Thursday, March 31, 2016

World Cup T20 : Semi finals - India vs West Indies

India vs the Windies...always a fiercely contested game.... & when its a semi final knock out becomes that much more competitive. At Wankhade, Mumbai, under the din of a boisterous crowd, Sammy won the toss & elected to obvious choice against the marauding Indian line up. Both team looking pumped up for a place in the finals.
India have made two vital changes, dropping an out of form Dhawan for Rahane & an injured Yuvi for Manish Pandey....both excellent choices under the circumstances. For the Windies, it was Lebdl Simmons in place of an injured Fletcher...a very dangerous player.
A cautious start by India, as both Rohit & Rahane tried to get used to the pitch, which looked a bit sluggish. Rohit hit a clean six in the 3rd over, as India ambled to 15 for no loss. A couple of boundaries in the next over took his score past 20, his highest in the tournament till now.... home ground....hope soaring within the crowd for the local lad. The ball was coming nicely onto the bat, as the score rushed past 50 with Rohit taking the bowlers to the sword. At end of power plays, it was a very healthy 55 for no loss, with Rohit unbeaten with 41 off just 26 deliveries ( 3 sixes & 3 fours), & Rahane keeping good company with a run a ball 12. The best start for India in the tournament thus far, with run rate nudging almost 9. It was looking very good for the Men in Blue.
But it was too good to be true to last, as Rohit went LBW to Badree, as India lost her 1st wicket at 62 runs, in the 8th over, bringing the man in form, Virat Kohli to the crease. The man, on whose strong shoulders, stood the dreams of a billion. The 9th over saw some incredible run out misses by the Windies, that too by Bravo, as Kohli survived & the stadium heaved a sigh of relief.
At the end of 10 overs, it was a healthy 86 for 1, with Rahane playing a sweet cameo & Virat settling in, despite the scare. The platform looked set for a big score ahead.
100 came up in the 13th over, & end of 15th over, it was 127 for 1. Both Kohli & Rahane in their 40s, batting excellently. Just then Rahane holed out to Bravo, right on the ropes, bringing in Captain Dhoni...what else could India ask for at this stage. Kohli completed his half century in the 17th over off just 33 deliveries, with a chip shot over long on, as 150 for the team came on board. Virat just kept swinging & runs kept flowing, as 17 runs came in the 17th over, 11 in the 18th & 19 in the 19th over, & the last over brought 12.... all in all 59 runs in 4 overs. India ended the innings with a solid score of 192 runs. Kohli is in the form of his life, & today must've come with some protection...... Windies should've got him out four times & missed the opportunities unbelievably....including a simple run out chance when he was just at the crease. In the end Virat was unbeaten with 89 outstanding runs of just 47 deliveries & Dhoni kept company with 15 off 9.
In T20 this year Kohli has batted 12 times, with 10 not outs, & 8 half centuries, with strike rate in access of 175. Incredible figures this.
It was a treat to watch Kohli, Rahane & then Dhoni running superbly within wickets, getting those extra runs..all so vital in a pressure game like this. It was fascinating all through.
Windies looked a little rattled & pressurized in the field. Normally a very good fielding unit, they fumbled in crucial moments & gave India the advantage.

They now had an uphill task to climb 193 runs for a win. Gayle would almost certainly have to fire at the top, with crucial contributions form Samuels, Bravo & Russell. Wankhade is a high scoring ground, & it would be an interesting second session to watch. England had chased down 230 runs against SA in the same ground.
Gayle came out with Johnson Charles to start the chase. But Gayle looked tentative despite a boundary in the 1st over, & Bumrah clean bowled him in the 2nd over itself. Next to go was Samuels in the 3rd over...Windies gasping at 19 for 2.... two very very strong wickets gone. Both of them looked strangely uninterested in batting as it was poor shot selection that got them out, rather than good deliveries. Looked like it was curtains for the Windies at this stage. However, Simmons & Charles went about resurrecting the batting, & at end of power plays, it was 44 for 2. Stupidly then, Simmons chased a wide delivery from Ashwin & Bumrah took a splendid catch at wide gully, but Ashwin had overstepped...a no ball. However, Simmons, despite the reprieve could make no use of the free hit, as the score was 51 for 2 at end of 7 overs. Charles went for some lusty hits & at mid way, ie after 10 overs, the Windies were at 84 for 2, needing another 109 runs off 60 deliveries...tough ask. In the 12th over, Charles brought up his 50 & team's 100, as the score reached 104 for 2. A definite above waist delivery by Pandya was not adjusted a no ball, as the whole Windies dug out got up in unison. .... With the score soaring & no wickets in sight, Dhoni brought in Kohli with the ball & he immediately consumed the dangerous Charles, holing up to long on the ropes, caught by Rohit Sharma. Charles had by then put up a splendid 52 off just 36 balls.
15th over was again eventful, with Pandya luring Simmons to get caught out in covers, but he had overstepped. The free hit went for a massive six, taking the score to 138 for 3. The over had costed India 18 runs, as West Indies were sneaking back into the game. Five overs left & 55 runs to get.... match on for sure. 150 came up in the 16th over, with Simmons hitting another six, this time off Bumrah. 18th over again was eventful, as Bumrah first bowled 3 dot balls on the trot. Simmons obviously had to hit out, & Kohli - Jadeja combo caught him on the ropes, but, Jadeja erred in touching the ropes & it turned out to be a six. At end of 18 overs, it was 173 for 3, with 20 needed of 2 overs. Jadeja bowled the 19th over & was excellent till the last two deliveries, where he gave away one six & one four. With just 8 runs needed off the last over Dhoni brought in Kohli, as a last move. But Russell had already measured up, & a boundary & then a six sealed the match for the Windies. They had made their way emphatically into the finals. Simmons was the obvious choice of Man of Match with a fabulous 82 unbeaten runs in 51 deliveries. This was his 1st match of the tournament, & he grabbed the opportunity to display his class. Russell too was unbeaten with 43 off just 20 deliveries, hitting the winning runs.
For Dhoni, it was a loss that would rue him. The score was good enough, & had the bowlers not overstepped, especially on the two occasions, when the batsmen were caught out, India would've won. Dhoni who has been so successful with his last over "phatkas" saw his luck finally run out. He would reach out for the most unexpected bowler & still win the game....but this time a try with Virat failed. Pandya was the man against Bangladesh, earlier in the tournament, & so many times earlier, Dhoni had won the game with his inventive decisions. But today was not to be........
The pressure had caught up with the Windies & thats how Gayle & Samuels got out. But credit to Simmons, Charles & then Russell, not to buckle & score freely, as they got the team past the target.
One would also feel for Virat Kohli....he was in sublime form, & had single handedly taken India to the semis. All the dreams of another cup, revolved around him.

