England are beginning to sense an unlikely slice of World Cup glory, yet know they cannot even dare to dream until this weekend is over.
Bangladesh and the West Indies could yet puncture all hope, which came alive in Chennai on Thursday night, thanks largely to competition debutant James Tredwell.
Captain Andrew Strauss admitted the selections of Tredwell, Luke Wright and Chris Tremlett for their first action of England’s tortuous campaign amounted to a significant gamble.
Yet each – Tredwell with runs and four wickets, Wright with a precious 44 down the order and Tremlett with a crucial late catch – repaid the faith to inch past the West Indies.
Tredwell met both triumph and calamity as he tried to tame big-hitters Chris Gayle, Keiron Pollard et al. The first of those dangermen deposited the 29-year-old into the stands more than once yet was to become his first one-day international victim, in his fourth match, and Tredwell’s fellow off-spinner Graeme Swann later saw off Pollard.
England, who yesterday summoned Surrey’s Jade Dernbach from Lions duty in the West Indies to replace the injured Ajmal Shahzad in this tournament, can therefore contemplate a quarter-final place after all – as long as South Africa and India keep Bangladesh and the West Indies in their place today and tomorrow respectively.
That detail ensured a measured tone from Tredwell, as he assessed England’s pretensions to add a maiden World Cup to their ICC World Twenty20 and Ashes successes of the past 12 months.
“That’s the worst thing,” he said, acknowledging a nervy weekend in store at England’s last-eight holding camp in Delhi. “We’d obviously just like to be through now.
“We can only hope those results go our way and we can go from strength to strength in the next couple of games.”
England will be unlucky to be denied the chance to progress further, and Tredwell for one is bold enough to look beyond tomorrow albeit with some caution.
He is not the first Englishman to compare England’s sub-continent story so far with a faltering start and glorious finish to win the first International Cricket Council silverware in their history last spring.
“It’s similar to the Caribbean in the Twenty20s – almost out, then you get over the line and into that must-win phase. Sometimes that brings the best out in people, and we hope that’s the case with us.”
Muttiah Muralitharan produced a magical spell to back up Kumar Sangakkara’s majestic century as Sri Lanka handed a crushing 112-run defeat to New Zealand in their World Cup Group A match in Mumbai yesterday.
Muralitharan picked up 4-25 to skittle out the Black Caps for 153 in 35 overs after Sangakkara’s 111 helped Sri Lanka to pile up 265-9.