With the league matches done and dusted, after all the permutations and combinations have done their rounds, here's what the quarterfinal schedule looks like:
- Wednesday, March 23: Pakistan vs. West Indies at Dhaka, first quarterfinal.
- Thursday, March 24: India vs. Australia at Ahmedabad, second quarterfinal.
- Friday, March 25: New Zealand vs. South Africa at Dhaka, third quarterfinal.
- Saturday, March 26: Sri Lanka vs. England at Colombo (RPS), fourth quarterfinal.
Let's get down to a brief preview of the matches and my predictions.
Pakistan vs. West Indies
I've always said in my earlier articles that Pakistan is the dark horse of the tournament and one of my favorites to win.
When comparing the two sides, the West Indies seem to lack batting consistency and their bowling carries a little less sting than Pakistan's.
The Windies are still formidable, but will find themselves in over their heads against the passion and grit of the Pakistani team.
What's even more crucial is their mental make up: Pakistan is coming off a huge victory against Australia and the Windies are coming off a rather poor show against an ordinary Indian bowling attack.
I predict Pakistan will win.
Their batting has been "iffy," so to speak, but they make up in their bowling, fielding and sheer passion.
I think it will be enough to get them through this match.
India vs. Australia
The Indian bowling attack has been exposed for its mediocrity in recent weeks.
Having said that, the game against the West Indies is an indication that they might have found the right combination with Raina and Ashwin.
Another worrying factor is the Indian lower-middle order. They're working very hard at undoing the great start that the top and middle orders provide.
There is that lack of consistency, which will bite them if it continues.
As for Australia, the bump against Pakistan will have little or no effect on them.
I still think Australia is one of the contenders for the Cup—but against India, in India, their mettle is going to be tested.
I predict India will win.
My first instinct was to go with Australia and my first instincts are usually never wrong.
However, the more I think about it, I somehow picture Australia crumbling in this match.
Whether it's wishful thinking or just going by past performances by Australia in India, I think India will pull it off.
It won't be easy, but it's going to be a slobberknocker!
New Zealand vs. South Africa
New Zealand has done so well in their group and completely turned things around for themselves.
However, the real question is, can they continue to do it and overcome South Africa?
The South Africans have topped the group here; I think they're looking to really come hard and fast at the Kiwis.
The problems I see for NZ is their overall consistency.
If Ross Taylor fires and their bowling is kept reasonable, they should beat them.
South Africa are looking formidable as ever, peaking in all departments and must continue this trend if they're to go further.
I predict South Africa will win.
Again, New Zealand are good, but they may just not have enough to get through.
Sri Lanka vs. England
After the mauling that Sri Lanka gave the Kiwis, they're on a high and there's no doubt about it: Their bowling and batting has been excellent.
As for England, only they know how they got here.
Too many close calls and unconvincing wins. If they're to beat Sri Lanka, they need to really get into high gear, but I think they lack the focus to do that.
I predict Sri Lanka will win.
No doubt about it. There's really not much to say about England here anymore.
There you have it, folks. I see India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa in the semifinals.
Well, Cricket is a game where anything can happen!
I'd love to hear your thoughts and what your final four will look like.