Above and below: Bangladeshâ€™s Shafiul Islam plays a shot during their ICC Cricket World Cup group B match against England in Chittagong March 11, 2011.
The pieces of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup are almost fully in place. Pakistan qualified this week with a resounding victory over Zimbabwe. While the Man of the Match was veteran bowler Umar Gul, the surprising backbone of the team in that game was batsman Asad Shafiq, who was playing his first World Cup match in place of the injured Umar Akmal. Shafiq put up a lofty 78 runs to pace the Pakistani batting attack in a commanding 7 wicket victory. Prior to that match, Pakistan had suffered a disappointing loss to New Zealand that had temporarily rained on their parade. Pakistan had won their first three matches of the tournament, and team captain Shahid Afridi was leading all bowlers in the tournament with 14 wickets. Pakistan now has a show-down with arch-nemesis Australia in their final group match.
India has qualified for the quarters from Group B. Zaheer Khan and and Munaf Patel have led their bowling crew as a complement to a potent batting strikeforce. Irfan Pathan has been seldom-used, but when called up he has been launching balls over the boundary with force. If India finishes in the number one position in Group B it could lead to a quarterfinal border war with Pakistan should Pakistan finish in the number four position in Group A.
South Africa was the most recent team to qualify for the elimination rounds. Hashim Amla has been a vital cog in the South African batting brigade. But an important piece of the bowling squad has been missing. Pakistani-born bowler Imran Tahir broke his left thumb catching a ball and is out for the rest of the group matches. He is, however, expected back for the quarterfinals and beyond.
One team that is still awaiting its fate is Bangladesh. They came close to elimination from further contention against England, but led a furious comeback to win the match and ignite their resurgence. A clobbering of the Netherlands followed. And now they have a do-or-die match with South Africa to allow them to stave off England and claim the final quarterfinal spot from Group B.