Monday, September 25, 2006

It's now only 12 days before the first qualifier for the ICC Champions Trophy. On October 7th Sri Lanka take on minnows Bangladesh at in Mohali, the question is; will having to qualify be an advantage, essentially acting as 3 warm-up games in Indian conditions for Tom Moody's men?
The Sri Lankan top order have all showed stonking form recently in both the one-day and test area. Openers Jayasuria and Tharanga have both made 4 one-day centuries in the last 12 months. In the middle order Sangakkara and skipper Jayawardene recently shared a test partnership of 624 runs against the South Africans at Columbo. Down the order and Dilshan is averaging just under 35 at a high strike-rate of 89 runs per hundred balls in the last 12 months.
Fast bowler Malinga took 4 wickets in 5 deliveries including a hat-trick fo rthe Sinhalese Cricket Club under 23 squad today. Muralitharan is fit, pace bowler Fernando has been looking good, all-rounder Maharoof has been in form and Vaas can be relied upon to bowl as accurate as ever.
Unlike the Aussies and Indians the Sri Lankans will get three 'warm-up' games, in Indian conditions, against international opponents right before the serious stuff starts. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are unlikey to hinder their progress to qualification. If the Sri Lankans can hit the ground running, finding form for their batsmen and rhythym for their bowlers, having to qualify might actually prove to be an advantage.
Many of the big names in the the tournament arrive in India for the group stages having spent little or no time at the crease in recent months. If Sri Lanka beat the West Indies on October 14th, which is highly likely given the form of their players, they will also find themselves in the easiest group for the first stage of the tournament.
Expect the Sri Lankans to beat New-Zealand and one of either South Africa or Pakistan to go through to the semi-finals of the tournament. There expect them to face either the Aussie's or India.
Sri Lanka can beat any team on their day, as they have so often proven. With so many match-winning batsmen in their team, the genius of Muralitharan, Indian spinning conditions and 3 easy warm-up games to get them on a roll, don't consider it all that bigger upset if they make the final, or even lift the trophy.


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