The West Indies showed that they are not a one man team, but actually a lot of quality players in the ranks. They now face a resurgent England in the finals, whom they had hammered in the league game, with Gayle firing a splendid century. This soft spoken, care free dancing, singing team & laughing team, looks a good happy unit, with a lot of belief in their capabilities.
Indeed the finals on Sunday at the Eden Gardens would be a mouth watering contest.

World Cup T 20 - Semi finals - New Zealand vs England

The 1st semifinals of this World Cup between unbeaten thus far New Zealand & a resurgent England at Kotla grounds of New Delhi. The pre match predictions & the heart would have me tilted towards the Kiwis from Down Under, but the metal maths would tilt towards the English.
Morgan won the crucial toss & decided to excellent decision under the circumstances, as they have done very well chasing, especially the one against SA.
Willey opened the bowling as Guptill & Williamson took guard at the stumps. Guptill was his fluid best & 11 runs came of the opening over including two boundaries. But just as the momentum was building up, Guptill gave it away nicking behind & Willey had his revenge...a huge huge wicket for England, as the score read 23 for 1. Next man in Munro launched himself in immediately as the wicket looked placid & full of runs. At the end of powerplays it was 51 for 1....a good platform to launch an all out attack on the bowling, & when the score reached 89 for 1 after 10 overs, the Kiwiws looked good to finish over 180. But that's from where the wheels of fortune started to change. Williamson was consumed by Moeen Ali & shortly afterwards Munro perished to Plunkett, caught at third man for a well made 46. Suddenly the score had slid to 111 for 3 7 England were right back in the game. Middle order batsmen Anderson, Ross Taylor, Ronchi, Elliot, all failed to capitalise with a big score, as Kiwis innings slowed down painfully to end at 153 for 8. They could manage only 20 runs off the last four slog overs, losing 5 wickets. The final score surely looked a good 20 - 25 runs short of a par score. It was a tad disappointing, after such a fine flourish at the top. Given that this was a semi final match, the score was tricky indeed, & New Zealand had defended all their totals till now.

England started the chase with Jason Roy & Alex Hales.....& it called for a blistering start from them. And blistering it was. Roy simply tore into the otherwise reliable Kiwi bowling attack. 17 runs came off the very first over, & England were right on the driver's seat. At the end of the powerplays, it was 67 without loss & only 87 more were required at almost a run a ball. Hales left in the 9th over, but Roy continued to plunder runs at will, as both pace & spin were taken to cleaners. He was finally bowled between the legs by Sodhi in the 13th over, but by then he had bludgeoned a magnificent 78 off just 44 deliveries. Morgan got out in the very next delivery, but Root & Butler continued where Roy had left. In the end, Root was unbeaten at 27 & Butler at 32, as they raced past the target in the 18th over..... it was all too simple for England in the end.
Jason Roy was the obvious Man of the Match. They have now entered the finals & await the winners of India vs West Indies.
Remarkable win this was for England. After the pasting they got in the first match, they have done a fantastic turn around, winning all games from there on.... & winning quite convincingly. The team looks in super nick, with Roy giving some pulsating crack at the top & the Root & Butler & Stokes whipping the middle & end overs. The bowling too looks menacing enough, & they have depth in both the departments. They certainly have surprised me & am sure a lot others with their performances till now.

New Zealand would be left to rue their performance today. One off day & they go out of the competition. They looked good throughout the group stages, but on the day of reckoning, they just fell short.

Monday, March 28, 2016

World Cup T20 : Business End preview

I was out for the last three days, & missed covering the matches.......there was poor connectivity. There have been a few hiccups, & some upsets, as  the tournament has moved into the business end, with semifinal line up clear.... Its now New Zealand vs England in the 1st semis & then, West Indies vs India in the 2nd semis.

Of the four, England is probably the surprise element. They have been playing out of their skin & have been improving with every game. After Chris Gayle century demolished them in the first game, they looked done & dusted. But, credit to their resilience & belief, they scaled the near impossible chase of 230 runs to snatch a miraculous win against South Africa & that brought them right back in the tournament. In Joe Root, they have a breath of fresh air & confidence that rubs into the whole unit. Roy at the top has been giving brilliant starts, & then the bowling as an unit has been delivering. The team is looking good & hungry for more. Under Morgan, the team looks well connected. They certainly are the surprise team in the last four.....very few, even in England would have believed in this success.

Windies have been their mercurial best. They demolished, England first, then toppled South Africa & Sri Lanka, only to take things easy & lose to minnows Afghanistan. That too, after restricting them to 123 runs. Typical Caribbean, always brimming with laughter, fun & frolic. Playing with disdain & clobbering opponents at will. This team is combining well, despite absence of Narine & Pollard. Badree & Benn have been managing the spin very well & Gayle, Samuels, Bravo, Fletcher, all have contributed handsomely  with the bat. Even Braithwaite hitting Rabada for a six in the chase against South Africa in a tight game, was testimony to their capabilities to pull the rabbit out & win crunch situations. They now take on a resurgent India, the hosts. This will be their biggest challenge thus far in the tournament, as India is now looking very good, after their majestic win over the Aussies to clinch the final berth in the last four.

New Zealand, have been the proverbial underdogs. They have come up as a super unit, winning all their games....defeating heavyweights like India, Pakistan & Australia with ease. They have defended their totals well & the surprise element has been their spin department, which has blossomed in this tournament. Williamson has been inventive in his captaincy, & every member of the playing eleven has contributed. It has been a team game all through. They take on England, which has managed upsets to earn their berth in the last four & would be a tough side to compete against. However, both the teams play keeping emotions aside, & that could give a completely new dimension to the contest. The 1st semis between these two teams could be a tall scoring affair.

India, were the pre tournament favourites, but after their upset loss to the Kiwis in the very first game, there was immense pressure on the Men in Blue. The next match against arch rivals Pakistan was an acid test in Kolkata, which they crossed over convincingly in the end, thanks to Virat & his run chasing abilities. But then, against Bangladesh, they almost lost the plot & the game, but the it was Bangladesh who lost nerve & basics to lose from the brinks of victory....something that will rankle them for a long time to come. India, buoyed by this victory went on to finally demolish the Aussies, in a run chase that will etch in the memory of all Indian fans for generations. It was a Virat show again, as he lynched the hapless Aussie bowling in a phenomenal batting display, as India booked the last slot for the semis.

