The group stages are all over now and there are just the 4 teams left, mind you not necessarily the 4 you would have expected. Australia made hard work of their route through, the end of Wednesday’s match against Pakistan was far closer than it should of been and Ricky Ponting looked far from satisfied as his team scrapped in at India’s expense.
In contrast to the Aussies both England and Pakistan had qualified after only two matches each. England are the surprise package so far, no one gave them much hope in a group containing two of the pre-tournament favourites in Sri Lanka and hosts South Africa as well as the Kiwis. In beating South Africa and Sri Lanka, England showed everyone that they can play ODI cricket after all.
After being a disaster against Australia before the start of this tournament, England showed what they are capable of with in restricting Sri Lanka to just 212 in the first game. After at one stage having them at 17/4 – it could be argued they let Sri Lanka of the hook. They then went onto score a massive 323/8 against home favourites South Africa, who not for the first time came up short with the pressure on, finishing on 301/9 of 50 overs, not a bad effort all the same.
New Zealands passage to the semi-finals was less clear cut than Englands. After losing their opening game to South Africa they then fought back beating Sri Lanka after scoring 315 batting first, the much vaunted Sri Lankan batting line up couldn’t cope with that and fell short getting bowled out for 277.
Another twist in that match was the dropping of Muttiah Muralitharan, with Sri Lanka only requiring one spinner, Ajantha Mendis was preferred signaling the changing of the guard.
Pakistan had a more comfortable route to the semi-finals, first up they played the makeshift West Indies team and had to work for the victory but in the end it was a comfortable 5 wicket win. Then against India they were in trouble at 65/3 before a remarkable partnership of 206 between Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf set them on the way to a 54 run victory. After the match between India and Australia was washed out as a draw, Pakistan had qualified with a game to spare.
Australia after all the trauma of making the semi-finals ended up topping Group A, on the verge of losing to Pakistan and being knocked out they scrapped home for the 2 points needed, after adding that to the point for the India draw and the 2 points against West Indies, the Aussies ended up group winners showing how fine the line is between success and failure.
1st Semi-Final, Friday 2nd October – SuperSport Park, Centurion
2nd Semi-Final, Saturday 3rd October – New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg