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Top teams jostle for glory in wide open World Cup

Last updated on: March 22, 2011 12:27 IST

Most open World Cup since 1999

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After 42 matches, including a tie, the wheat has been separated from the chaff and the organisers are already hailing what they claim is "potentially the greatest World Cup ever."

There were upsets here and there and England often suffered every time a giant-killing act was pulled off in the sub-continent.

- Difficult to predict semi-finalists, says Inzamam

But as the tournament heads into the knockout phase after more than a month of group-stage sparring, there is actually no surprise as the top eight teams, including two of the three co-hosts, made it to the business end of what is turning out to be the most open World Cup since 1999.


Image: India fans cheer during the match between India and the West Indies in Chennai
Photographs: Reuters
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'Real feast of 50-over cricket'

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With every quarter-finalist having lost at least once over the past month, the International Cricket Council (ICC) believes the event has produced enough drama and has all the potentials to be the best World Cup on record.

"We have surely been treated to a real feast of 50-over cricket with some outstanding games," ICC President Sharad Pawar said on Monday.

- World Cup coverage

"Few who were in Bangalore will forget the tied match between India and England or Ireland's record-breaking triumph against England while the passion shown by the home supporters for the hosts Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka has been spectacular."

Pawar cited overwhelming television ratings to prove his point.

"The television audience figures have set new records and the India v England match was the most viewed game in ICC Cricket World Cup history with multi-millions in India alone tuning in," Pawar said in a statement.


Image: Fans queue up outside the Sardar Patel cricket stadium in Ahmedabad to purchase tickets of the quarter final match between India and Australia to be played on Thursday
Photographs: Reuters
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England went down to Kevin O'Brien's power-hitting

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Much of the drama was in Group B where England's amazing inconsistency prolonged the suspense till the end before Andrew Strauss and his men joined South Africa, India and West Indies in the quarter-finals.

Comparatively, Group A was a dull affair with Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Australia and New Zealand never really losing sleep over their quarter-final prospects.

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In Group B, England tied a run-feast with India, went down sensationally to an Ireland powered by Kevin O'Brien who smashed the fastest ever World Cup century, taking just 50 balls to reach the 100-mark.


Image: Kevin O'Brien
Photographs: Getty Images
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The tournament has been marred by injuries

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West Indies paceman Kemar Roach recorded the first hat-trick of the tournament against the Netherlands, a feat Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga replicated just 24 hours later in a Group A match against Kenya.

- Warne theories and what ifs after thriller

Injuries to players such as Dwayne Bravo (knee), Kevin Pietersen (hernia) and Stuart Broad (side strain) did rob the tournament of some sheen but their absence, by and large, has not really been felt either by the fans or their teams.


Image: Kevin Pietersen
Photographs: Reuters
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Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men have looked vulnerable

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Going into the knockout stage, there is no single overwhelmingly favourite team unlike in the late 1970s when Clive Lloyd's West Indies dominated the game or the first decade of this century when Australia were virtually invincible.

Many expected India to beat every opponent in front of their demanding home crowd but Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men look pretty vulnerable, especially with their batting line-up's tendency to collapse in a heap that undid several of their strong foundations.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Photographs: Getty Images
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Australia's aura of invincibility is a thing of the past

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South Africa seemed to have struck just the right blend of spin and pace in their attack and their batting looks good but the defeat by England sowed new seeds of doubt in the fans' minds if the team has actually learnt to cope with pressure.

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Australia's aura of invincibility is a thing of the past and their 34-match unbeaten run in the tournament dating back to 1999 was snapped by Pakistan on Saturday.

Their bowling looks too pace-heavy in the sub-continent's slow and turning tracks and skipper Ricky Ponting's personal form would be a major reason for concern.


Image: Umar Akmal is congratulated by Aussie players after their match in Colombo
Photographs: Reuters
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Sri Lanka look in good shape

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Pakistan seemed to have shed the inconsistency they were notorious for and have adjusted to life without pace duo of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, who are serving bans for corruption.

Their opening pair, however, has not clicked as a pair yet and skipper Shahid Afridi's bad patch with the bat showed no signs of ending soon.

In contrast, co-hosts Sri Lanka look in good shape.

- Muralitharan injury dampens Sri Lankan victory

Their top order batsmen have been among the runs and the bowling looks good enough to restrict or bowl out any opponents on slow wickets.


Image: Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan celebrates after picking up a wicket
Photographs: Getty Images
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Inconsistent England look far from worthy of lifting the elusive WC

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England returned from the brink of elimination to reach the quarter-finals but their inconsistency would not convince even the most ardent fan that they can lift the elusive trophy.

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Constant rejigging of the batting order has not helped their cause and they are yet to settle on a pace attack that would come good on these tracks.

New Zealand have an additional problem as regular skipper Daniel Vettori hurt his knee and Ross Taylor had to step in as the makeshift skipper.


Image: Graeme Swann is congratulated by teammates after claiming a wicket
Photographs: Getty Images
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WI still to register win against a big team in 20 months

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West Indies, the other team in the quarter-final, are still searching for their first win against a top flight team in 20 months and form book does not suggest they can break the jinx in Wednesday's quarter-final against Pakistan.

- Cricket World Cup quarter-final line-up

- 'Struggling' Aussies' WC prospects bleak: Roebuck

In such a cluttered field, Australia will have as much chance of winning their fifth title as South Africa would have of their first or the sub-continental teams of their second, making it possibly the most open World Cup.


Image: West Indies' Chris Gayle talks with coach Ottis Gibson (left)
Photographs: Reuters
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