I feel sorry for the South African team. Such a talented bunch, full of match winners, but breaking down in crunch situations. Their bowling has been extremely poor in this tournament & has let them down right through the tournament. They could not defend even a total of 230 against England, & they lost the plot in their campaign. Even against minnows Afghanistan, they struggled to defend a 200 + score, & then, against West Indies, they could not defend. Rabada, their prime pacer looked out of sorts, bowling without any plan or discipline, & Steyn was a sorry shadow of his prime. The South Africans probably need to work on their mental abilities as a team and find a way to confort in pressure situations. The team certainly deserves better accolades & performances in ICC tournaments.... the big stage.
Sri Lanka, the defending champions were a depleted side this time & but for some individual performances, there wa little to reckon with. Hopefully, they will return in the next edition with better performances. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

World Cup T20 : India vs Australia

A crucial match this at Mohali....a virtual quarterfinals....the winner goes through to the semis.
There have been a quite a few ups & downs over the last two days, & as we enter the business of the tournament, the billion plus India fans would be hoping for a favourable results.

Having won the toss, Smith, chose to bat interesting decision....good to put up runs upfront & then put pressure, but, also the fact that India are better in chases, with Virat, having an awesome record while chasing. The pitch looks good for batting, & maybe that must have inspired Smith, with the decision. Dhoni too was happy at the toss, as he too wanted to field.
Khawaja & Finch in first, with Nehra taking the ball..... first ball dispatched to the cover boundary, but Nehra coming back strong by beating Khawaja with variation in the rest of the over. The ball clearly assisting swing & bounce. Bumrah on the other end, came for some stick getting hit for 4 boundaries by Khawaja.....match on. Nehra too, was hit for a couple of boundaries in his next over, as the Aussies raced to 31 in 3 overs. Ashwin came in next, & got clouted for 2 sixes over long on by Finch giving away 21 runs. Fifty for Australia up in the 4th over. Something had to give in & Nehra bowling the 5th over, had Finch survive a skier, but Khawaja, got out caught behind in the next delivery..... the crowd going berserk. The over cost only two runs & got a wicket for India... super stuff, in a pressure cooker situation. Bumrah in for the 6th over, too bowled with inspiration, giving away just 4 was 59 for 1 after power plays......Aussies a shade ahead at this stage. Jadeja too looked sharp in his first over giving just 5 runs. Ashwin back in the attack was still struggling for the right length, & went for a boundary, but he beat Warner for an easy stumping, & India were back in the game.... it was 73 for 2 at the end of 8th over. Yuvi in the 10th over had Smith caught behind to a thin edge off the first ball, & India were looking solid.....74 for 3....end of 10 overs, 81 for 3, as the run rate came sliding down to under eight ( at the beginning it was going over 10). Big Max Maxwell in..... he can decimate any attack on his Dhoni brought in Pandya. It was 93 for 3 after 12 overs...with boundaries having dried out.... 28 deliveries since the last one, as India seemed to be slowly fighting back into the game. 100 came in the 13th over, when finally Finch smashed a mid wicket boundary..... but the very next delivery had him holed out in the deep, as Dhawan pocketed the catch. A set batsman gone for the Aussies....Finch making a sedate 43 off 34 balls. the first 50 runs came in just 22 deliveries, but the next one took 56 balls. At the end of 15 overs it was 114 for 4...the final slog overs coming up, with Maxwell & Watson trying to settle down.
Maxwell, hit a reverse six & a boundary off Jadeja, but got bowled out to Bumrah, just as he was beginning to look dangerous. It was 130 for 5. Next man, Faulkner holed out in the deep for just 10 runs, & Aussies ended their innings for 160 for 6. Nevill  got only two deliveries to bat & hit a boundary & then a six off the last ball, to gather 15 runs in the last over. A decent score, but certainly much lesser than it seemed after the power plays. India should be happy at this stage, to pull back things.

So much would depend on Virat's bat, as India begin their chase.
Rohit & Dhawan started, as Dhwan launched into Hazelwood, hitting a four & then a fabulously pulled six over midwicket..... at end of 3 overs, India were going merry at 18 for no loss. But Dhawan as his usual self got more adventurous & top edged a Coulter Nile delivery to be caught by Khawaja, as India lost her 1st wicket at 23 for 1, bringing in the key Virat Kohli in. In superb nick, he immediately dispatched two boundaries to settle the nerves in the dug out. But Rohit lost his cool & wicket, getting bowled out to Watson in the 6th over, as India started to limp at 37 for 2 at the end of power plays. Raina in next started shaky, but was settling well, but once again, needlessly went after a wide bouncer from Watson & top edged to the keeper, to leave India gasping at 49 for 3. Yuvi in next to join Virat, looked charged for the occasion as India reached 50 for 3 in 8 overs. But he got an edgy boundary & then started to limp for a serious pain...hamstring ???, medics rushed to the ground. This would certainly hurt the running between wickets, Strappings did reduce the pain for a while, as end of 10 overs India reached 65 for 3. Meanwhile, Virat hit a well judged six of Maxwell as 12 runs came off the 12th over. Yuvi too hit a loose delivery for six off Zampa to release the pressure building up. Finally however, Yuvi departed for a well made 21 off 18 balls, as Watson took a super diving catch to get rid of him in the 14th over. They both had added crucial 45 runs in 6.2 overs. Dhoni in next, with the run rate creeping up beyond 11. Both Dhoni & Virat, excellent in running between wickets, it was expected that India will up the ante, & they did, running hard to reach the total to 114 for 4 in 16 overs. It was now, 47 runs required off 24 deliveries. Match on for sure. Kohli, meanwhile reached his 50 off just 39 deliveries, as India reached 122 runs at end of 17th over. Then, Kohli at his imperious best, blasted Faulkner all over the park for 19 priceless runs, as India now looked in control as the score read 141 runs....just 20 to get. Both of them had already added 47 runs in just 4 overs. Kohli then took on Coulter Nile for 4 boundaries, as runs was a magnificent show with the bat. Only 4 runs needed in the last over, as Dhoni hit the winning boundary as usual, in the 1st ball itself. What a win for India, as everybody watching the game were treated to a fascinating display of batsmanship. Kohli remained unbeaten with 82 priceless runs off just 51 balls, as Dhoni hit 18 runs off just 10....both had eventually added 67 runs in just 5.1 overs. Smith would be left to rue his decision of batting first & falling short by some 15 - 20 runs. Virat maintained his incredible record of successful India coast into the semis. Absolutely surreal.
For the Aussies, it was once again, a stumble in this format....& for Watson, what a wonderful final game, as he announced his retirement.....a wonderful player & an ambassador for the game. 
As Virat said at the presentations that he would rank this innings at the top, as he came to take the Man of Match award. 
It would now be against the marauding Windies, the dark horse of the tournament. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

World Cup T20 : India vs Bangladesh

Crunch match this, India vs Bangladesh - both needing a win desperately to stay in the tournament.

