The preliminary rounds are over and the matchups for the quarterfinals are now set. This is a knockout process in which anything can happen, where a spectacular performance by a single player or a lucky break or a fielding lapse can change the situation dramatically. As I said before, I am terrible at predicting cricket outcomes but that does not prevent me from keeping on doing so, so here are my picks for the rest of the tournament.
March 18: Sri Lanka beats South Africa
March 19: India beats Bangladesh
March 20: Australia beats Pakistan
March 21: New Zealand beats West Indies
I am pretty confident about New Zealand and India winning. I would not be surprised if Pakistan, my dark horse team for this tournament, upsets Australia, though their chances have been hurt by an injury to their fast bowler Mohammad Irfan that has eliminated him from the rest of the tournament. Pakistan got off to a bad start in losing their first two games but they have got better as the tournament wore on.
My picks are consistent with the professional odds-makers except for the case of SL beating SA. While this pick has an element of wishful thinking (in that I would like to see SL advance, especially since that might enable me to actually see them in the semi-final game), it is not entirely so. Sri Lanka has been steadily improving during this tournament and they have a history of finishing strong. They have several veteran players who have experience at this level and the pressure involved. SA on the other hand, have a history of producing weak performances at crucial times and have yet to get beyond the quarterfinals. They have looked a little wobbly this time too so my pick has some chance of coming true.
For the remaining games (assuming my quarterfinal picks work out), these are my predictions:
March 24: New Zealand beats Sri Lanka
March 26: India beats Australia (India has been playing well and may well beat Australia even on their home grounds.)
March 29: New Zealand beats India
In the last game of the group matches, Ireland lost to Pakistan and bowed out of the tournament, allowing West Indies to squeeze through in the basis of a better run rate. I was sorry to see Ireland depart. They played well and showed that they belong here. In fact, all four countries that do not have Test-playing status (Ireland, Scotland, UAE, and Afghanistan) played well enough that they should be invited to play in future tournaments too and the apparent decision by the governing ICC to make the 2019 and 2023 World Cups open only to the ten Test-playing nations seems like a terrible idea. We need to have more teams playing at the highest levels so that they get better.