When Pakistan played at Port Elizabeth around two months ago, it was the only pitch where we were able to score 300-plus. The wicket has changed dramatically since then. Teams have struggled to get even 200 at St George’s Park during the World Cup.
The Australians have complained about the unsuitability of the ground, and they do have a point. A World Cup game and particularly a semi-final should be played on a track that is true and batsman-friendly. These are top games, therefore factors like the toss and a slow wicket shouldn’t mar the game.
If the evidence of Australia’s games against England and New Zealand is anything to go by, the defending champions will be praying Ricky Ponting wins the toss.
If that happens they will bat first, and this should negate the impact of Muttiah Muralidharan. The Australians are still in smashing form, and I think players like Matthew Hayden cannot be discounted at all. He is a very good player of spin and could have a big role here. Hayden’s technique is superior and he can be a dangerous customer.
I was particularly impressed with Brett Lee, who extracted prodigious reverse swing against New Zealand. The Australians have never tried to reverse in the past, and seeing the way the ball was darting back, the control and pace suggests that Lee has been working on this for some time. The wicket at St George’s Park is pretty dusty, and I think reverse swing could play an important part in the game yet again on Tuesday.
For the Sri Lankans, Muralidharan must fire. If the pacemen are going for plenty he must come in in the first 15 overs itself. I know that he does this rarely, but for a change he must try this, because if the Australians get off to a good start, they are almost sure to pull away to a good score, and then the Sri Lankans will have a tough time.
The Indians must be pleased that they are meeting Kenya in the semi-finals. At least now they must not be worried about the fact that theirs is a day-night semi-final.
Of course the Indians did get a scare early in their run chase against the Kenyans during their Super Six match, but they must be favoured to make the finals against a raw Kenya.
Recriminations and post mortems continue in the host country. I always felt that Shaun Pollock is a fine captain, and it is sad to see him go like this.
Our own team to Sharjah is yet to be announced, and since I have not announced my retirement, I guess I am still in the fray. Right now I’m in a farmhouse far away from Lahore trying to decide on my future.