Melbourne | Abhinav Iyer
Group B is wide open. Three spots up for grabs to get to the knockout stage, as India’s exceptional performances against the Pakistanis and South Africans, sees them sitting on top of the table. They play relatively easier opponents in their remaining group stage games, and are expected to go through to the knockout stages as group winners. Ireland’s second brilliant chase against the UAE in Brisbane, ensured that they kept their unbeaten record in this World Cup. West Indies, have bounced back after their loss to Ireland. They beat Pakistan comprehensively and thanks to a Gayle storm, they posted the highest total of this year’s World Cup to be victorious against a gritty Zimbabwe. Pakistan lie on the foot of the table after back to back crushing defeats against a mighty India and a resurgent Windies. Every match for them is a must win game and they have a crucial encounter against Zimbabwe on Sunday. .
South Africa v West Indies
On Friday, West Indies face South Africa in a key encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The last time around the two teams met in a bilateral series was in the Africa last month and the hosts thrashed the Islanders. A lot has changed from last month though. The South Africans have had an indifferent start to their World Cup campaign, as they were reduced to 83/4 against the Zimbabwe and just managed to get over the line, thanks to David Miller and JP Duminy. They were looking for an inspired performance from their batting order agains the Indians, but lost emphatically on Sunday at The Melbourne Cricket Ground. Regarded as one of the best bowling lineups in the world, they conceded a total of more than 300 in a big outfield like MCG against the Indians and let Zimbabwe score 277 against them in their chase. Neither their batting nor their bowling unit have been at their best. Often regarded as the chokers at an ICC event, the South Africans have not performed as a unit in all three departments in the last couple of games. The AB De Villiers led side would want to change that on Friday. They would want to repeat a performance like last month at the SCG, against a high on confidence West Indies team. Their captain would want a better performance from their top order as Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock have not provided the best starts for the team. That has to change on Friday. They have been quite unsure of whether to pick Wayne Parnell or Farhaan Beherdien as an all rounder. Both have been inconsistent and are not even close to Lance Klusner or Shaun Pollock who are the best all-rounders South Africa have produced. Wayne Parnell leaked 85 runs in his 9 over spell against the Indians. South Africa’s weak link was fully capitalised by Dhawan and Rahane on Sunday. The Africans have to find a solution for this if they want to reach Melbourne on 29th March.
The West Indies squad arrived at the World Cup surrounded by controversies and politics. Coming to the tournament without experienced campaigners like Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard, a 4-1 loss to their opponents on Sunday and an opening game loss to Ireland, many had raised doubts of the team’s chances of progressing to the next round of the World Cup stages. But, they have hit back with handsome victories over Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Their batting has been really consistent in the tournament as they have posted 300+ scores in the three games they have played. It has to be good on Friday if they want to get a positive result. Averaging just less than 15 in the last fifteen ODI innings, Chris Gayle was under a lot of pressure going into the Zimbabwe game. Their was a Gayle Storm which hit Canberra on Tuesday when he scored the first double hundred in World Cup history to be the only person to score a triple hundred in Test Cricket, a double hundred in ODI cricket and a 175+ score in T20 cricket. He is back in business and West Indies needed that. Despite an a morale crushing start to the mega event, they go into the game with a newly instilled self belief and would want their batting to amass a big total once again.
Their bowling has to be a little more consistent and has to do good against a team like South Africa, who have the capability to restrict any side to an average total.
Fireworks is expected on Friday as this clash and it’s going to be a thrilling contest at Sydney!
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