We now review the sides who have made it through to the Super Eight stage of the World Cup and what we can learn from the performances so far.
Phenomenal batting line-up: Matthew Hayden has been reborn as a One Day International opener and along with the destructive Adam Gilchrist forms the most explosive opening partnership in world cricket. The best player in the world comes in next in the shape of Ricky Ponting, followed by an ever improving Michael Clarke at four. Andrew Symonds of course needs no introducing as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Then comes the dependable Michael Hussey, who will not remain runless for long and the powerful Shane Watson. This batting line up is the best in limited overs cricket and can win matches alone.
Awesome fielding: Symonds, Clarke, Ponting and Watson form the best inner ring in world cricket.
Bowling: Yes there is a visible weakness. Glenn McGrath can be taken apart by classy opposition and Shaun Tait and Watson can often prove expensive. Brad Hogg is an experienced campaigner, but he is not up there with the best spinners in world cricket. Currently, only Nathan Bracken is a reliable performer with the ball. They miss Brett Lee.
Star so far: Matthew Hayden.
One to four: In Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya Sri Lanka have another of the world’s more explosive opening pairings and followed by Mahela Jayawardene at three and the world’s best wicket keeper batsman at four, Kumar Sangakkara, they offer a first rate top order.
Bowling variety: Chaminda Vaas is one of the best with a new white ball and everybody knows what the world’s best spinner can do. In Muttiah Muralitharan Sri Lanka have a bowler who can win matches single handedly. Lasith Malinga is brilliant at the death and possesses a deadly in-swinging yorker. Meanwhile, Sanath Jayasuriya’s slow left arm spin and Tillakaratne Dilshan’s offspin complete a well varied attack.
Fielding: Exceptional, likely the best going. Almost every player contributes in the field, even the 37 year old Jayasuriya!
Lower order batting power: For all the class of the top four, if you get them early, there is not much to come in terms of a blistering batsman down the order. Although Chamara Silva at five is capable of rapid scoring, as he proved recently against New Zealand, he, Dilshan and Russell Arnold can not be described as power players and they can struggle to take advantage of the last overs if one of the top four is not still around.
New ball partner and fifth bowler: For all of Vaas’ quality there is no obvious partner for him in the Sri Lankan side when he is bowling with the new ball. Furthermore, the fifth bowler can prove to be a problem for Sri Lanka with both Farveez Maharoof and Dilhara Fernando not quite up to standard. Prehaps Malinga Bandara’s leg spin could yet come in handy.
Star so far: Muttiah Muralitharan.
Batting depth: South Africa usually bat a long way down, with Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall nestling at eight and nine respectively. Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers are deadly when they fire and with explosive players such as Herschelle Gibbs, Mark Boucher and Justin Kemp dotted between the rocks, Jaques Kallis and Ashwell Prince, they are capable of posting imposing totals.
Pace attack: Makaya Ntini, Pollock, Andrew Hall, Kallis and Charle Langevelt form a lethal pace attack for South Africa and that is without the aggressive Andre Nel. Given a helpful wicket, they will exploit it.
Opening combination: AB de Villiers has yet to really settle as an opener and this can lead to problems.
Missing Spinner: South Africa often go into games with no front line spinner, instead relying on Graeme Smith’s part time offies if they hit trouble. When they do play a spinner problems arise, firstly it weakens there batting line up as in the game against Sri Lanka and secondly the spinner in question, Robin Peterson, is not one of the game’s finest.
Star so far: Graeme Smith.
Batting depth: Another side that bats a long way down. With centuries to both of their names, Daniel Vettori and James Franklin can not be taken lightly and the sheer number of great allrounders in this Kiwi side allow them to bat to the bottom if they desire.
Bowling options: The pace of Shane Bond, the experience of Daniel Vettori, the left arm of James Franklin, the death ability of Mark Gillespie, the canniness of Jeetan Patel, the bounce of Jacob Oram and the accuracy of Scott Styris make this Kiwi side a very dangerous proposition when it comes to trying to score runs quickly against them.
Tactical nous: Stephen Fleming is the most intelligent captain in the world and his field placings demonstrate that.
Injuries: Having already lost Darryl Tuffey, Kyle Mills and Lou Vincent to injury, the Kiwis can not afford to suffer any more misfortune. There are though constant fitness worries over Oram and Bond and as the tournament progresses they may start to struggle.
An opening bowler and an opening batsman light perhaps: Running on from the injury problems, New Zealand do not seem to have a settled opening partnership with either bat or ball and if often shows.
Star so far: Scott Styris.
Middle order: With a line up from four to six of Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff, England have a middle order which most teams would die for. They need to come in with time to play with and runs on the board though.
Captaincy: A fit Michael Vaughan is second only to Fleming as a captain and he is as successful a captain as England have ever had in ODI’s.
Impetuous youth: England have a lot of young players and they are hungry for success, just listen to Ravi Bopara.
Top order batting: Much has been made of England’s woes at the top and rightfully so. Suffering from the reverse problem that Sri Lanka do, England have no power players up front. For all the skills that Michael Vaughan, Ed Joyce and Ian Bell have, exploiting the powerplays is not really one of them. Platform’s are good, but only if one of those top three players goes on until the end. They rarely do. It is crying out for Pietersen to move up to three.
Bowling depth: James Anderson, Monty Panesar and Andrew Flintoff are brilliant bowlers and wicket takers. Without back up though, opposition players can afford to see them off. England are undecided on who to bowl with them and both Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood have been expensive, whilst Collingwood is not always suited to the conditions. Jamie Dalrymple was tried and failed abysmally, whilst Bopara is still very raw, though a talent. A settled bowling line up that can take wickets throughout the innings is a must and England must find it soon.
Star so far: James Anderson.
Individual brilliance: In Brian Lara, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul the Windies have the individual class to knock over the best of sides.
Home soil and support: Should the Windies get on a roll, the support will drop in behind them. They have to get rolling first though.
Too many weak links: For the all the individual brilliance, the West Indies are not a brilliant team. Marlon Samuels batting at four is an obvious sign of the deterioration in West Indian cricketing brilliance. Why Lara bats so low at five is a mystery, but it simply encourages collapses. Dwayne Smith appears to be a very limited batsman, despite his excellent fielding and doubts remain over the abilities of Dinesh Ramdin and Lendl Simmons. In the bowling department, a spinner is obviously lacking and the pace men are just too inconsistent and nothing like the stars of yesteryear.
Reliance on bits and pieces: The Windies rely on using the bowling of the likes of Gayle, Smith and Samuels to regularly get them through their fifty overs. There just simply is not enough of a threat there to disturb the best international opposition. They must play the promising Jerome Taylor, but do not ultimately have the pace attack to compensate for their lack of spin options, unlike South Africa.
Star so far: Brian Lara.
Youthful exuberance and spin options.
Inexperience and over-zealousness with the bat.
Star so far: Mashrafe Mortaza.
Passion and ability to exploit bowler’s wickets.
Lack of quality batting depth.
Star so far: Jeremy Bray.