The top four teams in each group – India, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan – will all play in one group, while the runners-up – England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand meet in the other.
Each team will play the other three in its group once and the top two from each group progress to the semi-finals. Simple.
Few teams have really had to prove anything to make it to the Super Eights, gaining one free win by beating the groups’ minnow team, but there are a few teams that have left a bit to be desired.
The reigning 50-over World Cup winner went into the tournament with worries about its bowling. Conceding more than 160 runs to New Zealand in a warm-up and then failing to defend 185 agains Pakistan highlighted those frailties. Zaheer Khan is now past his best, leaving Ashwin, with his spin bowling, to limit the run-rate and take wickets.
After conceding 140 to Afghanistan, the India bowling attack sparkled against England, bowling the holders out for just 80 with a two-headed spin approach. After their performances in that match, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla will be pushing for place in the team. It is unlikely India will drop Ashwin for one of them but it could see a continuation of the two spinner strategy that worked so well against England.
A good bowling performance restricted Ireland to just 123, while the batsmen chased that down in just 15 overs. The West Indies dismantled the Australian attack, however, taking them for 191. Luckily for Australia, the batsmen came to the party once more, taking them to 100/1 after just 9 overs before rain and Duckworth-Lewis gave them the win.
Australia will need the team to bowl more like they did against Ireland to stand any chance of progressing in the tournament. Having slipped below the Emerald Isle in the world rankings ahead of the tournament, Australia will be keen to move higher up.
AB de Villers’ team has arguably been the most impressive of the tournament, but how often has that been said in a group stage of a major event. The openers chased down 94 in 12 overs after the bowlers dominated Zimbabwe. In yet another rain curtailed match, South Africa put on 78 in 7 overs and restricted Sri Lanka, the home nation, to just 46.
The highlight has been the bowling, spearheaded by Steyn and Morkel, but with a line-up boasting Kallis, de Villiers, Amla and Levi, they will be expected to contend.
With mystery spinner Saeed Ajmal confusing batsmen worldwide this year, it’s probably not a surprise that Pakistan topped the group. The way in which their batsmen have gone about the games has been pleasantly surprising, posting 177 against New Zealand and chasing 175 against Bangladesh with ease.
However, bar Ajmal and Afridi, the bowlers have failed to perform. The inclusion of Arafat highlights Umar Gul’s inconsistencies and the need for an extra quick bowler.
England’s spin woes continued against India, and despite a good batting performance against Afghanistan, England’s prospects for progressing in the tournament have fallen sharply. Facing the West Indies’ Sunil Narine in the Super Eights could pose a large problem for a mercurial batting line-up. Much depends on Wright, Kieswetter, Bairstow and Buttler, names who have huge potential but have performed with inconsistency on the big stage.
With Narine on board, it’s surprising that the bowling attack has been an issue for the West Indies, but after Australia dismantled it for 9 overs there will be concerns in the West Indian camp.
On the positive side, almost all the batsman fired in the same match, posting 191. The prospect of Gayle, Samuels, the Bravo’s and Keiron Pollard will cause a lot of sleepless nights for opposition bowlers.
The hosts performed well in posting 182 against Zimbabwe and then bowling them out for just 100, but that was based as proven against South Africa, the Zimbabweans were not much in the form of competition. The failures of the top order against South Africa will worry them.
The Kiwi’s have slipped down the world rankings in all forms of the game in recent years and the country’s hopes will rest on the backs of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor. Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori are more run-stoppers than wicket-takers these days and they are likely to struggle even in the runners-up group.
image: © chrisjrn