The first quarterfinals will be what epitomizes this World Cup – loads of runs being made and several records being broken. It will flag off a great knock out round. It is like a trailer to the main picture that is ready to unfold over the next few days. Two men chiefly responsible for this carnage will be in opposite teams and would want to leave the field with a big smile.
Sangakkara has already done more than enough in this ICC World Cup 2015 – the only batsman ever in ODI history to score 4 straight centuries and that too in his last World Cup on bouncy wickets in Australia; against quality opposition – just proves that he is a true batting legend. But cricket being a team sport needs much more than just one man and Sri Lanka seems to be peaking at the right time, with Dilshan and the captain Angelo Mathews coming to the party at the right time. If anything, they will be wishing their superstar and last edition’s centurion from the final Mahela, to score in the knock out phase. If he gets going too then there is no stopping this Lankan batting machine. Steyn and Co. have their task cut out.
Bowling at the death is a problem that the Proteas face in the absence of Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell’s lack of rhythm. It is here that I feel a Ryan Mclaren would have come in handy ahead of Wayne Parnell, sports journalist Firdose Moonda seems to agree with us on this issue. This South African team do miss the services of a Charl Langeveldt kind of bowler who can mix it up and make it tough for the opposition in the death. Sri Lanka have their own problems in that area but Malinga is a proven athlete and you can expect nothing but the best yorkers in modern day cricket from him in the knock out phase. Ofcourse AB Deviliers, if he gets going is a treat to watch and unstoppable. But without Amla scoring any big runs that he is famous for and De Cock in the worst form of his life, too much dependence on ABD will create the “PRESSURE” that world seems to associate with SA now.
This team is different from those of the past, with new players and different skill sets. The opposition Coach has served the first salvo by saying Lankans are better at handling pressure in ICC tournaments. All this adds up to a mouthwatering contest. It’s high time SA removed that Choker Tag, not just for themselves but for the entire cricketing world. On paper before the world cup started if you asked any expert SA were the favourites.
Now with Sangakkara, Dilshan and company regaining top form it’s probably the first time in a major tournament that SA is considered an underdog. I believe this will work in their favour and we will see their full potential in this match. Amla is due and so is Steyn. Once their best batsman and bowler deliver any opposition will face defeat. Sri Lanka is confident but South Africa is more deserving to enter the semis to face the winner of New Zealand and West Indies.
Prediction: Conventional wisdom says Sri Lanka should deliver the traditional knockout punch to the South Africans, but the earlier hiccups in the league stage might just motivate the Proteas to get their game together to open their account in World Cup knock out matches. South Africa for the win.