Tuesday, March 06, 2007

World Cup Preview - Group A

  • Opinion: Write off the Aussies at your own peril. They have demonstrated over the years that they are the number one side in the game, and have done so by showing that they can pull out the stops when it really matters. Note their performances when down and out either in individual games in 2003, or in the tournament as a whole in 1999.
  • Ones to Watch: The whole lot of them. Michael Clarke has been warming up nicely, and we all know what Ponting, Hussey and Gilchrist can do. On the bowling front, Glenn McGrath and Stuart Clark have points to prove, and I expect them to make those points pretty emphatically.
  • Prediction: The game against South Africa will be key, and I expect Australia to be out to make a statement and finish first in the group. Can't bet against them for the semi-finals, and if Symonds and Hayden show up fit, then I think we're looking at finalists here.
South Africa
  • Opinion: I think this world cup is their big chance. Perennial bridesmaids, their disciplined, albeit often mechanical, approach may for once serve them well. Steady bowling on current day West Indian pitches works a treat, and they have plenty of batting depth to take advantage of the smaller grounds as well. The lack of a quality slow bowling option may not hurt them as much as one would normally expect.
  • Ones to Watch: Shaun Pollock is primed to be the most miserly bowler of the tournament, and Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis will no doubt do their thing, but I suspect much will depend on the mercurial Gibbs getting his act together, and the all-round talents of Justin Kemp helping to tip the balance in both disciplines.
  • Prediction: Second in the group, but I don't think that will matter, and they should be in the mix for the semi-finals.
  • Opinion: More than anything, the Netherlands will be looking to show that amongst the minnows of the tournament, they are top of the heap. Their world cup, experience aside, is going to boil down to the single game against Scotland, which could prove to be one of the best games of the first round. With a nice blend of experience and youth, they won't make it easy for either of the majors in the field, but, like all the weaker teams, the batting is likely to let them down. The star names are there, but the balance of the side isn't where they'd probably like to be.
  • Ones to Watch: All eyes are on the talented teenage batsman, Alex Kervezee, and I too will be looking to see if he is all that he's hyped up to be. THe team's fortunes, however, will rest squarely on the shoulders of Ryan ten Doeschate, the Essex all-rounder, with the support of Bas Zuiderent at the top of the order, and Tim de Leede with his canny medium pacers.
  • Prediction: I'll go out on a limb here and say that the Dutch are in for a big disappointment. Look for them to finish 4th in the group, and go back to the drawing board.
  • Opinion: Nobody pays any attention to the Scots, but they just came off a very successful showing in the WCL, losing to Kenya in the finals, having beaten the hosts earlier in the tournament. They have some momentum with them, and will be very confident, having pulled of a great victory against the Netherlands in that tournament too.
  • Ones to Watch: Frankly, I don't know enough about these guys to express an opinion, other than to say that the experience of Dougie Brown and Gavin Hamilton, both ex-England internationals will be expected to provide a guiding influence. Paul Hoffman with the ball, and Ryan Watson with the bat, have both been in great nick of late, despite being amongst the older contingent.
  • Prediction: I think they can build on their outings in Kenya and steal another victory over the Netherlands. 3rd in the group, though I don't think they'll beat Australia as their coach has suggested.

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