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Post-Cronje era and Ball Tampering
The Dream Cricket team brings you once again non-stop cricket action from the Asian Sub-continent with the Singer Cup taking place in Sri Lanka. With the preliminary rounds almost at an end, host Sri Lanka is in a very commanding position with a spot already secured in the final. Pakistan and South Africa have been unable to come to terms with the conditions in Sri Lanka and can only hope to grab the final spot in what seems to be a difficult, if not impossible task of defeating a resurgent Sri Lankan squad.

The Tri-Nation series got even more interesting when Pakistan's Waqar Younis was handed a match suspension for ball tampering charges. This was the first time a player has been handed down a punishment for such offense.

Along with this being the Protas first tournament after the much published Cronje era, the game of cricket has taken a back seat to all the controversy surrounding the game.

So let's take a look at our respective teams as we approach the final stretch in what promises to be a very interesting final and in the hope that, only their performance can bring back some level of confidence to this great game!


Pakistan
The Pakistanis have had a very disappointing tournament thus far, and with one match left against the South Africans, they have dug a hole deeper than they can come out of. With absence of Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younis and Abdur Razzaq have made notable contributions but have not delivered the lethal blow the Pakistanis are known for in the bowling front.

It once again falls in the hands of one of these players to deliver a match winning performance for the Pakistanis to make the finals. The batting has also been very disappointing with the exception of Inzamam Ul-Haq. Imran Nazir had an impressive game against the South Africans and I expect Youhanna and veteran Saeed Anwar to come big in the next game.

However, a strong effort from all designated batsmen against the South Africans will be needed to guarantee victory as the bowling does not have the strength to win the match for the Pakistanis We have seen many times how Pakistanis have escaped the clutches of elimination only to appear as champions. However I really do not see this happening unless the Proteas lose today's game.


South Africa
For a team considered the 'Champions of Cricket' on all fronts of the sport, despite the scandals, the South Africans have been 'coasting' along this tournament. Probably the most balanced team on paper, they have not been able to execute accordingly in the tournament thus far.

So far Kallis, Kirsten and newcomer Hall have shown signs of some positive scores. But do not underestimate the likes of Rhodes and Klusener to come through, as I am sure they are eager to prove their critics wrong.

On the bowling front, the Proteas have done very well keeping both teams under 250, which is very impressive. Pollock, surprisingly had a very quiet tournament along with Ntini and Hayward. I expect these individuals to come strong in the next couple of matches given the importance of reaching the final.

It is a very difficult assessment to make going against the South Africans. They are a very competitive team and have clutched many a victory when the odds have proved improbable. I have a strong feeling that they will reach the final but will need an extraordinary effort to pull a victory against the Sri Lankans.


Sri-Lanka
Appearing to be the underdogs coming into this tournament, the Lankans have once again stepped up to the plate, silencing all critics with some very impressive victories. Under the leadership of Jayasuriya, the Lankans played aggressive and intelligent cricket to become the favorite.

Looking at the team so far, the spotlight has definitely focused on newcomer Kumar Sangakarra who has had a very impressive tournament so far. Given the opportunity presented to him, I seem him to do very well against the South Africans and also in the final. Staying on the batting front, Attapattu had a dismal game against the Pakistanis. However he is coming to form. I expect him to definitely come through for Sri Lanka as he has done on many an occasion.

Captain Jayasuriya has also been in the shadows and needs to come back into the spotlight with his explosive batting style. Whether he will do so remains to be seen, despite a respectable half-century against Pakistan and has been lucky that the likes of Chandana and Gunawardane have come big for the team.

On the bowling front, Muralitharan, Dharmasena and Vaas have done a tremendous job along with Zoysa. The bowlers have all played to the conditions and have done an excellent job containing the explosive batting of the Pakistanis and South Africans. At the rate the Sri-Lankans are playing, the only team that can defeat them is themselves or a tremendous effort by the Pakistanis and Proteas.






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