A month after the competition got underway in Australia and New Zealand, the 2015 Cricket World Cup has been whittled down from 14 teams to the final eight countries. Defending champion India will look to repeat as champions after an impressive run in pool play.
After a grueling group stage that saw only England of the elite nations sent home, there is now no room for error as the knockout cricket begins in this week’s four quarterfinals.
Sri Lanka vs. South Africa (Sydney Cricket Ground, Tuesday, 11:30 p.m. ET)
South Africa made the quarterfinals with points to spare, yet they did not exactly make a resounding case for their ability to finally deliver the country a first World Cup trophy in 2015. Their four wins came in emphatic fashion, but they faltered when forced to chase against their toughest opponents, Pakistan and India. The talent in the side is there, but doubts have only furthered that South Africa will again wilt under the pressure at the business end of the competition. It is scarcely believable that they have never won a knockout match in World Cup history, and, although they are favorites to finally do so against a Sri Lanka side they beat away from home in a series last summer, they will know that their opponents could take advantage of any fragility. Sri Lanka brushed off defeats to co-hosts Australia and New Zealand in Pool A to reach the stage of the competition in which, in contrast to their next opponents, they have often flourished. Runners-up in the last two World Cups and winners in 1996, Sri Lanka will be banking on hitting form at the right time once again.
Bangladesh vs. India (Melbourne Cricket Ground, Wednesday, 11:30 p.m. ET)
India have surpassed expectations so far, and, with a perfect record in Pool B, they enter the quarterfinals as one of the leading favorites to again lift the trophy they won four years ago. The batting has been predictably impressive, but it is the bowling, which looked to be the side’s weakness coming into the competition, which has caught the eye. In fast-bowlers Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma, India have an in form attack, which conceded more than 250 runs only once they had already secured a quarterfinal place. On paper they have been drawn into the most one-sided of the quarterfinals, against a country which is in the last eight of a World Cup for just the second time. But the previous occasion Bangladesh made it there was courtesy of a victory over India in the group stage in 2007. And they have already caused one upset in this World Cup when defeating England to take fourth spot in Pool A.
Australia vs. Pakistan (Adelaide Oval, Thursday, 11:30 p.m. ET)
Australia won the most famous meeting between these sides, in the 1999 final, but the two countries have shared their eight previous World Cup meetings. On home soil, Australia will be confident of breaking the tie in Adelaide, after looking impressive in the group stage. Australia’s four victories came in resounding style, and their one defeat was against an impressive New Zealand side in Auckland, when they came within one wicket of pulling off an improbable victory having been bowled out for just 151. But the unpredictability of their opponents mean that they can never be discounted. The bad side of Pakistan came to the fore in their first two matches, when being comprehensively outplayed by both India and the West Indies to leave them facing an uphill task to make the last eight. Yet Misbah-ul-Haq’s men then won four matches on the bounce, including a winner-take-all contest against Ireland over the weekend. While Australia’s stroll to the quarterfinals has been a formality, Pakistan are already battle hardened in the sudden-death format.
New Zealand vs. West Indies (Wellington Regional Stadium, Friday, 9 p.m. ET)
New Zealand have made full use of playing all their matches at home so far, steamrolling through Pool A with a perfect record. Their win over local foes Australia, in particular, has fuelled belief that Brendon McCullum’s side could be the one to finally guide New Zealand to a World Cup final, after six losing semifinal appearances. The fact that they will not have to leave home soil until the final only adds weight to that perspective. In contrast, the West Indies’ progress to the last eight has been, unsurprisingly, far more eventful. Entering the competition under a cloud, with some of their top talent left at home and having named 23-year-old Jason Holder as captain, the West Indies began the World Cup in ignominious fashion, with a defeat to Ireland. But they bounced back impressively and will always be a threat with the big hitting of Chris Gayle, who became the first man to score a double century at a World Cup when scoring 215 against Zimbabwe.
TV channel: DISH Network, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch all matches via pay per view. More info here.
Live streaming info: The quarterfinals, semifinals and final will be available via ESPN's digital subscription service, costing $39.99.