Pakistan have edge over West Indies … but anything can happen

2011-03-23 00:00

TODAY’S match at Mirpur sees two of the most mercurial quarter-finalists in action. Anything can happen when Pakistan and the West Indies take to the field and today will be no different. Both teams have match-winners with the ability to win games single-handedly.

They are also teams with the tendency to implode under pressure. The West Indies rely heavily on Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard to fire — a dependency their captain Darren Sammy is keen to discount. Kemar Roach’s ability to use reverse swing effectively near the end of the innings will be key for the men from the Carribbean.

Pakistan have match-winners of their own.

Shahid Afridi has yet to unleash with the bat, but as the tournament’s leading wicket taker he has more than compensated with the ball. He has a tally of 17 wickets at a miserly economy rate of just 3,54.

Abdur Razzaq has all-round potential for Pakistan and pacemen Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar are always a threat.

Shoaib will be especially keen to impress as he bows out of international cricket at the end of the World Cup.

Pakistan also have an experienced middle order with Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, who are both able to steady the ship and control an innings. In my opinion this gives them the edge over the West Indies.

Tomorrow sees the “mini grand final” — as it’s been dubbed — between top sides India and Australia at Ahmedabad.

So much of the attention in this tournament has been on India and its superstar line-up, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh.

Australia by comparison have slipped quietly into the final four of group A.

Their loss to Pakistan, which ended their 34-match World Cup winning streak and the fact that a number of their batsmen are struggling for form, hints at a brittleness which the Indians will be keen to exploit.

The Indians, playing at home with an impressive depth of batting and bowling, will definitely be tough to beat.

South Africa’s draw to play New Zealand from Group A is probably the best they could have hoped for. With a string of impressive performances, the Proteas deserve their bragging rights at the top of Group B.

New Zealand are a dangerous outfit when they perform well as a unit.

They depend considerably on opening batsman Brendon McCullum but also have middle order solidity in the form of Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram.

The greatest concern for captain Daniel Vettori is his bowling attack.

If Tim Southee and Jacob Oram are unable to dislodge the Protea top order quickly and expose South Africa’s middle order, it will be hard going for New Zealand.

South Africa are looking good in all aspects of their game. Faf du Plessis has added much needed stability to the middle-lower order.

Dale Steyn leads what is probably the strongest bowling attack in the tournament with plenty of bowling combinations available to Graham Smith.

All round, South Africa are probably too strong for New Zealand but how the Proteas respond to the pressure of this quarter-final encounter will be key.

England, despite booking their tickets home a number of times, have incredibly hung on for a quarter-final spot against Sri Lanka.

They have shown their ability to scrap and have without a doubt provided the best entertainment of the tournament so far.

England bat a long way down and have a quality spin attack led by Graeme Swann.

A victory over a powerful Sri Lankan side in Colombo is going to be a big ask, though. England have been frustrated by injuries and have not looked settled all through the tournament. Sri Lanka have a healthy balance of youth and experience in their line-up.

Mahela Jayawardene and leading run scorer in the tournament Kumar Sangakkara lead from the front. Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his final World Cup, will be as determined as ever, as will Sri Lanka’s star death bowler Lasith Malinga.

It’s been fun, but I think Saturday’s match will show that it’s time for England’s final curtain call.

 

Neil Johnson is a former Zimbabwean, Dolphins and Western Province cricketer turned commentator who lives in the midlands.

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