WC semi predictions: Win the toss and NZ can win

By Andrew Alderson in Colombo

Cricket correspondent Andrew Alderson has ranked the teams for us on a week-to-week basis and predicted three of the four semi-finalists.

While he feels quite chipper about this, the winner he failed to predict was New Zealand. He has been trying to live with the burden of such treachery by drinking cold beers and eating cashew nuts overlooking the city of Colombo from his hotel bar.

New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Colombo, Tuesday

New Zealand (Predicted semi-finalist: No)
Star? Daniel Vettori - A renowned cricket history buff Vettori knows this is his chance to take New Zealand where they have not been. Alternatively it is his last match as captain and possibly as a one-day player.
Rock? Martin Guptill - Many are claiming he is now the best fieldsman in the world; add in a solid 57 with the bat like he made against Pakistan and you have the side's cornerstone. Is another AB de Villiers-type run out possible?
Wildcard? Brendon McCullum - Needs to deliver with the bat against a test-playing nation. Has scores of 16, 6, 14, 4 against them this tournament compared to stronger efforts against every easybeat.

Sri Lanka (Predicted semi-finalist: Yes)
Star? Muttiah Muralitharan - In a battle against injury to play.

Throws the New Zealanders into a state of turmoil each time he meanders up to the wicket. This will be his final international at home. Uh-oh.
Rocks? Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara - Dismiss these two and you expose what could be an underdone Sri Lankan middle order. Good luck... This team has built its reputation on their contributions.
Wildcards? Tillakaratne Dilshan - Has a poor one-day record against New Zealand with a top score of 48 in 19 matches and that was in 2004. Needs to get past IPL teammate Vettori and beat the hoodoo.

The match
Rubbing the lamp? Depending on who you support they win the toss and bat, thus already giving themselves a 65 per cent chance of victory in 71 matches of evidence at the ground. If New Zealand can right their batting and third umpires can identify clear catches then a tight contest could ensue.
Worse case scenario? The proposed same pitch from the quarter-final against England is used which is likely to turn earlier. Sri Lanka bat and post 300. New Zealand are shredded by the doosra and Murali extends his career by another game.
Black swan event? New Zealand find a way to play Murali and Sri Lanka's top four disintegrate within the first ten overs.
Clairvoyant? The accusations of unpatriotic, disloyal and treacherous behaviour will continue but head over heart it's impossible to look past Sri Lanka. New Zealand are in the best space they been for months, possibly years, but their inconsistent nature - even in this tournament - points to a flight home.

Pakistan v India, Mohali, Wednesday.

Pakistan (Predicted semi-finalist: Yes)
Star?
Shahid Afridi - Nothing changes here. He remains the tournament's top wicket-taker with 21 at 10.48 and an economy rate of 3.48. Playing up near the border, this is his night to spoil.
Rock? Umal Gul - Has not earned the same attentions as Afridi but could you wish for a better spearhead at present? Especially after taking on extra responsibility since the spot-fixing shenanigans.
Wildcard? Kamran Akmal - Is he about to embarrass his doubters? He timed a few, opening against the West Indies. He has also pouched six catches with the gloves since gifting Ross Taylor a birthday century.

India (Predicted semi-finalist: Yes)
Star? Virender Sehwag - Things have been quiet lately with his injury niggle. Can he match his 175 to start the tournament? Does he try to bash Gul to all parts in the pursuit of glory? A tantalising prospect.
Rock? Sachin Tendulkar - Matched with Sehwag one of these two needs to provide some grunt to the Indian innings. He might be over-burdened by this 99 test and one-day century business.
Wildcard? Mahendra Singh Dhoni - Needs to show serious cajones to handle the local derby pressure. His reputation (and endorsements) depend on his decisions. Only has a top score of 34 to date with limited crease time.

The match
Rubbing the lamp? Pakistan bat and get 280. India chase but get pressure put on their lower order by Afridi et al at 220 for five with ten overs to go. Could be the catalyst that reignites people's interest in 50-over cricket.
Worse case scenario? Pakistan crumble. India destroy. Kashmir nervous.
Black swan event? The Pakistani prime minister storms out of his Indian counterpart's plush corporate box because he won't shut up during the middle overs and the poppadums are soft.
Clairvoyant? History repeats. Pakistan have never beaten India at a World Cup and nothing changes unless the talismanic Afridi intervenes.

Tournament winner:
Sri Lanka.

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