Watching the proceedings during the first week at the World Cup 2011, almost felt like an extension of previous week’s practice games. None of the associate nations posed any challenge to the test playing teams, with the exception of the Dutch. India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Pakistan all completed a comprehensive wins and some even managed to tumble down a few records in the process. Even South Africa got passed West-Indies, in their opener, in a convincing fashion led by deVilliers ton. Dutch ten Doeschate gave England a bit of a scare, however England’s steady batting line up covered up for their shoddy display with the ball and field.
The weekend promises to bring some exciting fares with some key contests lined up. Kangaroos take on the black caps on Friday. This is like an Ind-Pak game on the southern hemisphere. Both teams always bring out their best against each other, and even though they are currently low on form they should be dishing out another spicy encounter. Australia would be keen to see their skipper and his deputy to regain their batting form quickly and hopefully then Ponting wouldn’t have to smash any more LCD screens in the dressing room. New Zealand would hope to get their top order fire against a quality attack of Lee and Co. Australia seems to have a slight edge, purely because of the current lows that the black caps have bottomed out to, however, a day of good cricket can change fortunes for the kiwis.
Saturday brings in yet another exciting contest in division A as the co-host Sri Lanka take on the underdogs Pakistan. Home court, strong top order, and a steady bowling attack should make Sri Lanka favorites, but they definitely won’t be taking their opponents lightly. Umar Akmal, Captain Afridi and Abul Razzaq are some key players to watch out for Pakistan. Umar Gul and Abdur Rehman have already impressed in the opening game with their bowling efforts. Pakistan’s only issue is the fragile top order which could be very well be exposed against a good seem attack from Sri Lanka. I would expect Sri Lanka to take this one, but not without some gutsy fight from Afridi’s boys.
The most interesting encounter is at Chinnaswamy stadium (Bangaluru) on Sunday, where the other co-host India would fight it out with Strauss & Co. Boys in blue would be oozing in confidence after a tremendous batting display in game one. England on the other hand needs to get their bowling sorted out quickly. Dhoni would definitely be tempted to go in with a second spinner and Chawla would be the obvious choice. Munaf and ZK have bowled extremely well in the opener so even if Nehra is fully fit I don’t see him replacing either of the other two quicks. Raina would likely miss out on this one too. Unless India really goofs up badly with the ball, I don’t see England overcoming this challenge on Sunday.
Overall, the weekend promises more action and excitement compared to mundane first week, which was mainly filled up with one-sided affairs. Teams would now have to get into serious rhythm and won’t be able to afford a slip in performance. Path to the quarter finals may seem easier; however, a better position within the division would lead a team to have a relatively better shot at the semi-finals. The heat is ON now and players would need to turn the intensity to full blast.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav