first_imgSouth Africa has the best bowling attack of the tournamentWhat a start to the quarter finals. Whoever could have imagined this would happen to any side in the competition at this stage. West Indies actually deserved what they got today. They were run over by the Pakistan juggernaut. They have won few games against top sides in the last few years and they just did not rise to the occasion today. What a far cry from the early 1980s when they were such a formidable side. Everyone says that West Indies rely on Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard but they have not fired in this format of the game for a while now; I can’t understand how so much is still expected of them. I cannot understand what Darren Sammy’s role has been in this World Cup-as a batsman or bowler or captain?Pakistan, on the other hand, have lost just one game in the competition and therefore, are really in the zone. Shahid Afridi has been able to get the side together and has made this a very balanced side. The team has bowlers in abundance, their batting is strong and they have two quality all-rounders in Afridi and Abdul Razzaq. Pakistan will be a difficult side to beat for anyone, though I do not expect their semi-final match to come so easy as this one did.India and Australia is the big traffic game in this World Cup. This World Cup could mark the end of an era for Australian cricket, unless they can defy the odds and win a fourth consecutive title. They have been plodding along in this World Cup and even the minnows have put up 250-plus totals against them. I see Ricky Ponting struggling to find his form and that is good news for India. But, in Australia’s favour, they are big match players. You don’t see an Australian side choking at the death, they fight to the last ball. M.S. Dhoni’s worries must be to win the toss and put up a big score. For India, Harbhajan Singh needs to fire. Ponting will no doubt be urging his top order batsmen to go all out for singles and get those crucial six runs every over, without going for the risky shots. He will be wary of Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan, as they are the only two bowling match-winners India has at this moment. Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson will try and blow India away with pace, but it’s not easy to do that on a flat track in Ahmedabad, especially when the batting order has players of the calibre of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni. But then, this batting line-up has failed to bat its full 50 overs in three big matches this World Cup. India will have to set its targets a bit lower in the last 10 overs. They need to score a run a ball from the beginning rather than go for big shots from the first over and then slow down and try to catch up in the powerplays, losing crucial wickets in the process.advertisementPonting will no doubt want to settle some scores with India and this is a good chance for him. Dhoni has been under immense pressure of late and sometimes it has even got to him, as is evident from his below-parkeeping in the last few games, a fact that will not be lost upon the Australians. Both captains would like to go out winning in this World Cup, given the sheer talent and potential in their sides. Unfortunately, only one of these great teams will go through. My call is that it’s going to be India with the home advantage.South Africa are a highly balanced side. They are not one dimensional. In Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, they have the best bowling attack of the tournament. Their spin department is looking good with Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson. Their batting order is a bit top heavy and although Graeme Smith seems out of touch, he needs to come good now. Watch out for De Villiers who may well become the batsman of the tournament. Their fielding is top-class and Smith will probably have fewer worries on his mind than the New Zealand captain.But the Kiwis are no pushovers. They have easily qualified for the quarters and beaten Pakistan quite comfortably in their group encounter. This is possibly the fittest side in the tournament and their batting order goes right up to the tail. In Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor, they have two among the game’s cleanest hitters. New Zealand has the maximum number of all-rounders, and that fact alone can win them the World Cup. I don’t think Smith will be worried going into this game, given that South Africa have been tested in this tournament and have come out on top.advertisementThe Kiwis, on the other hand, will be diving, fielding and fighting to save every run, as they did against the Lankans in Mumbai. This promises to be an interesting game, and though I think South Africa are favourites to win, the New Zealand team is known for punching way beyond their weight, so the verdict is still out there.Playing Sri Lanka at home is tough work and England will have to produce something extraordinary to get past them. They have stumbled upon the quarter finals and cannot continue to play in the same fashion. They must forget about the past and start afresh. They have had a week’s rest and that should help. Apart from Andrew Strauss, none of their batsmen have played any innings of note, and that is a big worry. Eoin Morgan must rise to the occasion. England’s bowlers haven’t been putting sides under pressure and even minnows, Ireland and Bangladesh, were able to chase their 300-plus totals.The Lankans, on the other hand, have been playing percentage cricket. They have been going about their job in a businesslike manner. They play cricket the old-fashioned way. Their openers try and score briskly, and if they don’t get a good opening partnership, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene get down to building the innings even if that means slowing down the game a bit. But closer to the last 15 overs, the Lankans rely on Angelo Mathews and the later order batsmen to get them to a respectable score. Even if they are 20 or so runs below-par, the Lankans are a formidable opponent, given their immense bowling strength. Bowlers such as Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, and Lasith Malinga, helped by the excellent fielding, will put the pressure on England, and its batsmen must go after them. To make a match of it, England will have to come good with a big total if they win the toss. Although I rate this England team very highly on fighting capabilities, I must admit, beating Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka is a tad difficult.While I have outlined my favourite teams, the actual results could have the other four sides in the semis-that’s how close this World Cup is going to be. The team that wins the toss will more likely bat first; though the dew may have the opposite effect on the two captains in the finals. I can’t wait for the action to start. – Nasser Hussain is a former captain of the England cricket team. Syndicated by Sporting Excellencelast_img

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