Cricket World Cup: Quarter Final’s Crystal Ball

After 42 games involving a spectrum of cricket that ranges from the mediocre to the sublime and all parts in between, we are now down to the final 8 teams. If you had have been asked on 14 February when this tournament started who was in your final 8 these are the 8 teams many would have chosen with the notable exception of England being in there instead of Bangladesh.

With New Zealand and India going through undefeated in their respective pools, they, righlty in my view, are the top seeds going into the finals stage.  Here is how the quarter finals have been matched up: 

  • 1st Quarter Final: South Africa (2nd in Pool B) v Sri Lanka (3rd in Pool A)
  • 2nd Quarter Final: Bangladesh (4th in Pool A) v India (1st in Pool B) 
  • 3rd Quarter Final: Australia (2nd in Pool A) v Pakistan (3th in Pool B)
  • 4th Quarter Final: New Zealand (1st in Pool A) v West Indies (4th in Pool B)

Each of these games looks to be absolutely quality encounter.  Here are some thoughts on the keys to each game: 

South Africa v Sri Lanka

This is about the pick of the games for mine and could all hinge on who bats first.  South Africa have struggled chasing totals in this World Cup but when they have batted first they have been largely unstoppable.  Sri Lanka possess the best batsman in world cricket for mine in Kumar Sangakkara but have been a little bit thin on form after him in the order.  South Africa has the edge with the ball.  I am prepared to back the South Africans in this fixture but I will be getting very nervous if they loose the toss and have to chase a target. 

Tip: South Africa

Bangladesh v India

This has just been an amazing four weeks for the Indian cricket team.  They were just destroyed in Australia before this tournament in all forms of the game but have shown, again, that the maxim “Form is temporary, Class is permanent.” rings true.  There is no better tactical captain nor judge of a run chase in the current game than MS Dhoni and they possess the best remaining spin bowling attack in the competition.  Bangladesh look on paper to be vastly out matched in this fixture however they seem to find a way times to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat.  India will win this game with class all over the field. 

Tip: India

Australia v Pakistan

To start rhetorically: is there a more enignmatic cricket team in world cricket than the Pakistan team? Some days they look like a club side, a very bad club side, and yet other days they conjour the sublime.  They will have confidence from both the ghosts of 1992 and their win against South African earlier in the tournament.  Australia have the ability to bat teams out of games with power all through the line up.  The blossoming of G Maxwell as a force in this tournament has been a highlight so far.  Starc’s bowling aside, there remains a significant question mark over the bowling attack whose talisman, Johnson, has lost his way again.  Australia should win this game but it may hinge on which Pakistan team actually turns up. 

Tip: Australia 

New Zealand v West Indies

Can anyone see New Zealand being beaten in this game? If Chris Gayle plays many will suggest that he could play a big innings but I think that is a false hope given his form (one big knock aside) this tournament.  I would back the New Zealand swing bowling against Gayle et al every day of the week and, to me, that makes this fixture the easiest one to pick.  Setting aside the bowling of New Zealand for a moment, in McCullum the Black Caps also possess the best opener in the competition backed by a solid, if not spectactular, middle order.  Add the New Zealand crowd to this and this game is a no brainer. 

Tip: New Zealand

I know I have picked all of the favourites here but that it the way this tournament has gone so far and I do not really expect it to change.  The Sri Lankans are the best placed team to pull an upset whilst Pakistan may also surpise.  

Cricket World Cup: 19 pool games to go but only two matter

The Cricket World Cup has meandered through 23 pool fixtures to date with a mix of excellent cricket and mismatches keeping fans around the world entranced.  Much has been made about the length of the tournament and, at the time of writing, there are some 19 pool games left to go before the quarter finals commence on 18 March.

Having run the eye over the table and thought about who might win which games I have come to the conclusion that only two of the coming fixtures have the potential to significantly impact on how participates in the final series.  Those games are:

  • England v Bangladesh, Match 33; and
  • Ireland v Pakistan, Match 42.

To understand why these two games are the “only” important games lefts, one must consider the following:

Pool A:

  • New Zealand and Sri Lanka presently sit atop Pool A.  Each have two games left (NZ face Afghanistan and Bangladesh whilst Sri Lanka play Australia and Scotland) and I think they are unlikely to lose either. That puts them at the top of Pool A and in the finals.
  • Scotland will not win a game and thus will not make the finals.
  • Afghanistan, who have been one of the revelations of this World Cup, have the toughest run home playing Australia, New Zealand and England to complete their campaign.  I do not expect them to win any of these games and thus predict they will not advance beyond the two points they presently hold.
  • Australia have a soft draw for the rest of the pool rounds with the exception of their fixture against Sri Lanka which, on current form, they are likely to struggle to win. Whether they win or lose that game they will be in the finals with victories against Afghanistan and Scotland.
  • That leaves Bangladesh and England to fight the battle for the 4th spot in this pool.  Bangladesh have 3 points from 3 games and face Scotland, England and New Zealand to final the pool rounds.  They will defeat Scotland and, absent any strategic play from New Zealand, will be defeated by them which means they will would sit on 5 points with their game against England in dispute.  England are on 2 points with 2 games to play against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.  Even in their current woeful form I think they will defeat Afghanistan which just leaves their game against Bangladesh to gain points from.
  • The winner of Bangladesh v England on 9 March will have the advantage and make the finals.  The loser will head home. It is that simple.

Pool B:

  • Much like in Pool A there are two stand out teams in Pool A at the moment: India and South Africa.  Both are yet to play Ireland.  India also play the West Indies and Zimbabwe whilst South Africa is yet to play Pakistan and the UAE.  I can not see them losing in their remaining fixtures and thus predict they will be the top two teams in Pool B.
  • UAE will not win a game and thus will not make the finals.
  • Zimbabwe have two games left against Ireland and India.  They are presently on 2 points from a victory against the UAE and whilst they were plucky in defeat against Pakistan I do not think they have the team to best either Ireland or India on current form.  They will stay on 2 points.
  • The West Indies have two games left with which to add to their current tally of 4 points.  The West Indies have been scratchy at times in the competition and then at times they have been brilliant.  Against the quality of India I can not see them winning but they will bank 2 points from a run rate enhancing win against the UAE.  This will put them on 6 points and in the frame for the finals (subject to the final bullet point).
  • That leaves Ireland and Pakistan.  Pakistan have had an ordinary start to the competition raising, unsurprisingly, comparisons to 1992.  Presently on 2 points from 3 games they face South Africa and the UAE before they contest the final pool fixture against Ireland at the Adelaide Oval.  I would expect them to best the UAE but lose to South Africa.  Ireland have been one of the stories of this World Cup but now they face the worse schedule with 4 games in the next 12 days whilst travelling extensively including across the ditch for their game against India.  In addition to that game I suspect they will lose to South Africa tomorrow but defeat Zimbabwe.
  • These results would love Pakistan on 4 points and Ireland on 6 points with the last (42nd) pool game to be played.  If Ireland win they will end up 3rd in Pool B.  If Pakistan win they will join Ireland and West Indies on 6 points and then Net Run Rate will decide who fill the final two spots in Pool B.

Obviously there is still some great cricket to come in this World Cup.  That said: given the form of the teams to date it is easy, in my view, to predict who will win what games.  Those predictions taken into account the race to the finals could really go down to the wire with the last pool game almost a preliminary final in Pool B.