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Beware of the lurking Islanders

columns Updated: Mar 27, 2011 00:14 IST
Pradeep Magazine

It does seem almost certain now that the World Cup winner will be a team from the sub-continent. The only team which one believed could challenge them - South Africa - throttled themselves unexpectedly on Friday night against New Zealand, who now are the only semifinalists from outside the region.

After the stunning upset scripted by New Zealand, it might be foolhardy to make any predictions, but seriously, after the manner in which the Sri Lankans decimated England on Saturday, do the Kiwis have a chance?

Cold logic does not always work in the shortened version of the game and the best example of it is India's 1983 World Cup win. The Kiwis could still sneak into the final, but as of now, the Sri Lankans have placed themselves firmly as favourites to win the World Cup.

There were moments in the match on Saturday when they looked a nervous bunch, giving the impression that the pressure of expectations from the home crowd could do them in. They were so shoddy that the word pathetic appears too mild to describe their effort in the field. Four catches were floored and there were misfieldings galore, leaving one wondering at that stage whether they were going to choke.

But in the end, their far superior bowling arsenal, which is a mysterious puzzle for the batsmen to solve on these excruciatingly slow wickets, hurtled England batsmen towards their doom. England, it was very obvious throughout their campaign, lacked the bowling and the heart to do well here.

In India, the entire focus at the moment is on the clash with Pakistan and no one is, probably, even caring which two other teams will contest the first semi-final.

That the Sri Lankans would be dangerous opponents was clear when their two openers - Dilshan and Tharanga - just about smashed the English attack.

Dilshan may be no Sehwag, but is as threatening a batsman as any and if the bowling side does not get him in the opening overs, he can tear to smithereens the best of attacks.

His partner, the graceful, fluid Tharanga, bats more sanely and it is this combination of the explosive and the crafty that made England appear distraught and clueless.

This emphatic win must be a huge boost for their confidence and I would even suspect that now they would not mind playing the final away from home.

The pressure of expectations of the home crowd can be a double-edged sword and sometimes being away from the "maddening crowd" can be a blessing.