SA put an end to England’s agony
For all practical purposes, the Oz tie at St Lucia will be their final, writes Barry Richards.Updated: Apr 19, 2007, 01:48 IST
Now that the semifinalists have been decided, and we know who is playing who, and now that England's agony has finally ended and they are out of it all, I would think Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher, in particular, will feel the heat.
In fact, I would be very surprised if either survives this abject World Cup campaign. Vaughan is yet to rediscover any sort of form since his injury, and it looks like the ODI format is beyond him now. Fletcher, meanwhile, would do well to take the easier option and resign before he is made the scapegoat.
The West Indies, too, have fallen short, and rumours of dissent have worsened matters. Brian Lara is unconfirmed for the England tour, which will in all probability be his swansong if he does go. Many pundits in the West Indies will be glad to see the last of him, and that is a shame, because he has been the game's greatest. It is just that the West Indies have not kept up to date with the gameplans and execution according to the modern game. The authorities need to realise that raw talent alone will no longer do, as it did in the past.
Of the four semifinalists, South Africa have blown hot and cold, and I would think they would be more than happy to simply play in the final. For now, St Lucia awaits, with its much slower and less bouncy pitch, the kind that has been South Africa's nemesis throughout the tournament. For all practical purposes, this will be the final for South Africa, because winning against Australia is as hard as it gets.
Of course, Australia continue to impress. With Shane Watson waiting in the wings, the team has a real option. The bowling as it seems to me is somewhat mixed. Shaun Tait goes for quite a few runs early on, and Glenn McGrath does not have the hold he once did. I would think that, in order to beat South Africa, they have to post a 300-plus total, and their batting so far suggests they can. However, that one bad game is always around the corner, and South Africa will be hoping that St Lucia will be it.
New Zealand have gone about their business with no fuss, though the team relies on three impact players — Stephen Fleming, Shane Bond and Scott Styris. However, the boys continue to believe in themselves and can be a tough match for anyone. Their do-or-die attitude and stubborn ability to hang in make them dangerous opponents.
Their semifinal adversaries will be Sri Lanka, and if the islanders don't beat New Zealand, they will have to answer plenty of questions. However, Chamara Silva and Tillakaratne Dilshan continue to make great strides and the fielding is outstanding certainly among the top echelons of ODI cricket.
They provide an all-round package, with an attack suited to all conditions, so the faster and bouncier pitch in Jamaica will not faze them. Their blend of youth and experience makes them more respected and feared, and they have the goods to win, but pressure can be a funny thing. So who will be there in the end? My head says Australia and Sri Lanka, but I'm not sticking my neck out on this one.