The last few games of the Super Eights have lost their fizz as the line-up for the semifinals is confirmed. Australia are in the top spot with a huge run-rate advantage, and with South Africa beating England to claim the last spot, the semifinal opponents are more or less known.
The biggest match of the Super Eights was undoubtedly the game between South Africa and England. On eve of such crucial games, teams brainstorm and draw plans, with the strategies revolving around their own strengths and weaknesses and those of the opponents. Ground conditions are also discussed.
Factoring in the pitch and its behaviour before deciding whether to bat or bowl is equally important.
For instance, Bangladesh’s new-ball bowler Mashrafe Mortaza becomes doubly potent when the conditions are helping him, as does our own Irfan Pathan.
I admit it’s very easy to be brilliant with the advantage of hindsight, but the decision of the England skipper to bat after winning the toss has been baffling.
The newly-laid wickets in most of the World Cup venues have generously offered movement and bounce to the fast bowlers. Since the tournament is spaced easily between games, groundsmen have enough time to prepare the tracks.
Fast bowlers have delivered telling blows in the first couple of hours, sealing the fate of matches; evidence to back this can be found in the list of the Man of the Match awards, in which the names of the bowlers have risen appreciably.
Thus, in conditions where Mahmood, Anderson and Flintoff could have damaged any line-up, Michael Vaughan blundered by batting first, allowing South Africa to sail through into the semifinals.
Apart from the pitches, the schedule also seems to be helping the fast bowlers, the gaps between the games giving them time to recoup. From bowlers’ point of view, this World Cup has been the best so far.
Mahela Jayawardene has come in for serious criticism for resting Muralitharan and Vaas against Australia. He probably did not want to expose Murali to the Aussies at this stage of the tournament.
Finally, there are many who are complaining that the tournament is too long; for the Indians fans, the pain only doubled due to the early exit of India and Pakistan.
Hawkeye Communications/ Chivach Sports