Cape Town: Sri Lanka and the West Indies face off in a key World Cup showdown on Friday as the nail-biting race for the Super Sixes from group 'B' moves into the last stretch. The winner of the day-night game at Newlands will be assured of a place in the second round while the loser could take an early flight home. New Zealand, who defeated Bangladesh on Wednesday, joined Sri Lanka and Kenya on top of the group with 12 points each, two ahead of the West Indies and four clear of hosts South Africa. Any of these five teams could take the three Super Sixes berths from the group depending on how the result of the remaining six matches go.
Sri Lankans dug themselves into a hole following their shock 53-run defeat at the hands of Kenya in Nairobi on Monday, while the West Indies appear to have slipped after defeating South Africa in the tournament opener. The brilliant 67-ball century by Canada's John Davison, the fastest hundred in the history of the tournament, exposed the limitations of the West Indian bowling attack. Captain Carl Hooper, however, dismissed suggestions that the bowling should be beefed up by the inclusion of seamer Jermaine Lawson in place of the out-of-form Chris Gayle. "Yes, we have those two problems," Hooper said. "We have got the opening slot which has not been productive so far this tournament but I am hoping that it will come good.
"I am sure that we will get into the next round, that means we have three more games, hopefully we will also have a semi-final and the final. "So there is a lot of time for Gayle and Wavell Hinds and I am sure that in time they will get some runs." Hooper, however, conceded the close race for the Super Sixes had his team on its toes. "If we had any thoughts or complacency about how tough it's going to be for the next couple of weeks, I think the game against Canada was a good wake-up call for us," he said. "If we thought for a minute that it was going to be a piece of cake to beat Sri Lanka...then maybe we should sit down and check our attitudes and the way we are approaching the One-day game." The West Indians were hit badly when their game against Bangladesh was washed out, costing them two valuable points, after losing to New Zealand.
Brian Lara and Hinds have shown good form with the bat, but the meagre West Indian bowling resources have found it tough to defend the runs. They now come up against Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya, one of the most explosive batsmen in the game, and a line-up that loves to go for strokes. "We've just to be more accurate," Hooper said. "When you play a guy like Jayasuriya, if you're not accurate enough, he can punish you." Sri Lanka, meanwhile, hope to get over the loss to Kenya and win at least one of its remaining games against the West Indies and South Africa to stay in the tournament. "We would have been comfortably placed had we beaten Kenya, but now the pressure is on us to defeat the West Indies and South Africa," Jayasuriya said. With Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan in top form, the main worry for the Sri Lankans is the batting after they were shot out for 157 chasing Kenya's modest 210 for 9. Copyright AFP 2001