World Twenty20 2012: Lessons from a thrilling opening Super Eights round
World Twenty20 2012: Matt Cansick looks at the talking points after a thrilling opening round of Super Eight matches
Tournament comes alive
The first round of Super Eight matches has seen an unspectacular World Cup explode into life. Sri Lanka set the bar high with their extraordinary super-over win over New Zealand, and this was followed by England’s defeat by the West Indies that saw several blistering knocks from batsmen on both sides. Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales hit 71 from 36 balls and 68 from 51 balls respectively, in response to similarly spectacular efforts from Chris Gayle (58 from 35) and Johnson Charles (84 from 56). Pakistan were the next side to get in on the action, with spectators treated to a remarkable finish that saw unlikely hero Umar Gul haul his side back from the brink. Despite a low total of 133-6, South Africa’s bowlers looked to have earned their batsmen a reprieve, but Gul smashed 32 off 17 balls to set his team up for a narrow two wicket victory. Australia’s hammering of India was far more one-sided, but Shane Watson’s 72 and David Warner’s unbeaten 63 provided plenty of excitement.
No margin for error
The individual scores posted by the likes of Warner, Watson, Charles and Gayle are to be expected now that the best players have found their rhythm. Watson, the leading wicket taker as well as the second-highest run scorer behind Brendon McCullum, is a fine example of a player thriving on the biggest stage. We are seeing bigger totals and closer finishes, indicative of the quality of the remaining teams and their ability to pull out a performance when it matters most. This was something England were able to do very well in the 2010 tournament; having stumbled through the group stage after a defeat and a washout, they dominated the Super Eight stage and carried this momentum into the final two games. They appear to be lacking a player – unsurprisingly, a Kevin Pietersen – who can change the balance of a match on a regular basis. Factors such as this can make all the difference in the latter stages of a World Cup.
England facing uphill battle
Defeat by the West Indies has left England up against it in their quest to defend their title. On paper, the next match against New Zealand is the least daunting of their three Super Eight games, but the Black Caps pushed Sri Lanka all the way in their dramatic defeat and have a batting line up that looks to be in good form. Their lowest total is 164-9, and the entire top and middle order has demonstrated the ability to at least get a start in each innings. England, on the other hand, have once again showcased their frailties when the top order fails to deliver, the collapse against India the most disturbing example. New Zealand’s bowling attack is by no means the strongest in this tournament, but should they post a daunting total, the pressure of the scoreboard could be a powerful ally.
Next matches key
Having both won their opening Super Eight contests, Sri Lanka and the West Indies will face off in a match that could well decide who tops Group E. England will be aware that a defeat to New Zealand in the earlier game coupled with a Sri Lankan victory would signal the end of their tournament before the knock out stages. Equally, they know that four wins will see them successfully defend their title, but on current form it is hard to see them managing this. Australia take on South Africa in a game that is of massive importance to the Proteas, while Pakistan come up against India who find themselves in a similarly precarious position. Should Australia and Pakistan both come out on top, they will be the sides that advance to the semi finals from Group F.