Now to the business end
Who would make it to the semi finals? That has been the question – talk of the World Cup – up until a few days ago. The Australians once they destroyed South Africa in the first round seemed certain to get there and so far all their wins have been convincing.
Then New Zealand and Sri Lanka made their entry into the four once they had collected eight points. It did not seem possible for any of the other team to exceed that. At the same time these two teams had games in hand.
|To compensate the 140 run partnership between captain Jayawardena and Chamara Silva, made the bowling look easy. The Australians hung in during that difficult period
South Africa were the team fancied to join Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. England and the West Indies had an outside chance of getting making it to the four, but they had to keep winning and South Africa had to be on the losing end. In the decisive game when much was expected of the Englishmen they failed to impress. On the other hand South Africa who have been hot and cold came up with their best performance to date.
The important thing about a tournament such as this is to be in peak form when it comes to the business end. Of the four teams that have qualified South Africa finished their games first. They finished on a high. Now they have to maintain that momentum. They have to climb on Everest to beat the in form, dominating, Australians.
Sri Lanka’s team selection against the Australians was questioned. They decided not to expose their two most experienced bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. The game had no direct relevance to the tournament. Sri Lanka had every chance to remain at number two or three in the points table immaterial of the result of that game. Therefore the opportunity was taken to rest the two senior bowlers and also not to expose them to the opposition, anticipating another meeting in the finals. It was one way of approaching the game.
The other was to challenge the powerful Australians head on. Fight fire with fire and bring them down from their lofty pedestal. A tough ask but one that would have been a huge psychological advantage, had Sri Lanka been able to triumph.
In the end the Aussies triumphed handsomely winning all the aspects of the game. What was of concern was the inability to post a respectable total. The batting was at full strength and with two bowlers rested and the other strike bowler not fully recovered from injury the batsmen had to do even more than usual.
Losing three early wickets did not help. The two openers and Sangakkara, who was unfortunate not to have been given the benefit of the doubt on the lbw decision added to the Sri Lankan woes. To compensate the 140 run partnership between captain Jayawardena and Chamara Silva, made the bowling look easy. The Australians hung in during that difficult period, with the ground fielding and throwing being outstanding. One breakthrough, the wicket of Silva, was all they needed. From there on the noose was tightened.
The middle order failed in their attempt to accelerate and suddenly they looked incapable of reaching 200 when a score of 300 looked possible while Jayawardena and Silva were plundering runs. Only some lusty hitting by Mahroof and Bandara saw Sri Lanka reach some respectability totalling 226.
All the Australian batsmen got time in the middle. They had set themselves to pace the innings and keep accumulating runs till they reached the target. Even the usually aggressive Andrew Symonds took his time, waiting for the loose delivery to strike. The Sri Lanka bowlers failed to impress. Once the Aussies went past the one hundred and fifty mark they simply went through the motions. Their body language told the story.
With Muralitharan and Vaas back in the fold, it was expected that Sri Lanka would roll over the Irish. Yet few would have thought that the team which upset Pakistan and Bangladesh would fold up for 77 runs and for the second time in the tournament concede the game before the mid break!
This easy win meant that the Sri Lankans weren’t stretched at all and did not get much benefit in terms of match practice. Fervez Mahroof had a great game. .His bowling makes him a front runner in the bowling line up. Expecting Malinga and Dilhara Fernando to be fit, whom do the selectors leave out?
The other question is the form of Upul Tharanga. He is struggling at the moment and with the vastly experienced former captain Marvan Atapattu in the squad, what should the selectors do? They should have given Atapattu a game earlier, to ensure another option. Now they are faced with an issue!
On to the semi finals now. Sri Lanka are geared to go all the way. Their handsome win against Ireland indicated that they have not lost the momentum. It is the business end of the tournament and we believe that Mahela Jayawardena’s team can deliver the goods.