With the Super 10 stage of the competition done and dusted, and ahead of the semi-finals, Matt Carter picks out 13 more talking points from the ICC World Twenty20 2014.
This has not been the anxious tentative major tournament South Africa we have become accustomed to. Twice the Proteas have snatched tense victories from seemingly inevitable defeats, showcasing the sort of battle hardiness that has been alien to South African sides gone by.
Then came the do or die win over England, it might not have been an official knock-out game but for a side who have not won a knock-out fixture in six tournaments that was a significant result.
Beating India in unfavourable conditions looks a long shot for a South Africa side who have done exceptionally well to reach this stage, but it is not necessarily going to be the cake walk for India some might expect – particularly if the trump card AB de Villiers can muster the same sort of magic that bamboozled England.
Anyone who had been oblivious to the violent finishing power of Sammy will now know all about the St Lucian’s staggering hitting strength in the closing overs. Against Australia the game looked to be drifting with West Indies chasing an improbable 31 off the final 12 deliveries, Sammy though made it look comfortable smashing the Windies home with two balls to spare.
Pakistan thought they had West Indies in check only for Sammy to combine with Dwayne Bravo to plunder 59 off the closing three overs to take his side to an unassailable total. Such displays of power are nothing new for the man who can seemingly tee off from the word go like no other, given that since the last World Cup Sammy can boast a remarkable strike rate of 204.5 from 15 games and with an average 32.1
There is simply nobody in world cricket like Sammy right now.
With the formidable opening trio of David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shane Watson at their disposal much was expected of Australia yet to say they have flattered to deceive would be an understatement – with those batsman in the large part failing to provide the expected platform of fireworks.
In truth the only Australia batsman to firmly leave a mark was the enigma of Glenn Maxwell, as others struggled in the face of a spin assault the Victorian prospered. Against Pakistan he came within an over or two of taking his side to an unlikely 192 with a swashbuckling 74 off just 33 balls after Australia had fallen to eight for two.
Maxwell top scored again against both West Indies and India and ended the tournament with a remarkable strike rate of 210 – in a tournament where positive have been minimal for Australia, the all-rounder is the one shining light.
Whilst everyone else was slugging it out in the battle for a semi-final slot, India have made serene untroubled progress to the last four. MS Dhoni’s side backed by what has been thus far a frighteningly effective bowling attack in particular their three slow bowlers, have yet to be troubled despite being drawn in the perceived stronger group and entering the tournament off the back of minimal Twenty20 cricket.
Stopping them looks a tall order, even the struggling Yuvraj Singh hit form in their final group game to remove the one lingering worry. Perhaps the only danger for India is they might just be a little undercooked when it comes to competing in tight encounters, although for that to become a factor someone has to take them close.
Like all of the most stylish of party guests the West Indies have arrived late, although how Australia may regret the comments of James Faulkner which awakened this Twenty20 monster from its slumber.
Pakistan won’t be sending Faulkner a thank you card anytime soon, given the irresistible demolition job the fully awoken West Indies delivered to Mohammed Hafeez’s side. The defending champions have hit their straps and crucially they have been here before. When they fire it is incredibly hard to pick holes in what is a seamless unit that is perfect for the short game - not even India will relish facing them should both progress to the final.
Defending a paltry 119 Sri Lanka were seemingly crashing out of a tournament many had tipped them to win – step forward hero in waiting Rangana Herath. The 34 year old up until that point had been overlooked in favour Ajantha Mendis’ unpredictable box of tricks, yet with the mystery spinners riddles being all but unravelled in the previous three games the Sri Lankans turned to their wily old head and were rewarded with devastating effect.
Herath mesmerised New Zealand from the off, his first over removing Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum without scoring and the next Ross Taylor and Jimmy Neesham in successive balls – all this without conceding a run. Herath ended with figures of five for three and with it reignited his side’s hopes, they still have holes but a Sri Lanka with Herath in the side look a far more formidable proposition than without him.
That spinners have dominated the tournament to date should not be considered anything of astonishment, however that three leg spinners lead the wicket taking list is not what was anticipated.
Leg-break bowlers have had some success in this format, most notably Shahid Afridi who sits fourth on the all-time wicket taking list but not to the extent we have witnessed in Bangladesh. Amit Mishra has belittled views that traditional spin bowling can’t succeed in Twenty20, Imran Tahir has excelled in not always conductive conditions to spin in Chittagong and Samuel Badree has showcased to a world stage just what an excellent bowler he is.
After a demoralising defeat to Associate-bashing specialists Sri Lanka the doom merchants were out proclaiming The Netherlands had no place amongst crickets elite. Peter Borren’s side though have showcased terrific character in each of the following three games; driving South Africa to brink, testing New Zealand before getting their just rewards for their efforts with a win over England.
Even over such a short timescale there advancements have been clear to see and it is a crying shame that The Netherlands international calendar is now empty.
Alex Hales’ unmatchable century saw England’s jittering fielders out of jail against Sri Lanka but it was always going to unlikely the batsman could mask another dismal showing against South Africa. Yes the bowling didn’t help and fielding is far from easy in the dew, but as a rock solid South Africa proved with a superb display of catching and groundwork, that is to easy a bail out clause.
One of the major appeals of Twenty20 is its short snappy nature yet throughout this tournament over rates have been slow, so much so that both Dinesh Chandimal and Faf du Plessis received one match bans.
In defence of the over rates in heavy dew where the ball requires constant treatment it is no easy task to keep things ticking along, that said it is difficult not to be frustrated by the endless on field team meetings which are clearly detrimental to the pace of the game.
Again New Zealand leave with nothing having been highlighted as dark horses, following that implosion against Sri Lanka. They didn’t help themselves during that chase with a panicky showing that outlined their clear deficiencies against spin.
That though was not where New Zealand’s tournament was lost, that moment came in the failed chase against South Africa where despite needing just 38 off the final five and with a set Ross Taylor they fell two runs short. Granted Dale Steyn bowled an outstanding last over but in that final quarter of the innings the Kiwis were guilty of brainless batting as batsman came and went looking to smash the ball to all quarters rather than keeping their heads.
This has undoubtedly been a terrific tournament packed full of intriguing stories, expansive cricket and thrilling contests but what has significantly enhanced it has been the passion and enthusiasm of the Bangladeshi public.
With that in mind the failure of the home nation to not get even within an arm’s length of causing an upset is hugely disappointing. The noise has been deafening even in Bangladesh’s struggles so much so that without question host nation success would have been the cherry on the cake for this engaging tournament.
Batsman inevitably are the big attention grabbers of Twenty20 cricket but there is a belief that it is actually the sides with the most effective bowlers who will in the end come out on top. In support of that the eight leading wicket takers in this tournament who entered the contest at the Super 10 stage all represent a nation in the last four, compare that to the fact that half of the leading eight batsman are flying home.
© Cricket World 2014