/ 6 May 2010

Hard hitting elite eight go head to head in Caribbean

Fast, true pitches and some big hitting are expected over the next few days as the Twenty20 World Cup enters the Super Eight phase on Thursday.

While the un-favoured teams ended their participation at the tournament with Afghanistan’s loss to South Africa on Wednesday, the next phase is considered too tight to predict.

The crowds, thankfully much larger and livelier than for the World Cup in the region three years ago, can expect to see plenty of big hitting over the next four days when eight games will take place at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

The ground is the spiritual home of West Indian cricket, and after slow and low surfaces in Guyana, many of the players will be relishing the pace and bounce offered by the wicket.

“I think the wicket is really nice, it’s a wonderful ground to play on here in Barbados,” said Australia captain Michael Clarke. “It’s a really good pitch. There’s a little bit in it for everyone.

“For the fast men, there’s a bit of pace and bounce. For the spinners, there’s some spin and bounce as well.

“It depends how the bowler executes his skills. If he gets it wrong, he’ll get hit out of the park,” he said.

If pace gets rewarded in Barbados, Australia with Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes and Mitchell Johnson should expect to cause the Indian batting line-up some trouble on Friday.

But India’s top order, even without Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, has plenty of class as Suresh Raina illustrated in his outstanding century against South Africa.

England meet champions Pakistan in the first match of the second phase on Thursday, while South Africa and New Zealand play immediately afterwards.

Sri Lanka, who face hosts West Indies on Friday, are without injured spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, but have the variety of slow right-armer Ajantha Mendis as well as the dangerous pace of the slingy Lasith Malinga.

The Sri Lankans also have plenty of run-scoring potential and Mahela Jayawardene offered a reminder of his quality with a century against Zimbabwe that showed big scores don’t have to include wild slogs.

Home captain Chris Gayle would bring the biggest roars if he can get into his destructive rhythm but Australia’s David Warner, England’s Kevin Pietersen, and New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder are all also capable of aggressive batting.

The Super Eight phase moves on to St. Lucia on May 10, with the best four teams staying there for the semi-finals, before the final is back in Barbados on May 16.