World Cup show goes on under shadow of murder

Published: Monday, March 26, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Eight teams down, eight left and still five weeks to run in this World Cup marathon as the second round Super Eights gets underway on Tuesday.

But the murder of Bob Woolmer will overshadow whatever happens on the pitches of Antigua, Guyana, Grenada and Barbados as Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, England, West Indies and Ireland undergo a furious round of inter-island hopping, trying to secure semi-final places.

Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding, who played in the 1979 and 1983 World Cups, believes the 2007 tournament will be forever associated with the murder of the Pakistan coach.

"It's not something you should just brush under the carpet," said Holding. "It's a sad occurrence."

The Super Eights, where the remaining teams play six matches each, start in Antigua on Tuesday with hosts West Indies facing defending champions Australia at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium.

There are high hopes that the wicket at the new venue will have more life than the old Antigua Recreation Ground in St John's which boasted a notorious featherbed of a pitch.

Australia's attacking batsmen are in fine form having scored 334, 358 and 377 in their three wins over Scotland, Netherlands and South Africa in the first round.

"The West Indies are a very dangerous team, they are on home soil, they should know these conditions very well," said Australia captain Ricky Ponting who became the seventh player to pass 10,000 one-day runs in the win against South Africa.

"It starts now. Every step you take in this tournament becomes more and more exciting."

Sri Lanka have looked just as impressive as Australia, also winning three out of three, including a crucial triumph over a disappointing India who were knocked out after Bangladesh grabbed the second qualifying place in Group B.

But Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene is quick to quash comparisons with the 1996 World Cup winning team.

"That 1996 side was an amazing team," said Jayawardene.

"They just outplayed everybody. They created new waves in one-day cricket. They did a brilliant job.

"But things have changed. There are lots of good sides and you can't make any mistakes."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith, whose team starts their second round campaign against Sri Lanka in Guyana on Wednesday, insists his quest for a first World Cup title is still on track despite the defeat to Australia.

"A victory would have been terrific, but there is still so much cricket to be played in this tournament," said Smith after the Aussies secured an extra two points to take into the Super Eights.

"One of our strengths is our ability to pick ourselves up."

New Zealand are the other team in the last eight with three wins out of three and an extra two points to carry forward.

But they suffered a double blow on Sunday. They had to call up Chris Martin to replace injured seamer Daryl Tuffey while opening batsman Lou Vincent fractured his wrist and has been ruled out.

The Black Caps still have a potent pace-spin attack of Shane Bond, who inadvertently caused Vincent's downfall in the Antigua nets, and Daniel Vettori.

England finished second to the Kiwis in their first round group and take on surprise qualifiers Ireland in their Super Eight opener in Guyana on Friday.

Ironically, Ed Joyce will open the batting for England having switched allegiances from Ireland whom he helped to reach the finals here.

But Ireland insist they are not bitter over losing Joyce.

"We would treat that as an example for young cricketers in Ireland to try and follow," said team manager Robert Torrens.


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