With just a few days to go for the World Cup 2011, fans are in for a taste of things to come as another round of warm-up matches for the big tournament is all set to kick off on Tuesday, Feb 15. It is the time for afficianados to rehearse their chants and slogans and for the teams to orient themsleves while individual players shrug off the scourge off injury and ill-form. The dress rehearsal to the big show is underway as the cricketing battalions assemble their troops and get ready to put their respective armouries to the test.
Kenya Vs Netherlands
Starting Time: 9:30 am IST
Despite the fact that Kenya is the more accomplished side, it has only won 2 of its 7 encounters against the Netherlands. The eastern African side's most comprehensive win against the Europeans came on Jan 31, 2007 when the former bowled out their opponents for 131 in 46.2 overs and then reached the target in 32.1 overs with 7 wickets and 107 balls to spare. Kenyan fast bowler Thomas Odoyo was the star of the match, ensaring 3/29.
The last time these two teams met in a one-day fixture was on Jul 3, 2010 when Kenya lost to the resurgent Dutch convincingly, by 117 runs. In that encounter, the Netherlands made a modest total of 200 (with a good hand of 92 off 89 balls from Alexei Kervezee), but then bundled out the opposition for a mere 112 in 30 overs, with fast bowlers Borren and Adeel Raja (who is in the current team) taking 2 wickets a piece.
In Tuesday's World Cup warm-up, Kenya will have to watch out for batsmen Bas Zuiderentg and Kervezee, each of who have a fifty against the Kenyans, while the Dutch will have to be wary of players like Peter Ongondo who has 77 wickets from 77 ODIs, Odoyo and all-rounder Collins Obuya.
Ireland Vs Zimbabwe
Starting time: 9:30 IST
Zinmbabwe leads Ireland 3:1 on wins, but the latter has not shied away from showing its mettle against these opponents. However, the most thumping defeat that Zimbabwe has inflicted on the Irish came not so long ago, on Oct 17, 2008. On that day, Zimbabwe was in its element as opener Hamilton Masakadza and middle-order bat Tatenda Taibu notched up 72 and 74 repectively to take their side to a humongous 303/8 while the Irish could only manage 147 all out in reply, thus losing the match by a huge margin of 156 runs.
But the Irish have learnt how to tackle the Zimbabweans since and in their last one-day engagement, which was on Sep 30, 2010, the Irish won by 20 runs. William Porterfield and John Mooney led the charge with 46 and 55 respectively to make 244, before Kevin O'Brian wreaked a considrable amount of havoc with 3/27 to help bowl out the opposition for 224 in 47.4 overs.
Going by Ireland's strong showing on Saturday when they went down fighting against the Kiwis, all of their top order seem to be in prime and dangerous form, especially captain/opener William Porterfield. Zimbabwe's best chance to effect a win against the Irish is for their openers Brendon Taylor and Charles Coventry to go after the latter's slightly sub-standard bowling. They will have to bat well, considering they themselves don't have much of a bowling attack to speak of, with perhaps the exception of paceman Chris Mpofu.
Bangladesh Vs Pakistan
Starting time: 2:00 pm IST
There is not much of a comparison between these two sides as Pakistan is far and away the more consistent winner, having claimed victory in 25 out of 26 matches. The one surprise defeat to Bangladesh came as far back as the 1999 World Cup when they romped home by 62 runs in a match in which spinner Khaled Mahmud took 3/31. The minnow's worst loss to Pakistan followed soon afterward, when on June 2, 2000, the margin of defeat was 233 runs. Pakistan had compiled a massive 320 thanks largely to 80s from Imran Nazir and Yousuf Yohana, before skittling out Bangladesh for 87 in 34.2 overs with seamer Abdul Razzaq taking 3/5 in 4 overs.
Since then, Bangaldesh's performances don't seem to have improved very much against these opponets. In their last encounter against each other, which was on June 21, 2010, Pakistan surged to 385 with a 124 off 60 balls from Shahid Afridi, before restricting Bangladesh to 246/5. However, Pakistan would still have to be cautious when the Bangladeshi spin twins of Abdur Razzak and Shakib Al Hasan come on as the two have been in devastating form, while Bangladesh in turn will have to find some way of putting the schackles on Pakistan's more explosive batsmen, Afridi being prime among them.
South Africa Vs Australia
Starting time: 2:30 pm IST
The rivalry between these two teams is legendary and it goes without saying that they are even-matched. Australia leads South Africa in the head-to-head by 39 wins to 35. But since the last World Cup, the Proteas have claimed victory in 7 of their 10 encounters. During that period, South Africa have had their worst defeat and biggest win in the space of just two days. On Apr 3, 2009, Australia made 286/7 courtesy a useful hand of 83 from Mike Hussey, before bowling out the Proteas for 145 in 33.1 overs, thus romping home by 141 runs.
But 48 hours later, SA returned the compliment by skittling the Aussies out for 131 in 40.2 overs (with pacemen Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell taking 4 wickets each) and then overhauling the total in 26.2 overs. However, the team from Down Under has a slight edge over their opponents from the Rainbow Nation as the former has won their very last encounter against the latter. In that match, Australia surged to 303/7, thanks in part to Michael Clarke's 66 off 60 balls, after which they bowled out the Proteas for 256 in 45.5 overs, Gibbs 82 off 101 balls going in vain, while fast bowler Mitchell Johnson took 3/58.
The contest between these two sides is going to be intense as several players from both teams are in good form. They each also have renowned pace batteries which is going to be crucial towards a win. Australia's losing Michael Hussey to an injury could be the decisive factor. Regardless, a very exciting match is in the offing on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka Vs West Indies
Starting Time: 9:30 am IST
While the West Indies leads Sri Lanka with 26 wins to 20 in the overall head-to-head comparison, each side has won 2 matches since May 2007. The Windies defeated Sri Lanka twice in the space of three days at Port of Spain in April 2008 - by 1 wicket in exactly 50 overs and then more comfortably by 7 wickets with 27 balls to spare. But earlier this month, Sri Lanka effected a strong reply, winning two matches on the trot against the Windies, one by 8 wickets with 27 balls left and the other by 26 runs.
In this last series, it was the West Indies' Ramnaresh Sarwan who surprisingly was the highest run-getter, with an average of 49 from the two matches while Sri Lankan opener Upal Tharanga got the second-most number of runs with 140. Lankan fast man Lasith Malinga was far and away the most successful bowler in that series, taking 6 wickets from 2 matches at just 13.50 runs per scalp, while Windies off-break Sulieman Benn came in second with 4 wickets at an even better average of 9.50. So, these will all be key-men for their respective sides in Wednesday's game.