|ICC Champions Trophy Contrasting
Will predictions come true for a Australia India final?
So the on going ICC Champions Trophy has reached the semi final stage setting up two engrossing contests between four contrasting teams.
A tournament which at one stage did not even looked like being able to get off the ground in the wake of the sponsorship row involving India has at last overcome those setbacks temporarily.
And it will make way for the stage where four of the finest one day international teams will bid to outsmart each other in their endeavour to clinch the second most prestigious trophy on offer besides the World Cup the ICC Champions Trophy.
Going on present form it is extremely hard to make conclusions as to who could make it to the grand finals on September 29 (Sunday) at the Kettarama Stadium.
As the timeless saying goes no match is won or lost till the last ball is bowled could be aptly used to describe the two semi finals lined up for this weak between South Africa and India today and Australia and Sri Lanka on Friday ( Sept 27).
The Islands countdown to the Champions Trophy predictions where we mentioned as to who would make it to the final four has been proved correct.
Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of South Africa we predicted the Proteas should make it to the semi-finals with ease.
And if India sends their full strength squad resolving the sponsorship wrangle Shaun Pollocks side would struggle to book their berth in the final.
Well looking at these two teams it seems obvious both teams are peaking just about at the right time and to make a conclusion as to who could be the favourites to win tonight will be doubly difficult.
Looking at the imperious manner in which India disposed of England in that last Pool 4 game at the same venue on Sunday it will be very surprising if their could be any cricket lover who would prefer to stay without giving the nod in favour of a triumph by the Asian team over their African counterparts.
Their is no gainsaying the fact that India pretty much possess the finest batting line up of world cricket in both formats of the game at this moment.
A line up which comprises of the likes of Virendra Sehwag, Savrau Ganguly, V V S Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohamed Kaif should be a concerned lot at the finish next Sunday.
How Shaun Pollocks men could counter such an amazing batting card will be interesting to watch this evening.
India have already proved beyond any doubt they could chase any target set by their opponents.
And it seems even a target of 300 no longer seems to be beyond their reach as recent events would suggest.
In a cool summer evening in July at the headquarters of world cricket Lords a hitherto unsung hero by the name of Mohamed Kaif sprang into the world stage to cement his credentials in the Indian team as he steered his team to a sensational come from behind victory.
Gangulys team chased a gigantic England total of 325 in the Nat West Trophy final to win by 3 wickets as Kaif anchored their reply scoring a wonderful unbeaten 87.
And further evidence was proved of their prowess when chasing targets last Sunday as openers Virendra Sehwag and Saurab Ganguly hammered 192 for the first as they overhauled Englands score of 269 with almost 10 overs to spare to win by 8 wickets.
And it is clear the days where they solely relied on the magic wand of Sachin Tendulkar for success is all history now.
New stars have emerged in the India horizon that they could simply blitz whoever their rivals are on their day.
With a fine spin combination of leggie Anil Kumble and offie Harbajan Singh to support their two new ball duo of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, John Wrights charges have a well balanced look about their squad.
But a cause for concern for the Indian coach could be that their new ball duo of Khan and Nehra tends to go for a surfeit of runs at the slog overs and they will have to address that issue before taking on the South Africans.
As for the Proteas they have had no such concerns heading to todays crucial tie with India.
Though they had to come out with all stops against the West Indies where they had to pull off a thrilling last ball win they had it plain sailing over Kenya last Friday in their final pool game.
But the biggest test of their skills will come tonight on how they plan to strangle Indias awesome batsmen from piling up the runs.
It sure promises to be one hell of a game with South Africas reputed attack with the likes of Pollock, Donald, Kallis, Ntini and Klusener looking to curb Indias formidable array of batsmen.
If the Africans are to also have any chance of turning tables on India much will depend on how their front line batsmen,Grame Smith Herchelle Gibbs, Jacque Kallis, Boeta Dippenar and Jony Rhodes could master Indias varied attack today.
Their inherent weakness against quality spin on slow dusty pitches of the sub continent could come to light once more and the Proteas would do well to play according to a set game plan.
Overall the game promises to be a high octane clash and the makings are there to suggest this game could go right down to the wire.
As for a prediction it should be India.
This could be described as a grudge battle between two bitter rivals.
Australia have in the recent past got into the skins of Sri Lanka players by their nasty comments on some of Sri Lankas top notch players and added to that their refusal to honour their 1996 World Cup tie in Sri Lanka.
With spinner Shane Warnes bitter remarks on former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga and his subsequent on field antics have angered the Sri Lanka spectators so much so that they have resorted to booing Warne and his mates in their two pool matches at the SSC grounds.
But all those things apart going on present form Australia should fancy their chances against the hosts.
As skipper Rickey Ponting and Shane Warne have commented ahead of this semi final the world champions are not willing to write off Jayasuriyas side knowing well what they could expect come Friday.
A slow low dusty turner to go along with a vociferous crowd cheering the home team to the hilt, a sell out Stadium could turn this contest into a virtual final.
But to be honest Australia are a professional unit and they simply can not be put off their guard by the above reasons.
They are aware what needs to be done on a given day and fresh from their holiday in Maldive Islands they will be raring to go for the jugular of Dave Whatmores charges.
So what could be the answer for Sanath Jayasuriyas men on this day.
Well it seems the Islanders will look to their ace spinner Muralitheran and pace spearhead Vass to curb the free scoring Australians Hayden, Gilchirist , Ponting, Martyn and Bevan.
But the biggest question to be answered this Friday is what necessary ammunitions have the Lankans Jayasuriya, Attapattu, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, De Silva, Arnold and Chandana, got to nullify the attack comprising of Mcgrath, Gillespie, Lee Watson and Warne and the outcome of this game could hinge on that.
As for a prediction it should be Australia. [J K]
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