So the Cricket World Cup is almost over and I personally feel 50 over cricket has been put right back on the map during the World Cup.
From England’s cracking tie result game against India, Ireland beating England as well as Pakistan ending Australia’s 34 match unbeaten run there have been so many thrilling games in the tournament. This has to be by far one of the best Cricket World Cup tournaments in cricket history.
Now that we know who will be in the Semi-Finals, the red hot favourites of India go head to head with dark horses Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s game against New Zealand is no gimme. Just ask South Africa.
The Black Caps were only expected to reach the Quarter-Finals and reaching the Semis might just have exceeded their expectations. They have done incredibly well and New Zealand should be proud of what they have achieved in the tournament.
New Zealand’s big players Ross Taylor, Tim Southee, Brendan McCullum and Jacob Oram have certainly stepped up to the plate and on any given day New Zealand can be difficult to beat.
They lost two of their group games against Australia and their Semi-Final opponents Sri Lanka. I’m sure Daniel Vettori and his side will be gunning for revenge against the co-hosts after losing by 112 runs in the group game.
But New Zealand will have their work cut out if they are going to keep the likes of Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Muttiah Muralitharan and co quiet. Having said that, not many people gave the Black Caps a prayer for the game against South Africa. But look what happened.
New Zealand will go into their Semi-Final game as underdogs yet again but their performance against South Africa will give them plenty of belief they can pull off yet another shock result.
It has been a decent tournament for New Zealand and even if they lose on Tuesday they can still hold their heads high.
Sri Lanka could not have wished for a better Quarter-Final performance after they swept England aside by 10 wickets. Centuries from Dilshan and Upul Tharanga completed a miserable day for England but an emphatic win for the co-hosts.
There are plenty of match-winners in the Sri Lankan team and I expect them to beat the Black Caps to reach the Final. But they cannot afford to underestimate New Zealand and turn up on Tuesday thinking they are in the Final.
However their performances throughout the whole tournament have been pretty impressive and I’m sure many teams would love to have a batting and bowling line-up like Sri Lanka.
The 1996 World Cup winners will go into their Semi-Final clash as favourites and with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Murali and Ajantha Mendis you would not back against them reaching the Final. But anything can happen.
Despite the off-field turmoil, Pakistan have been going great guns on the pitch. Pakistan do remind me of Wigan Athletic. Sometimes they can be brilliant but on another day they can be shocking.
Shahid Afridi’s side appear to have been given a new lease of life and despite losing to New Zealand in the group stages, Pakistan have been in the headlines for the right reasons.
They have already beaten the likes of Sri Lanka and Australia and they will go into the game against India with confidence. Pakistan will be hoping to beat their fierce rivals for the first time in the World Cup.
Umar Gul is without question one of the most dangerous bowlers in the world and has probably been one of the stand out players of the tournament so far.
The Pakistan fans have not been given much to shout about in recent years but their team’s performances in the World Cup will have pleased the fans.
The Indians came into this tournament as red hot favourites and it will be interesting to see how they fare against Pakistan. India have never lost a World Cup game against their arch rivals but history counts for nothing and absolutely anything can happen.
From the top of the order to the bottom, India do have match winners but do they have the strongest bowling attack? I’m not sure. They have two of the best bowlers in the world in Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan but India in my view do not have enough bowling options compared to Sri Lanka.
Having said that, Yuvraj has been brilliant with both ball and bat and the slow bowlers have been taking wickets. India will need to be at their best in the field if they are to beat Pakistan.
Unlike their bowling, India’s batting line-up does have strength in-depth but it is vital the middle order do not falter again. Against both England and South Africa, India lost quick wickets and the middle order failed to deliver when the side were in commanding positions. This must not happen again.
The Indian fans would love it if Sachin Tendulkar was to score his 100th one day international century against Pakistan. That would be a story in the making. But India are not a one man team. With the likes on Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj and Suresh Raina, India have plenty of explosive batsmen.
It promises to be an intriguing game between India and Pakistan and I really would not like to call this one. There is certainly no love lost between both sides and both Mahendra Dhoni and Shahid Afridi will be telling their players to give it 110%.
Good luck to all four sides left in the competition and bring on the Final.