CWC15: Cup chase heats up as knockout stage begins

After 42 matches in four weeks spread across 14 cities and two countries separated by sea, the Cricket World Cup has reached the quarterfinal stage and cut six teams.

Co-hosts New Zealand finished unbeaten atop Pool A, including a low-scoring one-wicket win over four-time champions Australia, and defending champions India won six straight to top Pool B, an amazing form reversal after they failed to win a single competitive match on Australian soil in the two months leading up to the World Cup. 

So, the quarterfinals will kick off Wednesday with 1996 champions Sri Lanka against South Africa – who have never won a knockout match at the World Cup – followed by India vs. Bangladesh in Melbourne, Australia vs. Pakistan in Adelaide and New Zealand hosting West Indies in Wellington on Saturday. 

The only surprising absence from the last eight is England, who lost four of their six matches including heavy defeats to co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, a nine-wicket loss to Sri Lanka and a 15-run defeat to Bangladesh. 

Jockeying for quarterfinal positions went down to the last match, with the winner of Sunday’s Pakistan vs. Ireland game at the Adelaide Oval guaranteed of a spot in the knockout rounds and the loser certain to finish fifth, behind the fourth-place West Indies in Pool B. 

Pakistan dismissed Ireland for 237 and then chased down the result with four overs to spare. Opener Sarfraz Ahmed finished 101 not out, and Ahmed Shehzad scored 63. 

“This was a pressure game,” said Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq. “The fast bowlers … bowled their hearts out. Sarfraz’s was a brilliant knock. Very happy how he went on and stayed there till the end. 

“Yeah of course we can win the World Cup. We have the momentum. The bowling is doing really well, the batting is beginning to do its part. On the day anything can happen.” 

Ireland captain William Porterfield scored a century, but said his team ended up too many runs short of a decent total to defend. “We were a few runs light,” he said. “All credit to the way they bowled. We would have liked a few more runs on the board. The confidence has been high throughout. The fans have been fantastic.” 

The two-time champions West Indies beat the elements in a six-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates on Sunday to secure a spot in the last eight. Needing to win emphatically to press for a top-four place in Pool B, and with a tropical cyclone looming, the West Indies had the UAE reeling at 26-5 before recovering to reach 175. 

With Tropical Cyclone Pam bearing down on New Zealand, Johnson Charles led the charge as the West Indies hurried to 33-0 after three overs and hit the winning runs within 32 overs, ensuring there was no washout. 

Jonathan Carter then made an unbeaten 50 – his maiden ODI half century – and Denesh Ramdin 33 not out. “Obviously it was a must-win game for us and we needed to win by a big margin,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder, who took 4-24 in the UAE innings. 

“We had the right intent. We were determined to finish the game before 36 overs which was key for our run-rate and did what was necessary to play an attacking game.” 

The West Indies were held up by a partnership between Nasir Aziz and Amjad Javed, who put on a record 107-run partnership for the UAE’s seventh wicket and both scored their maiden ODI half centuries. – Sapa-AP

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