This game, high scores notwithstanding, was yet another illustration of how the T20 cricket era is becoming defined by spin bowlers. All of the top eight in the ICC T20 bowling rankings are spinners (led, by some distance, by Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree), and today, it was ultimately Narine who made the difference. A wicket maiden in his first over included the somewhat bizarre stumping of Shane Watson, whose befuddled brain left him perched immobile against the bowler’s fourth ball, his back foot planted on (rather than behind) the crease as Denesh Ramdin had time to make one unsuccessful pass at the stumps before taking the bails off. Brad Hodge looked no less foolish later on in the innings, when with only two balls of Narine’s spell left and Hodge looking set, he went for an ill-judged reverse sweep and managed to both nutmeg and york himself at the same time. Badree’s contribution, meanwhile, while expensive, was no less significant, it being he who claimed the wickets of Warner, who looked in good touch, and Maxwell, who looked in Midas touch. When Australia came to bowl, though, they held back their own front line spinner, James Muirhead, until the second half of the innings. Muirhead, a very promising young leg spinner whose run-up and delivery style contain more than a hint of Warne, may yet find himself in Australia’s Test team for some time to come; today, at least until one particularly juicy full toss disappeared into the Dhaka skies via the bludgeoning blade of Dwayne Bravo, it was he who led the squeeze (including what appeared to have been the key wicket of Chris Gayle) which should have won Australia the game.
Until the last four overs of the West Indian innings, when between them, Mitchell Starc, Doug Bollinger and James Faulkner contrived to throw the game away for Australia, it looked like Glenn Maxwell would prove the matchwinner. His innings, which bore marked similarities in trajectory to that of Chris Gayle prior to the latter’s pre-dismissal lull, gave his team vital momentum after a stutter had left them at 41-3, and he backed it up with some useful bowling and two catches. While the first of those, although important in that it got rid of Gayle, was fairly routine, the second, to remove the well-set Simmons, was excellent. The ball was comfortably clearing the ropes, but his jump was well timed and his balance and awareness to stay within the field of play was admirable. The criticism that could be levelled at him today though, such as it is, would be in his dismissal. Having already struck three sixes, he was arguably entitled to chance his arm again, but his slog sweep was against the spin, to one of the longer boundaries on the field, and he was hitting into the wind. With Bravo, a very good fielder, waiting for the mistake out at deep midwicket, and with a lot of overs still to come, perhaps the shot selection was a little unwise.
Today demonstrated an all too familiar sight in the modern game – the on field umpire deferring to his colleague in front of a screen up in the stands. While clearly there are times when television assistance is valuable, or even necessary, such as a desperate dive on the boundary which may or may not have saved four, or a run out appeal which comes down to frame by frame analysis, there are too many decisions these days which, in the pre-digital era, an umpire would have made (and correctly) in a heartbeat. An appeal for a stumping in the first over of the match might have warranted a second look, in case Aaron Finch had indeed slightly lifted his foot, but the shout against Simmons in the twelfth over of the West Indian reply was not even close, while in the nineteenth over, Darren Sammy had completed his run some time ago and almost reached the stumps when the bails were removed. Everyone, of course, wants correct decisions to be made, but Ian Gould and Marais Erasmus are good, experienced umpires, and it is a shame that these days, the ubiquity of television replays seems to be eroding the role of the men in the middle.
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BIOGRAPHY: Marcus Rashford