England (3) v/s South Africa (4)
This is one of the rare times these two teams are facing one another in the semifinal of any ICC tournament. Other than last year’s series where South Africa demolished England to take over World no. 1 status in tests and ODIs, the match that won’t be forgotten anytime soon is their low-scoring group stage thriller in the ICC World Cup 2011. England were a vague one-day team back then, losing to Ireland and Bangladesh- but beating West Indies, tying with India and finally beating South Africa defending a score of 170-odd in style. The tag of chokers became more amplified with that game, with the South Africans throwing away most of their momentum, before going on to choke against NZ in the quarterfinals too, in the biggest upset of the tournament.
This time though, there is no NZ in the semis for once- and England look like a strong team enjoying their home advantage. Even without KP, their middle order has somehow held fort- thanks to the steadiness and determination of Captain Cook and the evergreen Trott. Morgan is yet to fire, and Root is doing a good job of not being punched in the face anymore in pub brawls and concentrating on his batting instead.
South Africa, on their part, gained redemption for all those World Cup missed opportunities by the very rule that started their two-decade-old choke-a-thon. The Duckworth Lewis rule. Memories of 2003 were banished with Pollard doing a South Africa on his own team- getting out on the last ball before rain to push his team onto level scores, and subsequent exit from the tournament on net run rate. South Africa were fortunate, because that game wouldn’t have gone the distance had the 34 overs been played- with Sammy yet to come in and only 7 an over needed in the final 5 overs. Steyn pulled things back in his first game of the tournament, helping his team to their first ICC semi-final since the 2007 World Cup. The underperformers have finally gotten the luck that was long overdue, and now it is upto them to reach their first final since the first-ever Champions Trophy back in 1998.
Could this be the year things come full-circle, with this being the last Champions trophy ever? Can they bookend this edition with a famous Kirsten-tinged victory? Will this be the year South Africa become the Spanish football team and end decades of choking?
Not if the next two teams have anything to say about it…
Prediction: South Africa will win this- because it is their destiny to reach an ICC final, and that won’t be the 2015 World Cup, unfortunately for them.
India (1) v/s Sri Lanka (5)
These two teams shared the 2002 edition of the Champions Trophy- after the final was played in another ridiculous location for international cricket- Sri Lanka. England and Sri Lanka could be the worst venues to stage ICC tournaments, especially when ODI cricket is struggling to pull the crowds- and full games are exciting enough on their own without being interrupted a million times by the Gods.
The fact that they will play for the 14562nd time in the last 3 years could be lost upon eager fans that just want one of these teams to win the entire thing. Sri Lankan fans have faced enough ICC-final heartbreak since 2007 to last them the next 2007 lifetimes, and Indian fans are sick of facing the same opponent again and again in the knockouts.
Credit to SL for being a consistently competitive limited overs outfit, home and abroad, and always managing to reach the latter stages of every tournament before falling just short- 4 finals in a row now. Two-time defending champions Australia were caught between the devil and the deep sea in their final game against Sri Lanka- the Lankans made the most out of their indecision, knocking overachievers NZ out of the tournament despite losing their first game to them.
Their 2011 tormentors India, meanwhile, are a new-look team that have reached the semis with consummate ease- looking the most balanced and in form team of this tournament. While they have struggled more than SL to reach the semis of tournaments, they have not wasted their opportunities and have won the last 2 finals they’ve played (2007 T20 WC and 2011 WC). They are the only team unbeaten in this tournament with a 100% win record so far.
While the tournament did not need another India-SL match in addition to the rained-out and ruined group stage games, this will be the first time Australia has not reached a 50-over knockout stage in more than a decade. Never mind that India are playing yet another tri-series that involves Sri Lanka in less than 2 weeks, this time in the West Indies.
Prediction– On form, it has to be India. Dhoni and Kohli play Malinga like nobody else, and there is too much familiarity between these teams to predict a wild result.
It could be an India v/s South Africa final- a match that was predicted by many at the beginning, as well as for the 2011 World Cup, where SA were a strong team heading into the knockouts.