Champions Trophy: England Vs South Africa! India Vs Sri Lanka!

On Monday the full semifinal line-up has finally been completed for the ICC Champions Trophy- 2013 currently on in England and Wales. On Sunday in a crucial Group A encounter England faced with elimination if defeated managed to beat New Zealand by 10 runs in a rain-curtailed match reduced to just 24 overs each side and booked a berth in the semis—the first team in that group to do so amassing 4 points. New Zealand with 3 points missed the bus thanks to their wickets falling in heaps, but stuck on to their hopes that Australia beat Sri Lanka and stay below NZ's much better net run-rate.

Mercifully there was no rain threat on Monday yesterday. Australia put Sri Lanka in winning the toss to be perhaps on a better position to track the required run-rate for a semis berth. For Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jaywardene played a superb innings of 84 runs batting tactically lower down the order and brought his team into real contention. Set a competitive target of 254 runs to win Australia pushed hard aiming to haul it up within 30 overs ensuring victory as well as place in the last four. But they lost too many wickets in the effort and when they were out of contention for semis past 30 overs the real agony began for Sri Lanka.

At 168/8 a win for Sri Lanka seemed a mere formality. However the last two Aussie pairs—AC Voges (49) and CJ McKay (30) for 24 runs for the ninth wicket and then McKay and XJ Doherty (15 not out) for the last wicket partnership of 41 runs—had better ideas and fought real hard for a honorable victory not bothering how improbable or impossible that looked. The hapless Sri Lankan bowlers tried every trick under the sun, but to no avail. The last dogged pair brought their team within 21 runs of an incredible win. The Aussies were in no hurry as there was a huge number of balls left. The vocal Sri Lankan supporters fell into deathly silence and the clueless Sri Lanka cricketers started appealing pitifully for everything. They knew that an Aussie win would eliminate them and put New Zealand in the semis. Finally when a desperate Dilshan leapt to his left to take a brilliant catch of his own bowling it was more relief than ecstasy in the celebrations! This pulsating phase brought out the excitement of cricket that could make you bite your nails irrespective of your team loyalty. Sri Lanka entered the semifinals for the sixth time in the last eight world cricket tournaments.

So then, England meet South Africa in the first semifinal to be played tomorrow, the 19th of June at the Kennington Oval in London and India meet Sri Lanka for the second one to be played in Cardiff on Thursday the 20th of June. The grand final between the winners would be played on 23rd June at Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The first semifinal is evenly poised as both England and South Africa had to struggle to meet each other. While England would be enjoying the home advantage South Africa would try hard to shake off the ‘chokers’ tag this time. Playing their main attack bowler Dale Steyn is more or less confirmed. 

Labeled the best team of the tournament so far India enjoys an edge over Sri Lanka. Team India looks more balanced and stronger than Sri Lanka at the moment. In fact, India would have felt better to face their traditional rival rather than New Zealand—an unpredictable entity capable of turning the tables against any team on their day. Sri Lanka would hope for great knocks from Sangakkara and Mahela and for their attacking bowlers including Malinga prominently to fire. The sub-continental cricket fans are waiting for the big encounter with abated breath.


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