The country that invented the game, the one that has played it best and the one that now fancies itself as the centre of the cricket universe. England, Australia and India, your teams took one heck of a beating. Unless New Zealand upset Sri Lanka tomorrow at Trent Bridge, Kumar Sangakkara’s men will join South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies in the last four. Of those sides, South Africa are the odd men out, never having won a World Cup. And if it’s Pakistan that they face in a Trent Bridge semi-final, they might well struggle against the spin of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal.
Both Pakistan and West Indies have lost twice and looked far from intimidating in patches. But what they have done, as on Monday against Ireland and England, is raise their games at opportune moments. West Indies hammered Australia and Indies, and saw off England thanks to Messrs Duckworth and Lewis, while Pakistan have beaten Ireland and the Netherlands in addition to trouncing New Zealand. As Imran Khan’s team showed the world in 1992, it doesn’t really matter which route you take to the semi-finals. If you can turn it on for the two games that matter, nothing that went before will count for anything.
Inconsisent, mercurial and infuriating are common adjectives when it comes to Pakistani and Caribbean cricket, but they’re still standing. England, India and Australia, who take the biggest slices of the Future Tours Programme for themselves, must now watch and see just how the mavericks go against the two class acts of the competition, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The game of cricket is healthier for it.