Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Quarter final team previews

West Indies
Roach, Sammy, Benn, Russell, Rampaul and Bishoo have produced a number of good bowling performances.  A Gayle or Pollard onslaught is just the sort of thing that could cause the wheels could come off for Pakistan in the field, but my guess is that Afridi, Gul and co will stop that happening.

Anyone else noticed that Shahid Afridi often stands with his arms crossed when being interviewed at post-match ceremonies?  Is this in a vain attempt to look serious?  That said, while his batting is crazy, his bowling really is pretty serious, and Pakistan are pretty serious contenders.  They've cruised quietly  to the top of their group and now have a very winnable quarter ahead of them. I don't know why people didn't take more note of them earlier.  Be Afridi.  Be very Afridi.

Batting-wise, the top order's in top nick, but the middle order men can't middle it.  Here's what Zaheer Khan had to say yesterday about the bowling: "As a bowling unit, I think I am doing well."  You have to say that's a pretty entertaining Freudian slap in the face for Harbhajan, Sreesanth and co.

Likely to be presented with a juicy greentop in Ahmedabad, tailor-made for their speedsters.  Not.  Crumbled against Indian spinners in a warm-up game in Bangalore.  If Harbhajan remembers how to take wickets, I'd expect a repeat.  But beware Mike Hussey.  I repeat: beware Mike Hussey.

New Zealand
Bat deep, bowl deep, and are deeply unexciting, unless you feed Ross Taylor with balls to muscle over square leg for six or ply Jesse Ryder with drink.  I don't expect South Africa to indulge either man.

South Africa
Two silky-smooth stroke makers (one a born-again Christian and the other a born-again Muslim), two ferocious quicks (one a splice-jangler and the other skiddy and superb), spinners of all sorts (including a bleached-blond leggie with a smashing googly) and Jacques Kallis with a brand new head of hair.  This is South Africa like we've never seen them before.  A semi with Sri Lanka would be a match-up of the tournament's two most exciting teams.

No more KP but England are still nuts.  They're the tournament's crowd-pleasing basket cases, a bit like the Pakistan of the 2000s, except with rather less glamorous heroes.  Yardy's straightbreaks, Collingwood and Bopara's trundlers and Pietersen's pies have all "done a job."  Secret weapon Pingu Tredwell had to be unleashed earlier than planned in a must-win final group game, and so now an even more secret weapon has been called up for the quarters.  Jade who?

Sri Lanka
I don't think Sri Lanka's middle order is quite as weak as some make out, but two of the top four probably do need to fire for the side to build a big score.  Bowling-wise, Murali's been in great form and Malinga's put in one devastating performance, but perhaps it's time for the third mystery M to make a bigger impact. Subcontinental opponents may have got used to Mendis' variations but England's batsmen have never faced him before, while South Africa's have faced him only once in a match when he took 3 for 30. Come on Sri Lanka - do it for Murali!

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