Bangladesh won the toss & put India into bat, & it looked a very good move at that point in time.
The opening pair of Dhawan & Rohit started well & put up 42 runs, before Rohit lost his wicket & Dhawan followed almost immediately was 45 for 2. Virat put up a run a ball 24 & Raina a quick 30. Pandya, Dhoni, Jadeja all made small contributions, but in all, India struggled with their bat,as the Bangla bowlers choked the batsmen to restrict a strong line up to just 146 for 7 wickets in 20 overs. All the bowlers were good with their line & length,as Indian batsmen gasped for runs. However, it was once again an iffy target, probably 20 odd runs short.

Bangladesh started their chase with Tamim & Mithun & the 1st over itself was quite eventful. First, Bumrah faltered in the deep to give away a boundary & then, Nehra dropped Tamim on a return catch. They were ominous signs for India. However, Ashwin came to bowl in the 3rd over & claimed Mithun right away, caught in the deep by Pandya. In the 5th over, Bumrah made another mess as he dropped a sitter to give Tamim another  life. Bumrah then came to bowl the 6th over & gave away 16 runs...such small encounters were going the Bangladesh way, giving more jitters to the Indian fans. However, Tamim finally got stumped beautifully by Dhoni in the 8th over, & Indian fans started to breathe a bit easy. At the end of 10 overs, Bangladesh looked pretty at 77 for 3, with 70 more to get in 60 deliveries....very very gettable. However they lost two big wickets in Mortaza, Shakib, though the run rate was still well under control. When Soumya Sarkar got out in the 18th over, Bangladesh were 130 for 6, with 17 required from 12 deliveries. In came Bumrah to bowl an excellent 19th over giving only 6 runs. It was now Pandya with the ball to bowl the last over, with Bangladesh requiring 11 runs. The first 3 deliveries produced 9 runs, as Bangladesh had almost pocketed the match with just 2 required of the last three balls..... the fortune swng dramatically from there on as Mushfiqur holed out to Dhawan in deep & then Mahmudullah trying to slog a six got caught by Jadeja in the deep. Two balls & two set batsmen out. Last delivery, with Bangladesh still needing those elusive 2 runs, & Rahman ran himself out. Incredible as it may seem, India had snatched a one run victory from the jaws of certain defeat. Bangladeshi batsmen were left bemused & stunned to have lost a game like this. The defeat would haunt them for a long time to come. A win would've given them a chance to bounce back, but now they were out of the tournament.
Ashwin was adjusted the Man of the Match.
The closest match of the tournament till now, with India winning the cause by one run. They remain in the hunt for a semis berth....probably the match against Australia would be the decider. Captain Cool Dhoni was superlative with his gloves behind the wicket, effecting two critical stumping & one run out. The stumping of Shabbir was a treat to watch, waiting for an off balance Shabbir to raise his foot & then flick off the bails in a flash..... simply superb.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

World Cup T20 : England vs Afghanistan

England taking on minnows Afghanistan at the Kolta grouns of New Delhi would seem like a cake walk. But history says, that the English team has struggled against the minnows earlier as well in World T20.....some kind of a bogey for them.
Having won the toss, England decided to bat first & put up a total. The decision backfired, as the Afghani spinners cast a web & wickets tumbled at regular intervals.The power plays produced 42 runs, but at the expense of 4 wickets, & at the end of 15th over score read a dismal 87 for 7. The spinners, Nabi, Shenwari & Rashid Khan were superlative giving nothing away, their 12 overs collectively gave away just 57 runs, scalping 5 wickets. The 100 mark came in the 18th over, as Moeen Ali & David Willey tried to stitch a rearguard action. The 19th over was a cracker, as both batsmen timed the ball sweetly over the fence for invaluable 25 runs & the last over produced another 10 runs !!! was resurrection England. It was 142 for 7 in the end. Where, even 100 looked beyond reach at the end of 15th over, it was some sensible total to defend now.
Moeen Ali had played a sweet cameo of 41 runs while Willey made 20, adding 57 runs in just 5.3 overs, bringing England back in the game. It was also a World record for 8th wicket in T20.
The reply from Afghanistan was not the way they would have planned. Md Shahzad, their mercurial opener got out in the first over itself, after getting a sneaky boundary. Wickets kept tumbling at short intervals, as the pressure of chase mounted. It was the inexperience in the line up that crumbled, & an easy run chase turned out to be a stiff one. There were small contributions from  players like Nabi, Shenwari, Zadran & Shafiullah ( a brilliant 35 off just 20 deliveries), but in the end, it was not enough, as the innings folded for 127 runs for 9 wickets. England eventually romped home winners by 15 runs, & Afghanistan were left to rue their chances. In fielding, after holding tight till the 18th over, they allowed England to sneak away with 40 odd runs in the last couple of overs, Then then in chase, their key batsmen, Shahzad & Stanikzai, got out cheap, adding pressure to the inexperienced middle order.....a lot of lessons for them to learn.
Moeen Ali is the Man of the Match.
For England, it was a reprieve from the minnows, & their net run rate has also improved. Now their match against the defending champions Sri Lanka becomes crucial...a win will ensure passage to semis for sure.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

World Cup T20 : New Zealand vs Pakistan

A crucial match this, between the Kiwis & Pakistan at the picturesque Mohali.... a win will seal a semis berth for the Kiwis, & a win for Pakistan, will keep them alive in the tournament.

