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A breeze for some, a gusty wind for others
by Sreelata Yellamrazu
Apr 04, 2007
Gusty was the wind that blew South Africa’s way, but no such demons lay in Australia’s way who breezed through the first part of the Super 8’s with increasing confidence and enviable ease.

South Africa’s Super 8 began with a tough match against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has been one of four teams that have shown the incline and dedication to make this World Cup memorable despite the obvious lackluster talent on show in what has turned out to be a damp squib largely for sub continent viewers. But South Africa did not earn the title of number one for nothing.

Sri Lankan batting has depth, variety and a dash that makes it interesting when setting targets. However, Charl Langeveldt ensured that Sri Lanka would be reined in enough for South Africa to make an easy game of it. Five wicket haul and Langeveldt’s selection was all but vindicated. It would up to Sri Lanka to defend what seemed a largely modest target.

With skipper Graeme Smith in good nick, the top order of South Africa’s batting is looking in good nick. It is the middle order that is in want of form and exposure and it became apparent as the game went on. Suddenly from a position of victory, South Africa had to muster all the forces to evade an impending doom. Lasith Malinga, with his unorthodox swing and release action, got rid of the likes of Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall to complete a hat trick. Still not satiated, he added a fourth to his tally, making it four in four balls! As important as the feat was the fact that in the end, South Africa made it by the skin of their teeth with a wicket to spare.

The game against Sri Lanka went from being a fairly comprehensive one for the top team to being a match that almost undid their hard earned reputation over the last one year. This was no time to be cautious (even though Shaun Pollock’s dry run has begun to sound a warning bell), and yet the unknown quantity that Ireland have proudly labeled themselves as could not be ignored on the road to garnering two precious points.

On a day of constant rain interruptions, Ireland’s innings represented one of fits and starts, more like the former than the latter. There would be no half-centuries from Niall O’Brien, an off cutter from Langeveldt taking care of that. There would be no more touting of the foreign import in the Irish line up, not even Andre Botha.

Jacques Kallis has come in for some criticism despite his outstanding role as anchor for sometimes not accelerating when it was the need of the hour. However, after Graeme Smith, it was Kallis who set the field ablaze with some resplendent shots that ensured there would be no dramatic interruptions to South Africa’s progress.

Amongst the many things Brian Lara is hoping to draw positives from, it has to be one placard that read ‘Australia took two days to beat us’. Flattering as that may seem, West Indies are really in the deep end of the ocean, quite literally after Australia raked up a mammoth total, yet again on the other side of the 300 mark. West Indies, with their skewed batting order that shows embryonic men on the front line and leaving battle worn veterans like Lara himself much lower down the order to make a sizeable impact, were never really in the hunt.

West Indies would do well to look at Australia’s line up that boasts three of their best men in the first three batting positions. To Australia’s good fortunes, much of the agony about the opening partnership has turned into ecstasy. The primary reason for that has been the form of their almost discarded opener, Matthew Hayden.

While Australia will feel they have buried some of the demons by successfully defending their total of 377 in the group stage against South Africa, they are yet to be tested by a full fledged team on the go. South Africa nearly buried them for much of the thirty overs of their innings with the sterling batting of the openers. It was not until Graeme Smith cramped up miserably and AB de Villiers was brilliantly run out that Australia began to see more than a ray of hope even after amassing a total of such colossus.

Australia need not have worried or lost sleep over the match against Bangladesh. With much of the better teams not faring very well, for Australia on song, it was going to be hard for Bangladesh to pull off heroics. But it was amusing to watch Habibul Bashar, skipper of Bangladesh, still touting proudly, “Bring on the Aussies.” It is the spirit of Bangladesh that must be appreciated. They have done a better job of putting up a brave face while bigger teams did a volte-face at the first hint of trouble.

But it would be all too easy for Australia and two comfortable points in the kitty and the teams from group ‘A’ certainly living up to their billing!

 
More Views by Sreelata Yellamrazu
  One way ticket to history!
  Double date. (But only two showed up!)
  Not the best way to go!!!
  England shown the door by Hall
  South Africa scripting a dangerous tale
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