South Africa v Sri Lanka (Wednesday 18th March- SCG)
The first of the quarterfinals pits perennial World Cup overachievers Sri Lanka against the might of South Africa. Sri Lanka head into the knockout stages with some reasonable results behind them, having beaten both England and Bangladesh, but their two defeats to co-hosts Australia and New Zealand will be a worry. South Africa came into the tournament as one of the fancied sides, and quickly hit their stride, racking up totals in excess of 400 against both Ireland and West Indies. However, similar to the Sri Lankans, their form has been patchier when faced with better opposition. Defeats to Pakistan and India will have dented the Proteas confidence when facing the established sides. This match will be a test of nerve, and with South Africa desperate to shake off their ‘chokers’ tag, looks set to be an enthralling curtain raiser to the knockout stages.
Players to Watch
AB de Villiers has already made some outlandish scores in this tournament, and if he can come anywhere close to replicating the 162 he scored against West Indies, then Sri Lanka will struggle to cope.
Kumar Sangakkara is in the form of his life, and will be charged with leading the Sri Lankan batting outfit. His four consecutive centuries are a World Cup record, and it’s hard to bet against him extending that run against South Africa.
Bangladesh v India (Thursday 19th March -MCG)
Many would have assumed that it would have been England lining up to face India on Thursday in Melbourne, but Bangladesh’s victory over England meant that they get a chance to make a first World Cup semi-final against an undefeated India side. India have marched through to the quarter finals, barely breaking sweat in the process, all the more surprising given their form in the preceding tri-series was woeful. Their only fear will be that they have yet to be seriously tested, and if Bangladesh can give them a scare, they may be vulnerable. Bangladesh have played okay so far, but are going to need to raise their game significantly to stand a chance against an Indian side hell-bent on retaining their trophy.
Players to Watch
Indian captain MS Dhoni might just be the calmest cricketer in the world. No player can finish a game quite like the Indian skipper, and if his side are to progress further, he will surely play an integral part.
Shakib Al-Hasan is, as always, vital to his side’s chances in these big occasion matches. He has the experience of playing around the world, and he will need to utilise all his previous experiences to cause an upset in this match.
Australia v Pakistan (Friday 20th March –Adelaide Oval)
A contrast in teams for the third quarterfinal, aside from a blip against a powerful New Zealand side in a thrilling pool match, Australia have swept all before them. Their demolition of England and Sri Lanka was particularly impressive, and their bowling attack is arguably the most feared in the World Cup. Pakistan on the other hand, have been inconsistent throughout the tournament. After opening their campaign with a disappointing defeat to fierce rivals India and a mauling by West Indies, Pakistan fought back to gain victories over Zimbabwe, UAE, Ireland and South Africa. Pakistan will be without seam bowler Mohammed Irfan for the quarter final, but it is testament to their fast bowling resources, that their attack will still be formidable. This match looks set to be a match up between the well-drilled and consistent Australia, and the inconsistent but talented Pakistan.
Players to Watch
The current highest wicket taker in the tournament, Mitchell Starc will be leading the Australian attack at Adelaide, and if he can get amongst Pakistan’s fragile batting line-up from the start, then Australia will have one foot in the semi-finals.
Misbah Ul-Haq has led his side superbly so far this World Cup, and has anchored his side with the bat also. He will need to lay a platform for his side if they are to post a competitive total on Friday.
New Zealand v West Indies (Saturday 21st March – Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
The final quarterfinal sees co-hosts New Zealand do battle with the West Indies. In theory, this should be a walkover for New Zealand, as they coasted through the pool stages unbeaten. Their victories over Australia and England were brutal and emblematic of a side whose confidence is at its peak. Their batsmen have all gained time in the middle, and appear to know their roles well, whilst their seam bowling attack is one of the best in the world, and well complemented by the wily spin of Daniel Vettori. West Indies on the other hand, had a battle to make the knockout stages, and after a far from harmonious lead up to the World Cup, will have been pleased to make the quarterfinals. Defeat to Ireland and a hammering at the hand of South Africa will be a worry for the Caribbean side, as it exposed their shortcomings vividly. But in knockout competition, the pressure is at a new level, so we should be set for a great finish to the quarterfinals.
Players to Watch
New Zealand have played so well, that it is difficult to pick out a single player who may make the vital difference. Tim Southee has been excellent though, and his devastating spell of 7-33 against England, proves that he is a match winner.
There is quite simply only one option for West Indies, Chris Gayle is capable of winning a match inside an hour, and if he can come anywhere close to repeating his record breaking double hundred in the pool stages, then his side will coast into the semi-finals.