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Daniel's men in lion's den

Can New Zealand atone for 2007 World Cup semifinal defeat? Amol Karhadkar reports. The equation | Semifinal hiccups

india Updated: Mar 29, 2011 01:57 IST
Amol Karhadkar

With three matches remaining in the World Cup, 10 of the 13 venues are already done with their scheduled ties. Come Tuesday, the R Premadasa Stadium too will host its seventh and final fixture.

While the 20 million cricket-crazy people of the island nation are hoping for their team's victory over New Zealand in the first semifinal, the connoisseurs are seeking quality cricket in the last of the 12 matches to be staged in the Emerald Isles.

Not one of the 11 matches played in Sri Lanka so far has seen high-quality action over the last six weeks. While the quality of wickets at all three venues, including the two new stadiums in Hambantota and Pallekele, has been better than the traditional low and slow tracks, all the teams who have played here have largely put up lifeless performances.

And, despite hosting the most number of matches, Premadasa has hardly seen teams dishing out entertaining fare. The only two sparkling performances at the renovated home of Sri Lankan cricket have been the hat-trick by Lasith Malinga against Kenya on March 1 and the unbeaten 231-run partnership for the opening wicket between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga in the quarterfinal against England. As Sri Lanka and New Zealand square up for a place in the final in a repeat of the 2007 World Cup semis, all that the aficionados are expecting is a keen contest.

The big question, however, is will it really happen? In probably the most open World Cup, no team has been able to produce top-notch performance consistently over six weeks.

As much as Sri Lanka's quarterfinal victory against England will be remembered for Dilshan and Tharanga's heroics, it will also be remembered for the hosts' poor catching.

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But if they rectify those flaws and maintain their intensity with the willow, they can annihilate New Zealand for the second time in the tournament.

But considering that New Zealand have kept improving as the tournament has progressed, that won't be easy. Following their victory against South Africa, Daniel Vettori's men have emerged as the giant killers of the tournament.

But for them to keep their stunning streak, they will have to give their best for most part of the game, like they did against Pakistan in the league stage and South Africa in the quarters.