What an uneventful week of cricket this was! None of the matches held much interest except for the supporters of the teams involved. Seven of the teams for the quarterfinals had been set before the start of week 4 and the only question was whether Ireland would be able to pull off a monumental upset against either India or Pakistan and get the last spot ahead of the West Indies. I think most followers of cricket were rooting for the Irish to make it through because of the spirited devil-may-care brand of cricket they play but it was not to be. We had to wait until the very last match to find out and the Irish went down with guns blazing. All credit to them for a terrific performance; they will be missed.
With the quarterfinal line-up now set, thoughts now turn to which four teams will make it to the next round. The match-ups are NZ vs. West Indies, Australia vs. Pakistan, India vs. Bangladesh and South Africa vs. Sri Lanka. Easily the most intriguing of the contests is the SA- Sri Lanka clash and the result hinges entirely on which team takes the field for the Proteas. If it is the one that lost to Pakistan ( and to India before that), they lose; if it is the one that demolished the other teams in their other matches, they win. Sri Lanka’s bowling attack is not top drawer except for Lasith Malinga but their batsmen, led by Sangakarra, have been awesome in chasing down 300+ totals. But then again, they will have to contend with a potent SA attack with Steyn, Morkel, Imran Tahir and co. The south Africans seem to have regained their self-belief and their team looks better with the additions of Rossouw and Behardien. I think they will take this one.
On paper, Pakistan would seem to have no chance against the powerful Aussies but they too have re-made themselves. Their battery of pace bowlers is formidable, even in the absence of the 7′-2″ Mohammed Irfan. Bringing in Sarfraz Ahmed to replacing Umar Akmal behind the wickets seems to have solidified the fielding and the batting is no longer a one-man show starring Misbah-ul-Huq. If they can effect a couple of early breakthroughs when the Aussies bat, they could still make a game of it.
As for the other two matches, India and New Zealand should have an easy time of it. However, India’s performance against Zimbabwe was anything but impressive. One hopes that it was because they had already qualified for the QF’s and did not play with the sense of urgency that they had earlier. Well, they are now in the knock-out stage and they had better not pull their punches. The Bangladeshis are a spirited team and. on their day, are capable of troubling more talented teams. I hope also that Ravindra Jadeja begins to pull his weight. So far, he has been a disappointment with both bat and ball.