The ICC World Cup 2015 has already witnessed batting records being broken and world-class bowling spells. As the showpiece event proceeds towards its business end, we preview the four quarter-finals to be played from March 18 to March 21.
1st quarter-final: South Africa vs Sri Lanka
Ahead of the tournament, Sri Lanka weren't the favourites, but the kind of form Kumar Sangakkara is in, the Angelo Mathews-led side can certainly make life difficult for AB de Villiers and his boys as they lock horns at Sydney.
There is no doubt that South Africa are one of the strongest teams in world cricket on paper. They have two formidable batsmen at the top in Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis and AB can step up on the gas in latter part of the innings with his innovative style of play. Their bowling attack too is the best in the business with the troika of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander having the reputation of ripping through the best batting line-ups. However, Quinton de Kock's form at the top of the order and that missing fifth bowler are two areas the Proteas need to work upon.
Slowly but steadily, Sri Lanka have gained momentum in the quadrennial extravaganza. Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan have often got them to formidable starts and Kumar Sangakkara has further consolidated the innings with four centuries on the trot. The wicketkeeper-batsman can prove to be a big threat for South Africa. Sri Lanka have another experienced campaigner in Mahela Jayawardene, who is known to be a big match player. The Lankan bowling hasn't been up to the mark, with Lasith Malinga having just 10 wickets under his belt from six matches. With Rangana Herath being injured, the Lankans also miss out on a quality tweaker. If Malinga doesn't bowl at his best, the likes of Dushmanth Chameera and Seekkuge Prasanna are too inexperienced to trouble the Proteas batting line-up.
Players to watch out for:
South Africa: Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn
Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga
2nd quarter-final: India vs Bangladesh
The two Asian teams have played plenty of matches against each other and even though Bangladesh's performance in the tournament has been commendable, considering India's unbeaten run so far, MS Dhoni and his boys have a huge edge against the Tigers.
Bangladesh won praise from all corners after they registered a shock win against England. This was their second triumph against the Poms in World Cup history. Mahmudullah's form has been the highlight of their performance as the right-hander is in a purple patch having slammed two successive centuries against quality teams – England and New Zealand. A big knock from Tamim Iqbal is due and the Mashrafe Mortaza-led side would want the left-hander to raise his game in the knockout stages. Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan are two vital cogs in their batting line up and the duo would be expected to counter India's bowling attack. Bangladesh currently have their best ever pace attack in Mortaza, Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed. The pressure of playing in a knockout match of the prestigious event could get to their nerves, which has been the case with them over the years.
India on the other hand are undergoing a dream run where they have won six consecutive matches, which has made them the only unbeaten team in the tournament apart from New Zealand. Shikhar Dhawan's form was a matter of concern for the Men in Blue ahead of the World Cup, but the dynamic left-hander cranked his performances by a few notches as he already has two centuries to his name. Virat Kohli, India's most consistent performer over the years doesn't have too many big scores under his belt, but his form has been good and that can be ascertained from the fact that 33 is his lowest score so far in the tournament. Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina and skipper MS Dhoni have all played significant knocks and are likely to continue doing so. The form of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja has been under the scanner right throughout the series and only if these two can perform as per their potential, there is no reason why India can't continue their winning streak. The pace attack has been in sublime form right throughout the series and Dhoni would want Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma to keep delivering as a unit.
Players to watch out for:
India: Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Umesh Yadav
Bangladesh: Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan
3rd quarter-final: Australia vs Pakistan
Pakistan gained momentum in the latter part of the Pool matches and even though they have won four matches in a row, they are up against the mighty Aussies who are certainly the clear favourites to win the tournament.
The Misbah ul Haq-led squad got off to a poor start after they suffered two consecutive defeats against India and West Indies. There was a change of strategy by the think tank which worked for them as they defeated Zimbabwe, UAE, South Africa and Ireland in consecutive matches. Ahmed Shehzad has played some crucial innings at the top of the order, but it has been the form of Sarfraz Ahmed that has reduced the pressure on other batsmen. The wicketkeeper-batsman, who was a late inclusion in the squad, grabbed the opportunity with both hands despite missing out on a half-century by just one run against South Africa, the 27-year-old slammed the first ton by a Pakistani batsmen in the tournament. Misbah has four half-centuries to his name but he needs to improve his strike rate for which he has received severe criticism. Umar Akmal hasn't done much in the tournament and he would be expected to showcase his skills against the Aussies. In the absence of Mohammad Irfan, the seam attack of Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan will need to fire as a unit to unsettle the world class Australian batsmen. The form of Shahid Afridi is a matter of concern as the all-rounder hasn't been among the wickets (2 from six matches) and has failed terribly with the willow as well.
The Aussies on the other hand have a squad which comprises of several match winners. At the top of the order, they have two stupendous batsmen in Aaron Finch and David Warner who have scored a ton each in the tournament. Michael Clarke, Steve Smith have been in great form and Glenn Maxwell is one player who could once again demolish the opposition bowlers. Australia have two world-class all-rounders in Shane Watson and James Faulkner as a result of which they have massive depth in their batting. Such has been their form that players like George Bailey and Mitchell March are sitting on the bench. In the bowling department, Mitchell Starc has been the highlight of the tournament and with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Johnson in their ranks, Australia are likely to reach the semis without much hassle.
Players to watch out for:
Australia: David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz
4th quarter-final: New Zealand vs West Indies
Despite having some world-class all-rounders in their squad, the Windies haven't managed to show consistency in the tournament, which can work against them as they take on co-hosts New Zealand on their home turf.
Like always, Windies rely hugely on Chris Gayle and even though the swashbuckling left-hander played a record 215-run knock in the tournament, he isn't 100 percent fit and would be tested by the formidable Kiwi pace attack. A lot will depend on how Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo shape their innings. Darren Sammy and Andre Russell are two quality all-rounders in their squad, however their inconsistency is something which is hurting the team. The board's decision to appoint the young Jason Holder as the new skipper of the team raised many eyebrows ahead of the tournament, but the lanky right-arm pacer has played the role of a major all-rounder in the tournament so far. Jerome Taylor is another pacer who can generate some pace and he along with Holder will have to bowl the spells of their lives to combat in-form Kiwi batsmen.
The Kiwis were expected to do well in the tournament and the Brendon McCullum-led side have enthralled the cricket fans across the world with some breathtaking cricket. McCullum has been done maximum damage at the top of the order and the ton by Martin Guptill in their last Pool match against Bangladesh will give a lot of confidence to the entire team. Corey Anderson has been in great form right throughout the tournament and he will once again play a key role. The Kiwi bowling attack is one of the best in the business with Trent Boult and Tim Southee having already bowled some stunning spells. The veteran Daniel Vettori has brought his vast experience in the mix and while not many spinners have managed to make a mark, the left-armer has once again done the job for his team by picking wickets at regular intervals. The form of Ross Taylor is a matter of concern for the Black Caps and Kane Williamson too, needs to score a big knock.
Players to watch out for:
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, Trent Boult
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Jason Holder