On Tuesday, Australia beat Bangladesh by seven wickets to register their first win in the tournament and not return home empty-handed. In the second game thereafter, West Indies thrashed Pakistan by 84 runs to storm into the semi-finals.
Contest of the Day
It is tough to understand who was more impressive on the day, Dwayne Bravo or Darren Sammy. The former has been in patchy form in this tournament, while the latter has been the most dangerous batsman in their lower-middle order for some time.
On this particular day, the West Indies were in so much trouble that they needed them both in equal measure to climb out of the deep trouble opposition bowlers had pushed them into. And they didn’t disappoint.
Given the format, the real contest of this game was always going to be how the West Indies batsmen took on the Pakistan slow bowlers. They were in some bother at 81 for five in the 14th over, before Bravo and Sammy unleashed an assault that shell-shocked their opposition.
They took 82 runs in the last five overs, turning the match-momentum on its head, and forcing Pakistan to wilt, not surrender.
The West Indies have real know-how of the way this shortest format works and despite losing their big-hitting top order for too few runs, they knew that they still had the wherewithal to post a competitive total to challenge the Pakistan batting. That score would have been 140-145, with the ball stopping a bit on these slow pitches.
When they got to 166 for six in 20 overs, it was amply clear that Pakistan needed more than smart hitting to win this game. And they failed, not only because the momentum had shifted, but they lacked the basic discipline to play out a patient innings and try to be competitive.
First Semi-Final - Sri Lanka vs West Indies
For the first time in the history of this competition, Pakistan have not made it to the last four. But there are still two teams in here, able enough to take the trophy back to the sub-continent.
Sri Lanka will be in action on Thursday against the defending champions, a repeat of the 2012 final, and this is a contest that much replicates the one where the West Indies played against Pakistan.
While Sri Lanka will be looking for revenge, they will do well not to get carried away. After all, the West Iindies do know how to beat them and they will not be duly worried by the spin threat possessed by their opposition. Nor will they fear Lasith Malinga, who was taken to the cleaners by Marlon Samuels two years ago, or any other bowler that Sri Lanka might deploy, Rangana Herath included.
It is down to their long batting line-up, one that is quite dangerous, that the Windies can boast of this fearless attitude. They were woken up by that jibe from James Faulkner and the way they have performed in the matches against Australia and Pakistan, no one can put money against them winning back-to-back titles.
At the same time Sri Lanka have lost a bit of momentum, beaten by England in a high-scoring contest. Then their batting failed against New Zealand as well even though they won that match comprehensively in the end.
In that light, they will at least be happy playing on slower tracks on Mirpur, but again that will be nullified by the presence of Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine in the opposition ranks.
At least there won’t be any dew to contend with, in this otherwise near-equal clash.
Second Semi-Final – India vs South Africa
The Proteas will be relieved to get rid of the dewy conditions in Chittagong as well, but they will have a harder time adjusting to the conditions in Mirpur, as compared to Sri Lanka.
They only boast of one proper spinner in their attack, Imran Tahir, and he will go up against arguably the best batting line-up against such bowling form. But it is the Indian bowling that has pinned the tag of favourites on the men in blue, and not their batting, surprisingly.
The conditions in Dhaka, playing on slower tracks and under lights, not only suit their spinners but their medium pacers as well. Not to mention, thanks to the outing against Australia, their entire batting line-up is firing now and they have got their combination bang on.
It is not to say that South Africa will not provide a handsome challenge to the 2007 champions, given how they have been gaining slow momentum whilst winning matches they should have lost.
But in a straight battle, there is no doubting which team goes in with the upper hand in this contest, despite the great equaliser that is this particular slam-bang format.
© Cricket World 2014