New Zealand won the toss & elected to bat, as usual wanting to put up a good total & then defend. The power plays were very productive, with 55 runs coming without a loss. Kane Williamson finally got out in the 8th over, with score at 62, while Guptill was blazing at the other end.
the 2nd wicket too came quickly, with Munro trying a reverse sweep & holing out to an easy catch in the deep.....75 for 2 in the 9th over. At the end of 12 overs, hundred runs were on board for 2, with Guptill having put up an excellent 62 off just 38 deliveries. 50 runs partnership between Guptill & Anderson came up in the 15th over, as the Kiwis consolidated the score to 127 runs, but just then Sami bowled Guptill for an excellently made 80 off just 48 balls. Anderson too holed out in the deep soon after for a quick 21 off 13 deliveries, as Pakistan had pulled back the score a bit. Late onslaught by Ronchi( 11 form 7 balls) & Taylor( unbeaten 36 from 23 balls), with 16 coming off the last over, got the Kiwis to a very healthy 180 for 5 at the end of the innings. Md Sami looked sharp in bowling with 2 for 23 in 4 overs, while Md Amir went for plenty today. This was definitely an impact total to defend, & Pakistan would need someone to blaze for a successful chase.

Pakistan started with Ahmed Shehzad & Sharjeel Khan, as Santner started the bowling for Kiwis. It was an eventful over, with with Sharjeel smacking three boundaries, Guptill missing a relatively easy chance on the fence, & finally Santner going for 15 runs. Good start for Pakistan. Sharjeel kept hitting & to good effect, as the score jumped to 51 without loss in the 4th over, & Sharjeel had raced to 42 in just 18 deliveries. However, such initial starts need to to be complemented & maintained, which the Pakistani batsmen could not. Sharjeel got out in the 6th over for a superb 47 off just 25 deliveries, & the momentum was lost. Shehzad was slow, & so was Umar Akmal......Afridi tried to slog, but left for 19 off 9 getting caught on the ropes by Corey Anderson off Sodhi. That possibly deflated the spirit in the batting. Shoaib & Sarfraz did not have the firepower to overtake the total, & in the end Pakistan innings folded at 158 for 5. Kiwis notching up their third consecutive victory, with a 22 run win. They are now assured of a semifinal berth...the first team in the competition to do so. Their bowlers have been awesome in defending totals posted for them, with spinners coming to the party. Guptill was the obvious choice for the Man of the Match...a superb 80 off just 48 balls.
For Pakistan, it was once again, losing out after a blistering start. They still do have an outside chance to make the next grade, but, its a very bleak possibility. For me, they are out of the competition. This could also mark the end of Afridi's captaincy & possibly his career. He indicated the same, in the match end presentation. Sad to see such an entertainer, go into sunset this way.
The game between India & Australia could decide the next team from this group, unless there are some upsets. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

World Cup T20 : Australia vs Bangladesh

Its powerhouse Australia vs struggling Bangladesh today at Bangalore. Steve Smith won the toss & elected to field - more to do with checking the outfield & then chasing the score for bettering the run rate. For Bangladesh, the bowling unit is sadly depleted, with Taskin & Sunny ruled out for suspect action. They will have to bat out of their skin to pose a competitive total & then test the Aussies for spin.

The start was quite horrible, with Soumya Sarkar chasing a wide delivery from Watson to get caught at point with just 2 runs on board. Sabbir & Mithun tried to resurrect from there on, but Aussies were relentless. Wickets fell at regular interval, but the Bangladeshi batsmen kept ticking runs too, & by end of 15th over, it was 104 for 4, with experienced Shakib & hard hitting Mahmudullah on crease. The last five overs needed to yield some runs, but Shakib got out to a beauty from Zampa, as the spinner completed his quota with impressive figures of 3 wickets for 23 runs in 4 overs. However, Mahmudullah &  Mushfiqur combined well after that, piercing the field for some excellent boundaries, building 55 runs off just 4.4 overs. The 19th over produced 17 runs & the last over 12 runs, as they ended the innings with 156 runs on board for 5 wickets. It was unfortunate that Mahmudullah missed out on a well deserved 50 by just one run, making 49 unbeaten runs in just 29 deliveries. Decent total on board for the bowlers to play for.

Australia started their chase in cruise mode, as Khawaja & Watson, milked the bowling all around, gathering 51 runs in the power plays. Bangladeshi fielders were guilty of letting Watson off a skier, & Khawaja off a stumping, something they could ill afford in a match like this.
Finally the first breakthrough came, as Watson ran himself out, with the score at 62. At the other end, Khawaja, quietly brought up his 1st half century, off just 37 deliveries. However, the Bangladeshi bowlers kept pegging on with good deliveries & were rewarded with wickets at regular intervals. At end of 15 overs it was 121 for 4, Aussies needing 36 of 30 deliveries. With Maxwell & Marsh at the crease, it was like a walk in the park. While Marsh holed out, Maxi tore into the attack with fours & sixes at will, before getting stumped to a Shakib delivery. It was 148 for 6. And then, Hastings got a life, as Al Amin dropped a near  sitter, & then the wicket keeper missed a run out.... the fielding was letting Bangladesh down. Hastings eventually holed in the deep, with score at 152 for 7. Finally Faulkner eased all nerves, smashing the ball past extra cover, for the winning runs. Australia had put up their first points on the table. It was a hard fought win for them. Bangladesh had themselves to blame, with all those crucial lapses in the field, that costed them the game. Adam Zampa was adjusted the Man of the Match.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

World Cup T20 : West Indies vs Sri Lanka

Crucial match this, between the defending champions Sri Lanka & the mercurial West Indies - important for both to win & consolidate position the group. West Indies won the toss & elected to field.
Sri Lanka, lost in form Dilshan early on when he was looking good, to a rather bad decision of LBW, the ball clearly missing the leg stump. Chandimal & Thirimane had to construct a partnership from there on. but that was not to be as Chandimal ran himself out rather silly, reducing the total to 32 for 2 in the fifth over. Power plays ended with score at 41 for 2. But wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals, & it was 54 for 5 in 10 overs, & Sri Lanka were staring into the barrel. It would take some hitting, & intelligent batting to put up a respectable total to defend. It all now mattered on how Mathews & Thisara Perera bat from here on....both capable of clearing boundaries at will. They did manage a decent partnership, getting, 44 runs off 45 deliveries, but in the larger interest of the game, not enough, as the Lankans slipped to 94 for 6, in 17 overs, with Mathews getting out to a rather high full toss from Bravo ...a suspect decision once again. However, Thisara kept the Lankans in the hunt, with some lusty blows, getting a well made 40 off 29 balls, as the innings folded at 122 for 9. An iffy total, short by 25-30 runs, but the bowlers have something to play for. without Malinga, it would be difficult for the Lankans to defend such a total, but they have Rangana Herath, who can be a handful, & the, Kulasekara & Mathews can chip in.

