The preliminary skirmishes are over - now the real combat begins. After 28 qualifying matches - some exciting, some humdrum, some almost insignificant - and two forfeits, the World Cup reaches the quarter-final stage this weekend.
Yesterday's three concluding group matches produced no surprises but they did set up one potentially volatile quarter-final that will eclipse the other three in terms of public attention in the subcontinent. India will meet Pakistan in Bangalore in a day/night match on Saturday, after the Pakistanis beat New Zealand by 46 runs in Lahore.
Elsewhere, the Sri Lankans thrashed Kenya by 144 runs in Kandy and, as they knew before yesterday's game, will journey to Faisalabad to play England on Saturday; while India beat Zimbabwe by 44 runs in Kanpur. The other two quarter-finals take place on Monday: South Africa meet the West Indies in Karachi and, in Madras, Australia take on New Zealand in another day/night encounter.
Yesterday's outstanding achievement came from the run-happy Sri Lankan team. Once again, Kent's Aravinda de Silva led the way with a spectacular 145 as Sri Lanka reached 398 for 5 in their 50 overs - the highest total yet recorded in a one-day international. Kenya, still on a high after their dramatic victory over the West Indies last week, responded bravely to make 254 for 7 in 50 overs, of which the highlight was a brisk 96 by Steve Tikolo.
Sri Lanka's total beat the previous best for a limited-overs international: 363 for 7 in 55 overs by England against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 1992. It also surpassed the previous World Cup record total of 360 for 4 by the West Indies against Sri Lanka at Karachi in 1987.
De Silva, who struck five sixes and 14 fours in his 145 off 115 balls, became the first Sri Lankan to score a century in the World Cup. His innings was also the highest by a Sri Lankan in one-day internationals, surpassing Sanath Jayasuriya's 140 against South Africa in Blomfontein in 1994/95.
The Pakistanis were hugely relieved to hear that their captain, Wasim Akram, should be fit for Saturday's meeting with their neighbours and great rivals, India. The Lancashire all-rounder strained a side muscle going for a quick single while batting and did not bowl later in the game, but said afterwards that he had been cleared to play in the quarter-final.
Pakistan, put in by New Zealand, reached 281 for 5, with Saeed Anwar the top scorer with a hard-hit 62. Danny Morrison limped off with a groin strain after bowling just two overs and could not bat later as New Zealand's innings was curtailed on 235 for 9.
After 424 runs in four matches, Sachin Tendulkar was due a failure. It arrived yesterday when he made just three in India's total of 247 for 5, but Vinod Kambli made amends with a measured 106. Zimbabwe could not recover from a middle-order collapse and were dismissed for 207.Reuse content