Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Pivotal game of the Super 8

Australia and New Zealand with three wins each and Ireland to come have practically booked their semi-final berths. South Africa, with two wins, is the best placed among the other teams to qualify, because its only loss has been to the Aussies. Sri Lanka too has two wins and a loss, but it still has the front-runners, Australia and New Zealand, to play. England, strangely, has had only that solitary game against Ireland in the Super Eights so far, besides its loss to the Kiwis in the group stage. I would say therefore that England is almost on par with Sri Lanka to qualify, which makes today's match between the two a virtual knock-out. The only other interesting match so far in the Super Eights has been the one in which South Africa was cruising to victory against Sri Lanka until that four-wicket burst by Malinga nearly turned things around.
Mahela Jayewardene is looking forward to an easier track after the difficult starts the team has had in Port-of-Spain and Guyana. I'm not so sure. It's true Australia scored 322 batting first on this ground against the Windies, but that was built on one towering century by Hayden. The Windies got bowled out for 177 against the Kiwis on the same ground. I think Sri Lanka might struggle if it bats first. Even against India it was only the ineffectual bowling in the middle overs by Harbhajan and co. that let Lanka off the hook. Jayasuriya did get a wonderful century against the Windies, but I think the English bowling is better.
Of course, if England bats first, all bets are off. Sri Lanka will be better placed, not because of its pace bowling, but by virtue of not having to face the English bowlers in the early morning conditions. It's funny to read how England's batsmen are preparing for Malinga with sidearm throws from practice bowlers... England prepare for Malinga. It will be funnier still if Muralitharan turns out to be the wrecker-in-chief again.

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