Windies started without Gayle, as Charles & Fletcher opened the innings, Gayle was out of fielding for a hamstring & hence not allowed to bat. The very first over got them 13 runs, as Herath came on from the other end, the key bowler. He too was clobbered for 10, as the Windies raced to 23 for no loss. However, by the 6th over, leg spinner, Vandersay had got Charles, to leave the score at 39 for 1. By the end of 10 overs, it was 56 for 2, the game evenly poised, though the Windies do look like pulling it off, as Fletcher was playing a beautiful innings at one end, going past his half century. Vandersay bowled beautifully with figures of 11 for 1 in four overs...awesome. The 15th over fetched 19 runs to get the Windies ahead, & then Fletcher gets a reprieve, as a possible caught behind is ruled not out by the third umpire. Good decision for sure, as clearly the ball had bounced before going into the keeper's gloves. In the end it was Fletcher & Russel who guided West Indies to a comfortable 7 wicket victory...Fletcher, wonderfully filling in the boots of Gayle, with a excellently paced 84 off 64 deliveries & Russell with a belligerent 20 off just 8 deliveries, finishing the match with a six.
The Windies do look a good unit....certainly my dark horse.
Man of the Match - of course Andre Fletcher.

World Cup T20 : South Africa vs Afghanistan

At Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai once again, it was South Africa taking on minnows Afghanistan & having won the toss they decided to obvious decision, keeping in mind that they have to improve the run rate.
Though Amla, failed this time, de Kock was at his sublime best, getting 45 in just 31 deliveries. After that, it was a run fest all the way, with Faf du Plessis & de Villiers going hammer & tongs.  The 17th over was a treat, as ABD hit four sixes & got 29 runs off Rashid Khan, to deflate the Afghani attack. Eventually Faf got 41 off 27 balls & ABD making a superb 64 off just 29 deliveries. In the death, Duminy & Miller continued with what is expected of them, & eventually the Proteas once again put up a 200+ score on the board, with Duminy hitting a massive six off the last ball. For the Proteas, it would be imprtant for their top order to fire along with the middle order,as that is their apparant strength.
It was expected of the Proteas to bat well & put up a huge total, ending at 209 off their 20 overs, but what was important is for their bowlers now to follow up with some tidy line, length & wickets.
Afghanistan however started their reply in style, with Shahzad hitting Rabada for a six & four to post 11 runs off the very first over. The fearless blitzkrieg continued in the 2nd over too as Shahzad blew Abbott for 22 runs, including 3 sixes & a four !!!....simply unbelievable. The carnage continued in the 3rd over as well & Afghanistan were 47 for no loss at the end of 3rd over. Most of deliveries were short pitched juicy balls, egging to be hit. Looked like the SA bowlers were still smarting under the Roy & Root demolition by England the other day. The bowling looked helpless & listless, as Faf was already creasing his temples. He turned into Morris, who bowled sensibly enough, & while 50 run mark came up, he bowled the dangerous Shahzad, who got a fabulous 44 off just 19 balls. In came Asghar, but he too was consumed by Morris, caught behind, as the score reached 64 for 2 after the end of power players, with both the dangerous batsmen, Shahzad & Asghar back in the dugout.
But barring Morris & Tahir, every other bowler was surprisingly wayward, giving away easy runs, & with Duminy back in the dugout with a probably hamstring injury, it was bowling woes once again for the Proteas. The next batsmen, Noor Ali & Gulbadin, kept the tempo up, as the 100 came up in the 10th over....match very much on. At the end of 15 overs it was 140 for 4, a steady fight by the Afghanis. However, losing three quick wickets, put brakes in the scoring as the total limped to 158 for 7. Eventually the innings ended at 172 all out, & Proteas clock their first win for 37 runs. It was a pretty good effort by the Afghanis, & they would surely take heart for this performance. A lot of positives for them to lay the foundation for future.
With Wiese going for more than 11 per over, & Abbott & Rabada( he was good only in the last over of the match, giving just 3 runs), too going for plenty, it obviously is a worry sign for the Proteas, as they move into tougher games ahead. They have bowled far too many loose deliveries & bled runs, which needs to stop, if they were to progress in this tournament. Chris Morris looked sharp with figures of 4 for 27 (Man of the Match), & Tahir looked good as usual with 2 for 24. They certainly need to tighten their game for better results against the Windies & Sri Lanka.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

World Cup T20 : India vs Pakistan

India vs Pakistan at Eden Gardens.....what better settings, what better atmosphere, what better tensions ..... each player playing out of his skin....humdinger of sorts.

India won the toss & elected to field, in a rain restricted match reduced to 18 overs. The pitch looked good for spin, though promising good for the bat.
Pakistan started cautiously, & evidently so, having lost to India recently at the Asia Cup. The openers did not go for a balst, as Nehra, Bumrah & Ashwin kept a tight leash in the ground. At the end of the power plays, it was 28 runs only, but importantly no wickets lost.
The game changed thereafter, as part time spinner Raina, foxed Sherjeel into a false shot & it was 38 for 1. With pressure building up, Afridi & Ahmed Shehzad also got out holing in deep, with Pandya committing himself to a fascinating catch. Umar Akmal & Shoiab Malik gave some facelift to the batting with some good lusty hits, including a couple of sixes as the score ambled beyond a 100. Two overs by Bumrah & Pandya costed 28 crucial runs, but then Nehra, Jadeja & Bumrah managed to restrict Paksitan to a modest 118 for 5 off the stipulated 18 overs.... not a big one, but certainly a fighting one.....some runs for Afridi to fight with his bowlers. It was now Amir & co, on how they bowled. It was a bit surprising that Dhoni did not use Ashwin's full quota, though he was almost unplayable at the beginning of the innings.

