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Sri Lanka continue to be a threat
April 06, 2007
Which team can deny the confident Australians from winning their third consecutive World Cup? Early indications in the Super 8 rounds suggest the Aussies are once again on target to be crowned World Cup champions.
Confident words have been spoken by veteran Glenn McGrath who indicated the Aussies have no competition to worry about. This will ensure that other teams will take great delight in seeing the Australians beaten and their cocky attitude take a tumble.
Yes, the Aussies do look to be in commanding form and it will take a concerted team performance to beat them. New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka should join them in the semi-finals assuming there are no shock results or bad weather denying a team crucial points.
New Zealand would love to have an opportunity to contest a final against their trans-Tasman neighbours. Deep down, the Aussies do respect New Zealand's style of play and know that they will get a good game.
Sri Lanka continue to be a threat and they have a team well suited to West Indian conditions. Their exciting win over England on Wednesday will have given their chances a big boost.
South Africa will be repenting for their preliminary round loss to the Aussies at St Kitts. They will relish a re-match when conditions will be different from a ground that had very short boundaries.
Matthew Hayden has been the in-form batsman to date -- he may well be the Player-of-the-Tournament. There is no doubt that he has played wonderfully well. His off drives, cuts and straight hits down the ground have been scintillating to watch. Bowlers have been severely punished if they have strayed marginally in their line and length.
Australia can thank New Zealand's Daniel Vettori for allowing Hayden to return to form and being at the World Cup.
Early this year, when Hayden returned to the team for the tri-series in Australia, he was struggling for runs and still trying to prove to the selectors that he was worthy of a World Cup place. One more failure and he may have been dropped.
In a match at Perth, he was yet to score when he drove a ball to mid off and Vettori spilled a sharp chance, low down to his left. Hayden went on to score a century and since then has never looked back, scoring four centuries including Australia's highest ever one-day individual score of 186 not out.
Well done to McGrath for becoming the leading wicket taker in World Cup history. He is a man on a mission before he retires gracefully from the game.
He is desperately keen to go out on a personal and a team high -- there is a fierce determination about his game. Somehow I think he deserves that because he has been a wonderful performer, day in and day out, for so long in both Test and one-day cricket.
Keeping bowling as simple as possible and being consistent are his greatest assets. Why complicate things?
As McGrath comes to the end of his wonderful career, it is the new breed of fast bowlers who have made an impact on me in this World Cup. I have been impressed with West Indian Daren Powell, New Zealand's Shane Bond and Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga.
Powell has bowled with purpose and aggression and captured an early wicket in all his opening spells but he has lacked support from bowlers at the other end.
Bond who has been very economical has used the new ball well and moved the ball in the air with late swing and beaten the bat repeatedly. Every time Fleming has brought him back to bowl, he has got a breakthrough and picked up wickets. He is New Zealand's trump card.
Malinga, with his unusual slinging round arm action, has caused batsmen all sorts of problems. With his inswinging full-pitched deliveries mixed with his short-pitched balls that don't bounce, he is a difficult bowler for batsmen to counter.
The performance against South Africa, when he captured four wickets in four balls and nearly won the game, was something very special to watch.
Playing cricket in the West Indies is a unique experience. The Calypso flavour is something the players and foreigners want to experience.
It is a pity for the spectators and worldwide television audiences to see near-empty stands as the World Cup gathers momentum.
Poor crowd attendances, the lack of West Indian atmosphere at the grounds (traditional local music and food stalls have been banned) and expensive ticket pricing have forced locals and others to be absent.
Why would the organizers want to do this? Someone has misjudged the mood of the locals and tourists! Revenue budgets are therefore unlikely to be met, and there is a potential for severe losses.
However, the World Cup is still alive with plenty of good cricket to be played and the champion to be crowned on April 28.
There are still some vital matches to be contested, points to be collected and teams to be eliminated one by one until the final four are found. Then it is 'do-or-die' -- lose and you go home. Here's hoping for some more great cricket ahead.
- GE Features
The Cup: Complete Coverage
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