2015 Cricket World Cup: Quarter-Final preview
It has taken 42 matches and 32 days but finally the quarter-finals of the 2015 Cricket World Cup are upon us. South Africa v Sri Lanka kicks things off on Wednesday, before India play Bangladesh, Australia face Pakistan and New Zealand take on West Indies.
South Africa v Sri Lanka, Wed 18 March, Sydney
SA: P6 | W4 | L2
Key player: AB de Villiers (417 runs @ 83.40)
SL: P6 | W4 | L2
Key player: Kumar Sangakkara (496 runs @ 124.00)
In Kumar Sangakkara Sri Lanka undoubtedly possess the tournament’s in-form batsman. 496 runs in 6 matches, including an incredible run of four consecutive centuries, represents the perfect farewell campaign for one of the great cricketers of the modern era. The 37-year-old will be seeking more success against a South African team which, as of yet, hasn’t fully fired. AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla have been at their imperious best and Morne Morkel is a constant threat in favourable conditions, but surprise defeats to Pakistan and India and mixed performances from Dale Steyn, the highest ranked fast bowler in the world, would be concerning for coach Russell Domingo.
If Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews can contain the Proteas’ experienced bowling attack and put runs on the board, they will be confident that the skill of Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath, combined with the pressure on South Africa to win a World Cup knockout game for the first time, will swing the result in their favour.
Prediction: South Africa debunk their “chocking” tag with narrow victory
India v Bangladesh, Thu 19 March, Melbourne
IND: P6 | W6
Key player: Mohammed Shami (15 wickets @ 12.60)
BAN: P6 | W3 | L2 | NR 1
Key player: Shakib Al Hasan (186 runs @ 46.50 & 7 wickets @ 34.28)
After a substandard preparation for the World Cup, consisting of four losses to Australia and England in the Triangular Series, India’s prospects of regaining the ICC Cricket World Cup appeared bleak. MS Dhoni’s men looked disinterested, unsettled and, most significantly, horribly out of form. They made 353 runs in two matches against England, a score which has been surpassed on six different occasions in single innings during the World Cup.
India were seemingly attempting to prevent peaking too early, however, as they quickly hit form with a convincing victory over rivals Pakistan and an annihilation of South Africa. They recorded similarly comfortable wins in their next four group matches with Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Dhoni all scoring runs. Perhaps most pleasing for coach Duncan Fletcher would have been the performance of their bowling attack. With four bowlers in the top 15 wicket-takers of the tournament and as the only team to have bowled out their opposition in every match, the facet of India’s team most frequently questioned over the past 12 months has proved many doubters wrong.
It would be unwise for India to underestimate Bangladesh, particularly after their thoroughly professional and deserved victory over England, but it would take a monumental effort from the Tigers to trouble the reigning champions.
Prediction: India show England how it’s done with crushing win over Bangladesh
Australia v Pakistan, Fri 20 March, Adelaide
AUS: P6 | W4 | L1 | NR 1
Key player: Mitchell Starc (16 wickets @ 8.50)
PAK: P6 | W4 | L2
Key player: Mohammad Irfan (8 wickets @ 23.25)
Many pundits suggested Australia possessed the most complete squad ahead of the World Cup and, with the group stage finished, those claims seem to be correct. In their five matches, the co-hosts have passed 340 on three separate occasions (England have reached that total three times in the history of ODI cricket), and Aaron Finch, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell have all scored belligerent hundreds at quicker than a run-a-ball. The Aussies also have two of most fearsome quick bowlers in the world in Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, the latter of whom has performed remarkably, picking up a wicket every 13.8 balls.
After losing their first two games and being forced to beat South Africa and Ireland to reach the quarter-finals, simply progressing past the group stage must be seen as an achievement for Pakistan. But it is difficult to see their journey continuing. In Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq they have a capable trio of batsman, but it would take an immense performance from Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan or Shahid Afridi to case an upset.
Prediction: Australia stamp their authority on the tournament and cruise into the semi-finals
New Zealand v West Indies, Sat 21 March, Wellington
NZ: P6 | W6
Key player: Brendon McCullum (257 runs @ 42.83)
WI: P6 | W3 | L3
Key player: Chris Gayle (279 runs @ 55.80)
New Zealand have handled the pressure of co-hosting cricket’s pinnacle tournament superbly and go into the quarter-finals unbeaten and untroubled. Brendon McCullum’s team have the ability with the bat to score upwards of 330 – a feat which they have achieved four times this year – and the ability with the ball to skittle sides out for less than 200 – something they have already achieved four times at the World Cup.
While the West Indies batting line-up is talented, their fortunes could depend on the performance of Chris Gayle, who entered the tournament on indifferent form but demonstrated his colossal power with a double century against Zimbabwe, consisting of 16 sixes. With ball in hand West Indies have shown themselves to be more than competent – captain Jason Holder and Jerome Taylor doing the damage on several occasions. But if New Zealand’s Tim Southee and Trent Boult succeed in picking up early wickets, which records suggest they can, the West Indies’ erratic campaign could come to a quick and disappointing end.
Prediction: New Zealand’s bowlers set up comfortable win