One win will put Windies in
CHENNAI – There are as many permutations to settle the qualifiers for next week’s knockout, quarter-finals stage of the World Cup as to baffle a football pools addict but the West Indies know just what they must do to claim their place.
They face two tough remaining matches, both at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here, against England tomorrow and the host team India on Sunday when every vantage point will be taken in anticipation of Sachin Tendulkar completing the mind-boggling compilation of his 100th international hundred.
Win just one of those contests and the West Indies are through, lose both and their fate is likely to be determined by the outcome of Bangladesh’s final match against South Africa on Saturday in front of their tempestuous home supporters in the Sher Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka.
The inconsistent Bangladeshis, earlier routed for a record low 58 and trounced by nine wickets by the West Indies, have drawn level on six points through their pulsating win over England by two wickets last Friday and their more expected dismissal of winless Netherlands by six wickets in Chittagong yesterday.
The triumph, with 8.4 overs in hand, lifted their net run rate, to be used should two teams end the group on equal points. It remains so far short of West Indies’ (-0.785 to +2.206) that the only realistic combination to carry them through would be to beat South Africa and count on the West Indies succumbing to both England and India.
The topsy-turvy results of undeniably the stronger of the two groups give them some hope. They overcame their trauma against the West Indies to defeat England (fifth to their ninth on the ICC’s ODI ranking) in their next match.
England also lost to the associate entrant, Ireland (No.10) but beat South Africa (No.3) and tied with India (No.2). Such statistical detail should not concern the West Indies.
Their trickiest issue is the composition of their eleven on a pitch that yielded a low-scoring contest nine days ago when England (171 off 45.4 overs after being 58 for six) beat South Africa (165 off 47.4 overs following a seven for 41 late order collapse).
“There was a lot of turn and bounce there,” England captain Andrew Strauss noted afterwards, adding that he felt it “broke up a bit too much”.
South Africa copied the West Indies’ use of Sulieman Benn’s left-arm spin with the new ball by giving it to their equivalent, Robin Petersonm who promptly removed Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell in his first three overs.
Imran Tahir, their itinerant, Pakistan-born leg-spinner, followed up with four for 38 from 8.4 overs.
Although South Africa’s decisive meltdown was completed mainly by the seam bowlers, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Tim Bresnan, off-spinner Graeme Swann applied the pressure with the wicket of Graeme Smith for 29 from his ten overs.
So do West Indies make adjustments according to such intelligence, especially as Chennai has had uninterrupted 35-degree heat since the Cup started and the ground staff is having to devise methods to keep some moisture in the square?
Chris Gayle is recovering from the abdominal strain that kept him out of Friday’s victory over Ireland in Mohali so he should be ready to return.
Andre Russell took his place and acquitted himself impressively on a hard, true pitch, his pace, aggression and accuracy earning figures of 10-2-37-1. His one victim was top-scorer Ed Joyce, his stumps scattered by a spot-on yorker.
If Russell is retained, it would be for Nikita Miller, whose left-arm spin has made no impression in his two stints so far.
Given the evidence of the England-South Africa match, Davendra Bishoo’s leg-spin is also an attractive option.
He is completely new to international cricket and there is no more intimidating stage than the World Cup. Yet he is here, chosen for his wicket-taking potential, and every match from here on is critical.
To hear Swann at a media conference here, it is not the bowlers England fear but a couple of the batsmen. Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard “could have the day of their lives and post 300 regardless of the pitch,” he said.
It would be helpful as well for Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to find some form. In their three previous innings, they have been worryingly out of sorts.