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.
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.
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.