India, Pakistan head closer to cricket WC collision
New Delhi: Bitter rivals India and Pakistan are on a World Cup collision course, but first the two neighbours have quarter-final hurdles to overcome as the marathon tournament enters its sixth week.
India take on defending champions Australia in Ahmedabad on Thursday while Pakistan face an inconsistent West Indies in Dhaka to kick-start the last eight stage on Wednesday. Victory for both Asian giants will set-up a semi-final blockbuster in Mohali on March 30.
New Zealand and South Africa meet in Dhaka on Friday before Sri Lanka and England clash in Colombo on Saturday as the World Cup, which staged its opening ceremony on February 17, comes down to the world`s eight top-ranked sides.
India`s 80-run win over the West Indies in Chennai on Sunday handed Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men a quarter-final against Ricky Ponting`s team in Ahmedabad. India have lost to Australia in nine out of 15 matches played on home soil in the last five years.
"Australia are a very strong side and very expressive on the field," said Dhoni. "But it`s about how we prepare. Preparation is very important and we are just thinking about that particular day and match rather than thinking about the result."
Pakistan, meanwhile, topped their qualifying group with 10 points. They will be overwhelming favourites to defeat West Indies who squeezed into the quarter-finals by virtue of a superior run-rate to Bangladesh. Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has cautioned his team against over-confidence after they secured top spot in Group A by ending Australia`s 34-match unbeaten World Cup run.
"After what we have achieved against Australia, now it?s a knockout system so we`ve got to really start building up again," said the coach. "We have to make sure we enjoy this victory, forget it and go to the next one fresh and think of the team we are going to face."
The West Indies are enduring a roller-coaster tournament. They were on the brink of victory against England in Chennai when, chasing a modest target of 244, they were comfortably placed at 222-6 before losing their last four wickets for three runs. Against India on Sunday, they caved in again as eight wickets fell for 34 runs after they were 154-2 and lost by 80 runs.
The West Indies have now lost 18 successive matches against the leading nations. New Zealand are hopeful that captain Daniel Vettori will be fit to face South Africa in Dhaka on Friday. Vettori was sidelined for the win over Canada and defeat against Sri Lanka after hurting his knee while fielding against Pakistan in Pallekele nearly two weeks ago. England have had a topsy-turvy tournament and will be underdogs against Sri Lanka who will be playing on home soil in Colombo on Saturday.
Ashes winners England tied with co-hosts India and beat a highly-fancied South Africa yet lost to both Ireland and Bangladesh in the group stage. They were then on the brink of elimination from the World Cup when the West Indies, chasing 244 for victory, were 222 for six at Chennai last Thursday. Yet England took four wickets for three runs to stay in the tournament. "In the last 12-18 months, when we`ve had matches we`ve got to win we`ve come out well," said England batsman Ian Bell. "I`m sure there are a lot of teams around that don`t really want to play England -- because they don`t quite know what they`re going to get at the minute."