With the Super 8 matches over, the World Cup has reached the penultimate stage- The Semi-Finals where the four most consistent performing teams of the tournament will face each other for the ultimate prize in One day cricket- The World Cup!
On the 24th of April, Black caps Kiwis will take on the crusaders from Emerald Island Sri Lanka in a contest that is bound to go down to the wire! I would like to focus on a few aspects of both the sides that would give them an advantage.
On paper, both teams are almost equally matched when it comes to composition, batting and bowling. Both Lankans and Kiwis have a express quick bowler in Malinga and Bond but where Sri Lanka would have an edge over the Kiwis is Chaminda Vaas!
In the spin department, again both have a quality spinner in Murali and Vettori but the former might outweigh the latter in experience and variety! In the batting department, its the depth of the Kiwis and the all-rounders in McMillan and Styris that might give them an advantage over the Lankans who have an underperformed Russell Arnold and Dilshan!
But having said that both teams also have certain distinct specialties that would make the contest a heated one!
Led by Captain Stephen ‘iceman’ Fleming, the side would be looking to go hard at the Lankans. The side has performed well in the Super 8 league with 5 wins and 2 losses in their 7 games. The batting of the team has clicked although there have been couple of instances where it has shown signs of being ‘jittery’. Against Australia, the side crumbled and surrendered when set a big total without offering any resistance! The lack of experience in the batting could prove to be their ‘Achilles heel’ particularly if a couple of players such as Fleming and Styris get out early in the innings.
Few key Kiwi players to watch out!
The Captain would have to lead from the front at the top of the order when he opens the innings. A good strategist and aggressive thinker, he would have to marshal his troops well to ensure that they overcome the Lankans.
His form has struck a ‘purple patch’ in this tournament as he has amassed runs against most of the teams. An experianced campaigner, Styris would be a key player when the final scoreboard is prepared, in fact he could help the team cross over to victory! Not only would his batting but also his bowling would be a valuable asset to the team, as he would look to stem runs and take pace off the ball for spinners like Patel and Vettori.
A utility wicket keeper batsman and a dasher towards the end, he can really turn the fortunes of the team with his vital contribution down the order. A finisher, he can pace his innings brilliantly with singles and the odd boundary. But he is most dangerous at the end, and the Lankans might be preparing to curb him with a plan!
Bond has been relatively quiet in the Cup till now, but this is the time for the bowler to deliver the goods. If at any time his team would need him, it is now, for, he can knock the top order with his speed and accuracy. His fitness might be a concern for the team but his presence would induce teeth to the bowling attack which otherwise might become predictable and bring the downfall for the Kiwis.
A player who hasn’t got his due credits, he delivered results with his loopy off spin, almost everytime Captain Fleming threw the ball at him! An intelligent and thinking bowler is what makes him a competitive bowler beside his senior Daniel Vettori.
Vettori, I feel would be the crucial element in the semi final match. This is because of the number of left handers that the Lankans have at the top of the order- Tharanaga, Jayasuriya and Sangakkara. Fleming might introduce him early as his strike bowler as he would turn the ball into the left handers and would look to dry up the runs.
Sri Lanka tigers…
The ‘Sun’ of Sri Lankan cricket who set many an innings on fire might be in the twilight of his international career but all the same this would be the perfect farewell Jayasuriya could think of! His aggression and murderous approach could take the game away from the Kiwis who would look to see his back at the earliest! If jayasuriya gets going then it will rain boundaries, sixes and misery for the opposition for sure!
‘Prince’ Sangakkara is a force by himself. A fantastic motivator, he is an elegant south-paw who can play according to the situation. A fantastic wicket keep batsman of the off side, he is equally elegant on the leg side too! ‘Piston’ Sangakkara can accelerate or drop the anchor with same felicity! A pleasure to watch, his performance would hold the key as far as the the fortunes of the Lankans go.
The Captain has been in some good form in the tournament and would need to string in partnership with others to post a big total. The important thing for Mahela would be to ensure that panic doesn’t set in the camp while batting first or chasing.
This is the big one and Murali has a great appetite for wickets in big matches! His spin on a dry track will certainly keep the batsmen at bay and it won’t be easy to score against this experienced bowler. He will come in handy with his loop, sharp turn and the particularly the ‘doosra’!
The ‘X’ factor for team Sri Lanka, Malinga, if declared fit for the semi-final match has the potential of turning the match on its head. I have always maintained that Lasith has everything that goes into the making of a good fast bowler- searing pace, deception and accuracy. His primary concern would be his fitness but if he plays tomorrow’s match then Sri Lanka would certainly fancy their chances of a berth in the final!
The match would be a keenly contested one with both sides having its fair share of strength and weakness. Sri Lanka for me would have an advantage over the Kiwis because of the experienced Murali. Having said that, the Kiwis cannot be ruled out for they have terrific depth in their batting order and are one of the competitive sides in World Cricket!
Either ways its excitement for viewers and fans all over the world!