India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and surprise , surprise, New Zealand are the semi finalists. Its a celebration for the sub continent teams as all of them came through in conditions most favorable to them . Whereas India outclassed Australia in a close ,tense match, Pakistan and Sri Lanka demolished the West Indies and England respectively. Biggest upset though was caused by the Kiwis . The South Africans simply collapsed as is their forte. Apparently, its come to a stage where every time there is a knock out , SA just collapse. The media, their opponents, the crowd - no one allows them to forget the dreaded 'C' word. Lets not take anything away from the Kiwis though. Lets look at the first semi -final then, between the Lankans and Kiwis.By the way, its their 6th World Cup semifinal . Exceptional for a country with just 4 million people and cricket not being their primary sport! Its like having a cricket team comprised of players from Jayanagar, Basavangudi, Indiranagar, Malleshwaram and Koramangala!
The visitors face an extremely challenging task of playing at the dancing and partying Premadasa, which is also THE Lanka fort! Home pressure also counts for something as was evident when the Lankans dropped Morgan 3 times but their superior batting led them through .
From the Kiwis side, Ryder and Taylor hold the key. Brendon Mccullum has promised much but delivered so little. Their lower middle order with the young but extremely talented Williamson, the quarter final man of the match, Jacob Oram and the captain himself, Vettori is very much capable of piling up the runs but can the big question is whether they can do it against Lanka's spin. Sri Lanka like in the quarter finals , will surely field 3 spinners and tackling them might be really tough on a slow and low wicket tailor made for the home team. Add Malinga's slingas to the mix and the entire match might be decided by whether the Kiwis will be able to handle Lanka's bowling.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka's top order is in unbelievable form - Dilshan, Tharanga and the golden 2 - Sanga and Mahela - with the top 3 in the top 5 scorers' list of this World Cup but if the Kiwis are somehow able to get through to the middle order , then the game might turn out to be interesting. The Kiwis won't forget the 2007 World Cup when they started off excellently but were done in by a Mahela Jayawardene master class. As always, Mahela and their inspirational captain Kumara Sanagakara are the key predators in their line up. Much will also depend on the field placements off Vettori . Having atleast 6-7 extremely athletic and flexible fielders would surely save 10-20 runs for the Kiwis but field placements are the key. On the bowling front, the black caps will field 3 spinners in Vettori , the younger and currently more accomplished Mccullum and I forget the 3rd bloke. It is going to be a battle between spin of the 2 sides and Lanka's top order vs Kiwis' middle and lower middle order!
Best way for Kiwis to pull off an upset (again)? - Taylor/Mccullum tackle Lanka's spinners and the Kiwi bowlers get the top 4 of Lanka out before the half way mark.
Best way for Lanka to pull off a victory - Top order tears apart Kiwis' bowling . Mahela and Sanga milk their bowling with their spinners going on the prowl during their bowling stint and Malinga running through the lower order.
Key questions - Will Muralidaran play ? Can the Lankans soak in the home pressure and the Kiwis' dare devil attitude to conquer ? We will know in the next 24 hours but If I have to put my money on one of the teams, it has got to be Sri Lanka with a 64% chance . You ask me how ? Well, I ran a complex algorithm starting with the Diffie Hellman Algorithm followed by running the player's statistics against a complex statistical analyser. Do you want to know more ???
Anyway, the stage is set then for a very colorful 1st semi final ,which is almost a blessing in disguise especially because the entire world is probably looking at the 2nd one!