Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And Then There Were Four

The World T20 has never been a tournament to shirk its share of surprises, and the 2010 edition is no different. Pakistan, despite playing some simply awful cricket, have once again managed to sneak through to the semi-finals and, given their history, they might just move into top gear now.
Sri Lanka also managed to twice overcome a nervy group stage to make it to consecutive semi-finals.
But there can be no doubt about the two most consistent teams this year. Australia have finally managed to figure out T20, and look the finished article these last two weeks. Who's the other? Consistent? That's right, it's England. After tinkering with their T20 line-up incessantly, they have found an opening pair they like, a middle order that carries them through, and an attack which has delivered the goods. And much as it pains me to say it, a lot of it seems to come down to Dublin boy Eoin Morgan.

At 23, Morgan is still a young cricketer, but he's fast becoming England's best T20 player. Top batsman for them so far this tournament, he's dug them out of a couple of holes this year, not least against his former teammates. It's not enough to say he plays shots all round the ground - he plays shots all round his bat - it's like a mixture of cricket, hurling, baseball, and high-speed golf. He's got a cool head when wickets fall early, and is happy to build a platform until the last 4 or 5 overs where he can unleash the power.
Paul Collingwood is the one batsman who hasn't fired yet for England, and while he'll need to change that for the semi-final, you can be sure that the England skipper is relieved he's got Morgan backing him up at No. 5.

I only have one problem with England. Their bowlers have done well. No doubt about it. Tim Bresnan has bowled economically, and Graeme Swann has taken his usual plethora of wickets. Sticking with Ryan Sidebottom hasn't cost them yet. But where do they go when things go wrong? So far, they haven't. But they've stuck to their 5 main bowlers each time. Collingwood hasn't given himself a bowl, nor Luke Wright. What happens if, against Sri Lanka, Sidebottom gets pasted for 30 off two overs, and someone needs to take care of Dilshan? It's not the easiest time to throw the ball to Wright and tell him to open his account. The other teams in the semis have used 6, 7, 8 bowlers in some games. T20 is about mixing up your attack, bowling some one-over spells. Collingwood is an invaluable bowler in the short format, but he needs to be in the zone for it. So far England have managed to curtail the batting of every team they've faced, but Sri Lanka, and even more so Australia, could be a different kettle of fish. As Sri Lanka will tell you, it's not enough to have Australia 5 down; Hussey and Haddin are only too glad to put on 80 or 90.

Sri Lanka have disappointed me. My pick from the start of the tournament, they've been over-reliant on Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga. Their final match was particularly important in that respect - Jayawardene didn't fire, and Dilshan, Sangakkara, Mathews, and Kapugedera did the business. Previously, their bowlers had dried up a formidable Indian run rate. That match could be the turning point for them, particularly if Dilshan continues his form. England have been good so far, but it's been relatively by the book. Sri Lanka can throw some odd things at you, and Colly will need to keep his nerve and composure if they get off to a fast start.

As for Australia-Pakistan, surely it can only go one way. Australia's fast bowling has been frightening - Nannes, Tait and Johnson have picked up 29 wickets between them in 5 matches. Their batting is so deep - after the power-hitting of Warner and Watson you've got White, Clarke, Haddin, and a couple of Husseys. Even after that you've got Johnson and Smith. Pakistan on the other hand, have inconsistent bowling, failing batsmen, and sloppy fielding. On that basis, I'm going for Pakistan. That seems to be the way it works - Afridi'll decided to get serious, take 3-12, and score a brisk 60 of 30 balls. They've got the talent, they just have to use it.

It could be an Ashes final - that's what the form-book says. But the form-book goes out the window where Pakistan are involved - you can be sure Shahid Afridi's written his own script.


  1. Morgan definitely on top form with his unique, yet relaxed style. On his own, it won't be enough for England though. They need an extra man to stand up and be counted but I can't see who that could be.

    As for Sri Lanka, maybe this last-gasp dramatic defeat of India will steady the ship and remind them that they have what it takes. Great team if they can fire on all cylinders. Question is: Can they do it?

  2. Good cricket today. Fair play to England. Sri Lanka probably shouldn't have picked to bat first after winning the toss...but I suppose they had their reasons.

    They failed to foresee how this pitch would play. Not taking anything away from England, who in fairness, deserve to be in the final.