for India, the chase meant, a good strong opening partnership from Rohit & Dhawan. But it was not to be as both the openers perished to poor shots, & Raina too bowled for a first ball duck, leaving India to struggle at 23 for 3 in the fifth over. Md Sami was suddenly looking venomous.
With India on the backfoot & the stadium going completely silent, it was upto Virat Kohli & Yuvraj in the middle to settle the nerves. They did so in style, just like they did in the Asia Cup, stitching a wonderful 61 runs partnership in 44 deliveries, getting India right back in the game. When Yuvraj got out trying to smack a six, in came Captain Cool Dhoni, & with Virat in imperious form, India were home & dry with more than 2 overs to spare winning by 6 wickets. It was vintage Yuvraj, belligerent Kohli & in the end Cool finisher Dhoni...... India maintaining a 100% win record against rivals Pakistan. Over the years, it has been indeed a complete domination. Virat Kohli was the obvious choice for the Man of the Match with an unbeaten 55 off just 37 deliveries, as he is playing beyond his age & grooming himself excellently as India's new age leader ahead.
For India, both the openers & also Raina, need to spur up against genuine pace in juicy wickets to succeed, as its getting tougher for them to make runs. Rohit, of course is a natural stroke maker & would certainly be back to boost the booty.
With this win, India should be back on track & would need to push themselves hard against Aussies & Bangladesh to move into semis.
This tournament is also becoming a chasers win of sorts. Windies against England, England against SA & now India against Pakistan.... big games going that way. Only New Zealand has been able to defend their totals till now. The tournament is really becoming interesting.

Friday, March 18, 2016

World Cup T20 : South Africa vs England

England won the toss & elected to field - maybe the battering they got from Gayle storm the other day, prompted them to do so.
South Africa, according to me, one of the favourite teams here, started in a whirlwind fashion. Amla & de Kock simply went hammer & tongs against the English pace attack. By the end of power play, they were sitting on 83 runs without any wicket. Both the openers eventually got to their half centuries, & though there was a blip of sorts in the middle overs, with de Villiers & du Plessis getting out after getting set, the Proteas went past the 200 mark without a bother. Duminy & Miller just whacked at will & the total swelled to 229 at the end of 20 overs. Duminy too, got his half century ( only the second time even in T20, when three batsmen in an innings got 50s), & Miller too played a beautiful cameo. The English players looked quite dejected & the body language looked limp after the battering from Windies & now from South Africa. the pitch at Wankhade looks a belter & promises tall scores. At halfway mark, it looked quite gloomy for the English players.

South Africa have a good bowling attack, with a good mix of pace & spin. England openers Roy & Hales had to go all out & the 1st over itself produced 21 runs, as Rabada sprayed all over & Roy hit him at will. 2nd over by Steyn too went for plenty, with Hales taking stride, as England raced to 44 for no loss...unbelievable. However, such dream runs dont last long & Hales got out LBW to Abbott. Roy was simply belligerent, scoring 43 in just 15 deliveries, but he too got out & then went Ben was 89 for 3 at end of power plays. Huge scores, vastly due to Roy, but 3 wickets down !!
And when Morgan was bowled in the 10th over, with score at 111, it looked a clear South African victory. But a young man from England thought otherwise. Joe Root played the innings of his life scoring 83 invaluable runs off just 44 deliveries, taking England to the doors of victory. Though there were a few hiccups in the last over, but it was England scaling the near impossible chase, with Moin Ali hitting the winning run to give them vital 2 points. This was the highest successful chase ever in World T20 till date. It obviously Man of the Match for Joe Root.
South Africa had themselves to blame, as the bowlers were extremely inconsistent. The line was poor, giving batsmen easy runs to score & there were 22 extras, which finally hurt them.
They are a fabulous team, but need to discipline their bowling. Steyn is a spent force, & they should bring in Wiese, as he also bats well down the order. SA need to pull up their socks... & pretty fast. This is their second consecutive loss after putting up more than 200 runs. This means, their bowling is getting lax or overconfident or lacking discipline, & they need to mend this quickly to progress any further. They would do better to chase, with such a fabulous batting line up.
England now have a lifeline to survive.

World Cup T20 : New Zealand vs Australia

At the picturesque stadium of Dharamshala, its the match Down Under - Kiwis vs Kangaroos.

Having won the toss, the Kiwis decided to bat first & went off to a flier, both Guptill & skipper Kane Williamson blasting the Aussie attack for 58 runs in the powerplays.
However, Faulkner got Guptill holed out in the deep & then Maxwell claimed Kane & Corey Anderson, reducing the score to 79 for 3 in 11 overs. It was even stevens at that stage. But give the Aussies a small toe hold & they will force their way through. The bowling was disciplined & the fielding sharp, leaving the Kiwis gasping at 118 for 5 after 17 overs. The pitch looked like getting progressively slower, as the batters found shot making difficult.
It now needed some special batting by Ronchi & Elliott, to get them past 150 mark. But that was not to be, as the Australians kept their high standards on the field & New Zealand finally folded for 142 for 8 after 20 overs. An iffy target, keeping in mind, their previous game against India. They would need to bowl out of their skins to stop the marauding Australian batting.

Aussies started in whirlwind fashion, with Khawaja lacing boundaries at will, it was 44 without loss, when Watson gave away his wicket in the 6th over. The match turned on its head as the spinners started to take control. Australia started losing wickets regularly & when Maxwell fell at 100 for 5 in the 16th over, Kiwis looked back in the game.....& with a solid plan. Aussies needed 42 runs from the remaining 4 overs, & had a long batting line up to stand & deliver. However, the Kiwis were like red hot chillis, & kept picking wickets. The 19th over from McClenaghan was simply a dreamer's delight. He scalped Mitch Marsh & Agar for just 3 runs & left Aussies with 19 to get in the final over. Anderson kept his cool to get the hard hitting Faulkner out in the first delivery & then Coulter Nile fell on the second last ball.....In the end New Zealand overpowered the mighty Aussies by 8 runs. A significant victory for them & almost assuring a berth in the last 4. McClenaghan with figures of 3 for 17 in 3 overs was the obvious choice for the Man of Match.

I had earlier predicted this Black Cat Kiwis are capable of some major upsets in this tournament, & they look quietly getting into the right groove. They have now scalped two major favourites in India & Australia. In both the matches, they batted first & put a total that looked 20 odd runs short, but the bowlers came to the party & the fielders complimented to pocket these wins. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

World Cup T20 : Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan

In a match of unevens, the defending Champions had an easy opening game against minnows Afghanistan. Though, in their last encounter, it was the experienced Mahela, who had bailed them out, but he is not around this time, & so is injured Malinga.

