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No quarter given

Bob has eight expectations as World Cup reaches crunch point

Opinion Posted 22nd March 2011 view comments

With a colossal 42 group games behind us, the World Cup has finally reached the quarter-final stage - and not before time!

Hopefully we can now look forward to some high-octane matches as the last eight standing go head-to-head between now and Saturday with a place in the semi-finals at stake.

Australia have ruled the roost for quite some time, since 1999 in fact, so can any side break their dominance? Here's how I think the matches might pan out...

Pakistan v West Indies: 8am, Wed, Sky Sports HD1

Most people were expecting Australia to win Group A and play the West Indies, but that honour goes to Pakistan and I make them slight favourites to win what should be a tight tussle.

Time to step up: Swann is met by a traditional dancer as he and England arrive in Colombo

Time to step up: Swann is met by a traditional dancer as he and England arrive in Colombo

The West Indies must be worried about their brittle middle-order and with good reason, because in Umar Gul Pakistan have exactly the right type of bowler to make in-roads whenever they take that vital batting powerplay.

It's imperative that the West Indies find a way to get their most experienced players into the team if they are to have a chance. Chris Gayle missed the last match due to injury and the selectors have left out Shivnarine Chanderpaul for some unfathomable reason.

The battle between the retiring Muttiah Muralitharan and Graeme Swann should show us just how good the England spinner is.

Bob Willis
Quotes of the week

Such choices could prove costly because I'm not convinced the younger players know how to best tackle those crucial last five overs.

Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo can score runs as quickly as anyone but Pakistan are a mercurial bunch who won five of their six matches to finish top of their group; with the talent in their squad they could well go all the way so I'm leaning towards them.

DANGERMAN - Umar Gul: He's a one-day specialist who boasts an incredible economy rate of under four runs-an-over in this World Cup. He could prove the difference.

Australia v India: 8.30am, Thu, Sky Sports HD1

This match, which pits two of the early tournament favourites together, is as good as a final in its own right so something has got to give.

The key battle is going to be between Australia's quick bowlers and Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar at the top of India's order.

Tendulkar has already scored two hundreds in this World Cup and is averaging over 54. He's a player who relishes the big occasion and unlike most players resort to slogging at some point in one-day cricket, he doesn't have to.

I'd back the Indian openers to take runs off Australia's pace attack on a good pitch in Ahmedabad, and although the defending champions have got a fantastic World Cup record, home advantage could swing this one India's way.

That would leave us with the small matter of an India v Pakistan semi-final to look forward to!

DANGERMAN - Sachin Tendulkar: By far the most complete player in India's ranks, 'the little master' has done it all - and will keep doing it.

New Zealand v South Africa: 8am, Fri, Sky Sports HD1

South Africa were my tip at the start of the tournament and they are looking good.

The combination of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel means they have a pace attack to be feared, while in Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis they have four one-day batsmen of the highest class.

But what they've never had before is a top-class spin bowler; now they've got one in Imran Tahir and he's proving a real handful.

We've seen New Zealand struggle against top-class spin and unless they can take on this guy I don't think they will be at the races.

The Black Caps have a reputation for boxing above their weight and have done very well to get to the quarter-finals given the injuries they've picked up along the way, most noticeably to skipper Daniel Vettori, but I really can't see them advancing any further.

DANGERMAN - Imran Tahir: The final piece of South Africa's jigsaw, this leg-spinner has more than enough in his armoury to mystify and nullify New Zealand.

England v Sri Lanka: 8.30am, Sat, Sky Sports HD2

This battle between the retiring Muttiah Muralitharan and Graeme Swann should show us just how good the England spinner is.

Andrew Strauss will rely on Swann to bowl 10 overs economically and pick up some wickets along the way. Those of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will be top of Strauss' wish-list.

It's nearly impossible to predict what England, who have won six of their eight World Cup meetings against the 1996 champions, will do on Saturday.

It will take a wonderful all-round performance to eclipse Sri Lanka on their turf and they are capable of producing one but they will start as outsiders.

England will have to deal with very testing conditions and an intimidating crowd, but if they can win the toss and bat first at the Premadasa Stadium, they will back themselves to finish the job; they've certainly come through when it has mattered so far.

DANGERMAN - Graeme Swann: He has an absolutely vital part to play if England are to progress; he'll relish the challenge and could well come up trumps.

Comments (3)

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Stephen Stewart says...

Well thats how you defend 221 Mr Willis, thou shalt never write off NZ in a world cup knock out match!

Posted 16:21 25th March 2011

Kaiser Rafique says...

I would like to see Pakistan meeting India in semis and beating them in India.

Posted 01:34 24th March 2011

Atif Hussain says...

dream final for me would be PAKISTAN V ENGLAND!!! looking forward to some great cricket!!!!

Posted 17:35 22nd March 2011

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