Sri Lankans so far. If they face them again in the semis, they are not likely to be the favorites. So, they need to get on top of the league (by beating the Aussies possibly) to meet the 4th placed team (South Africa probably). Their bowling is good with Shane Bond, Franklin, Vettori and Patel. Mcmillan has given them a backup option with his tight bowling in the match against the Proteans. Batting is suspect against top-quality spin bowling, though.

The Proteans are more suspect than the Kiwis against spin and this is good enough for them not to proceed all the way in this World Cup. They will come up short against whoever they face in the semis. The way Kallis has had to give up his style of batting, to adopt a more aggressive stance, is proof enough of the fact that the thinking of the Proteans think-tank is not logical enough.

The English might feel that if they win their last 4 matches, they will win the World Cup. But, they might not see how they plan to do it. Their batting has shone in spurts - their win against Bangladesh was by luck, really. If only there were few more runs, England would have had to plan for their return. They havent won against the bigger teams and dont look like capable to win also.

That leaves Australia. What do they have to do? Ensure that the laws of averages dont strike now (they have been winning matches for a very long period in the World Cup now without a defeat). Hussey and Symonds still havent had a decent play in the middle. Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark havent had much to do all tournament. Will they be required? Australia would hope not.
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