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Teams jostle to avoid Aussies in semis
Ashish Shukla in Georgetown | April 05, 2007 16:35 IST
There is unease in the South African camp now that Sri Lanka has won one more game and it's they who face the unpleasant prospect of facing up to Australia in the semi-finals.
There is an unspoken jostling for positions between South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in a bid to avoid the fourth spot in Group Eight matches which conclude on April 21.
The team on fourth spot would be condemned to face the world champions in the semi-finals in St. Lucia on April 25, a hardly mouth-watering prospect for any team in this World Cup.
Sri Lanka's close win over England yesterday have given them six points from four games and a net run-rate of +1.55. It puts them in second spot behind Australia who also have six points but have played a game less. Australia's run-rate is +2.01 and the best.
New Zealand is hanging on to third spot with six points from three games and a nett run-rate of +1.44. There is little to choose between them and Sri Lanka but they don't worry each other. A number two or three spot will imply the same thing, keeping away from Australia till the finals.
South Africa appear possibly the fourth semi-finalist but they have just four points from three games and a net run-rate of -0.35.
A match-up against Australia in the semi-finals would not only revive the nightmare of thrashing in the group stage but also the painful memory of 1999 semi-finals when they crashed out because of a tied finish.
South Africa now have four matches left to avoid the pitfall. Fortunately, they don't face Australia and have Bangladesh (April 7), West Indies (April 10), New Zealand (April 14) and England (April 17) to negotiate.
One silver lining for South Africa is that both Sri Lanka and New Zealand, the other two likely semi-finalists, would face Australia in the Group eight stage.
Sri Lanka face Australia on April 16 and New Zealand face the world champions on April 20, both games being scheduled in Grenada.
South Africa could avoid the fourth spot if they don't lose any game from now on. It means they would have beaten New Zealand on April 14 in Grenada. Sri Lanka and New Zealand tie-up on April 12 would mean a defeat for one of them.
Barring upsets which nobody foresees at present, England and the West Indies would not make it to the last four stage.
It means the remaining 15 games of the Group Eight stage would not produce any unexpected semi-finalists.
It is primarily a quadrangular tournament from now on, cricket has not seen a situation like this in World Cup for a long time.
Even in 1992 World Cup, England and New Zealand had their noses in front at the mid-way stage of round-robin fixtures and Pakistan, the eventual winner, was lying seventh in the table.
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