AFTER 42 matches in four weeks spread across 14 cities and two countries separated by sea, the Cricket World Cup has reached the quarter-final stage and cut six teams.
Co-host New Zealand finished unbeaten atop Pool A, including a low-scoring one-wicket win over four-time champion Australia, and defending champions India won six straight to top Pool B, an amazing form reversal after it failed to win a single competitive match on Australian soil in the two months leading up to the World Cup.
So, the quarter-finals will kick off Wednesday with 1996 champion Sri Lanka against South Africa – which has 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, which lost four of its 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 quarter-final 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.
The two-time champions West Indies beat the elements in a six-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates yesterday 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.