Monday 24 March 2014 

Analysis - Group Two Likely To Get 'Stuck'

West Indies celerbate a wicket against India
India's win over the West Indies, coupled with Pakistan's over Australia, has thrown the group wide open
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

Super Sunday saw two thrilling encounters from Group Two in the 2014 World T20. In the first match, Pakistan beat Australia by 16 runs in a high-scoring encounter that see-sawed until the final over.

Then, in the second game, India dominated the defending champions West Indies unlike nobody expected them to, and recording their second consecutive comfortable victory, by seven wickets.

Contest of the Day

The Indian bowling was up against it when they took on the most explosive batting line-up in T20 cricket. The West Indies’ innings started slowly and they also dropped Chris Gayle twice.

Yet, shockingly, they went on to win the match. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s opening spell of 3-0-3-0 put such shackles on Gayle and company that they couldn’t be broken. Thereafter the Indian spinners, Amit Mishra in particular, wove their magic once again.

It could have been interesting to see the Windies’ response after the slow-start to their innings, challenging the bowlers and hitting them all over the park. What would have India done at that moment, for they haven’t been attacked in the first two games and the answer to that question is still unknown. Furthermore their batsmen were once again left chasing 130-odd, by no means providing an enriching contest.

That was in sharp contrast to what transpired during the first match. Australia started this tournament as rank favourites, while Pakistan needed to win this game after losing their opening encounter to India.

 

The two teams then produced a fine match, one that probably so far ranks as second-best only to the Ireland-Netherlands game in this tournament. It was replete with some fine batting, belligerent hitting, poor fielding and brilliant death bowling, ingredients of any great game of cricket.

The key contest in that match was always going to be between the Australian batsmen and the Pakistani spinners. In a stiff chase of 192 runs, the latter were on top after David Warner and Shane Watson were dismissed in the first over by Zulfiqar Babar. Thereafter, Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch put on the finest display of clean hitting. None of those shots were half-measures.

Each of those boundaries and sixes were hit from the meat of their blades, as Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and even the great Saeed Ajmal bled runs. Only the Windies can get close to hitting a bowling attack so mercilessly, and even they will struggle to play such purely belligerent cricket shots.

Player of the Day

With his spell of 3-0-3-0 Kumar comes close, as does Mishra with a second man-of-the-match display running. This is all about that first match on Sunday though, an exceptional contest between two teams that had their own frailties as also boasting of that one player who mattered on this particular day.

For Australia, it was none other Maxwell, blasting 74 runs off 33 balls, with seven fours and six sixes. His half-century therein came off only 18 balls.

The fact that Warner and Watson had been dismissed in the first over of the 192-run chase makes his knock even more audacious. What was he thinking playing the way he did, taking guard at eight for two after six delivers, with 184 more needed off 19 overs?

When he got out in the 12th over, Australia only needed 66 more runs off 50 balls. Such was the impact he made that the Pakistan team – and their fans – cowered for cover. Their only prayer was perhaps in hoping for a miraculous over in the death when they could turn the match around. For such things to happen, you need someone with the nerves of Superman to come and bowl at a crucial stage. Just so, Ajmal was there to put his hand up, as always.

In three previous overs, he had been tanked for 32 runs. He had also dropped Maxwell in the deep. With 31 runs needed off 18 balls, he delivered one of the best overs of this tournament, if not its entire history, conceding only one run and scalping the other set batsman Aaron Finch. That was game, set, and match and Pakistan are still alive in this tournament, thanks to Ajmal’s brilliance.

Looking Ahead

India have won two in two and their last two matches are against Bangladesh and Australia. They will finish their league stage one round ahead of others.

If India beats Bangladesh, and on current form they should, Pakistan need to win against the West Indies and Bangladesh to stay in contention. Then, Australia need to beat India, Bangladesh and West Indies, while the defending champions too need three wins to stay alive.

In the end, it could come down to three teams with three wins under their belt and run-rate ending up as the decider.

In that scenario, will India’s crawl against the Windies in the last five overs in a bid to give 'Yuvraj Singh some time in the middle’ as put by MS Dhoni afterwards, cost them?

We will know by this time next week.   

© Cricket World 2014
 

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