Having won the toss, Afghanistan decide to bat, which looked like a good bet at Kolkata. Having entered the main round, beating Zimwabwe, Scotland & Hongkong quite easily in the qualifying matches, the Afghans looked in good spirits & intent.
Despite a slow start, Afghans managed a good score in the end....a more than par score at 153 for 7, guided by a brilliant 62 by Asghar with good support from Shenwari (31) & Noor Ali(20).
Though Asghar Stanikzai lost his wicket in the crucial 19th over, they still managed lusty hits by Zadran to pick up 17 runs in the last over to fly past 150 mark. Truly a commendable total. With three spinners in their ranks, the match looked well poised at the halfway mark.

The chase by the defending Champions needed a strong start from openers Chandimal & vintage Dilshan. They did not disappoint, as Chandi cut loose in the 1st over itself, & Dilshan used the 3rd over to swat one over mid wicket & one Dilscoop behind the keeper for sixes. Chandimal however gave away his wicket after getting his eye in for just 18 & by the end of power play six overs, it was 41 for 1. Spinner Nabi bowled a beautiful maiden over, scalping Chandi, while Rashid was spinning a web at the other end with excellent googlies, getting Thirimanne. Thisera & Kapudegera could not build on starts, getting out to freak dismissals.
In the end, it was Man of the Match, oldie Dilshan's controlled aggression ( 83 off 56 balls), which got the Lankans home with more than an over to spare. Also coming to the party was skipper Mathews (21 off 10 deliveries), who hit some lusty blows towards the end to ensure a much needed victory by six wickets.
The Afghans had themselves to blame with some poor fielding in the deep giving away easy boundaries & letting the pressure slip by. However, they should take positives from this game, - their spinners Nabi & Rashid were simply superb, & in batting they posted a fighting total.

The pitch at Eden Gardens looks like a belter, with some assists to the spinners. The game between India & Pakistan looks all set to be a humdinger.....

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

World Cup T20 - West Indies vs England

The Mercurial Windies won the toss & decided to field. A small ground at Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai would have prompted them to do so..... in the end it turned out to be a good decision.

England made a brisk start, racing upto 49 for 1 in the first six overs. The momentum continued as every batsman in, contributed. Cameos by Hales, Root, Butler & Morgan, ensured the England put up a sizable total, scoring 182 for 6 in their 20 overs. Though the Windies pulled back a bit in the middle overs, they went for plenty in the death overs, allowing England to put up a formidable total. It was a workmanlike batting, with some lusty blows towards the end. At some stage it looked like England putting up 200 runs, but finally fell short. 
The Windies reply did not exactly flow, as Charles lost his cool & wicket to an innocuous pull shot in the 1st over itself.
However, big man Gayle & Samuels steadied the innings thereafter, despite Samuels looking rusty at the beginning. Though, Samuels kept the scoring & also kept Gayle away from strike, at the end of 6 overs, it was 55 for 1, he gave it away with a pull shot after getting his eye in & it was 57 for 2. However, Gayle took over from there on & at the end of 10 overs it was 85 for 2. The Super Sopper was used at this stage to negate the dew factor, but Gayle had other ideas. He simply towered over all the bowlers, smacking them all over the park. While, Ramdin & Bravo perished in between for not too many, England were blown away by a Gayle storm. When in flow, he is such an entertainment & his century came in just 47 deliveries, bludgeoning 11 sixes & 5 fours, as the Windies won the game comfortably by six wickets, with 11 balls to spare. For Gayle, it was a day of records, as he went past Brendon McCullum to hit the maximum sixes in T20, & hitting his second T20 century. 

This Windies team has all the fire power, at least in batting to reach at least the semis & may be the dark horse to go the distance gain. If Gayle gets due support from the likes of Samuels, Bravo, Russell & Sammy, they might be bale to negate the absence of Narine & Pollard. 

Looking forward.......

World Cup T20 - Pakistan vs Bangladesh

Pakistan came up the winners, in this match with a resounding 55 runs victory. The weak link of the team, the inconsistent batting, came good on a true pitch at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, & the Pakistan batsmen made merry to reach an imposing total of 201 for 5 in their 20 overs. Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, up in the order, tonked the ball to all parts of the ground & then the final assault by Shahid Afridi, blew the Bangladeshi bowlers away. The match was virtually over by then.
In reply, Bangladesh needed a sparkling start, which was not to be. While Tamim tried hard, Soumya Sarkar went for a blob, & they were clearly out of the race. Shakib managed a well made 50, but in the end Bangladesh could muster only 146 for 6 in their allotted overs.

This victory would make Pakistan confident, as their batting came good & their bowling looked sharp. For Bangladesh, they have a couple of positives to carry from this match, & even if they manage one win in this tough group, they would return a happy bunch.

The next match would be the high voltage game with India. Both the teams would be desperate for a victory, & for India it would be a battle for survival in the tournament. The records speak in India's favor, & the home crowd support should also give them some comfort.

Looking forward to a humdinger of a match on 19th. 

World Cop T 20 - India vs New Zealand

The opening game of the tournament & what a match it was, with New Zealand humbling favourites India by 47 runs.

Winning the toss & deciding to bat, Ken Williamson, on hindsight would be mighty pleased with his decision. He had fielded three spinners, resting his more experienced pace attack of Boult & Southee, a decision which he will look back with glee, years later.
The match started with all the possible fireworks, with Martin Guptill heaving the first ball of the match from Ashwin into the stands for a grand six. However, the very next ball he was adjusted LBW, though replays showed that he may have been unlucky. Munro, the next man in, reverse hit the next ball for a six, but perished to Nehra in the next over, as the Kiwis tottered to 13 for 2. The disciplined Indian attack continued to torment the Kiwi batting line up, as wickets tumbled. Part time spinner Raina looked deceptive & sharp, though Ashwin & Jadeja went for some stick. A steady 34 by Corey Anderson & lusty hitting by Ronchi at the end ( 21 not out) helped the team reach 126 for 7 in 20 overs. It certainly looked a below par score, & at the break, the discussions were about how quickly the Indian batting would lap up the match.
However, there was a twist in store, as the Kiwi spinners wreaked havoc. Santner (4-11), Sodhi (3-18), & McCullum(2-15), simply devoured the famed Indian batting line up, as the home team folded up for a meagre of its worst performance with the bat in a T20 game. The stadium which was feisty & noisy in the 1st half, caved into a deathly silence, as one after another the Indian batsmen went back defeated. But for Kohli (23), Dhoni(30) & Ashwin(10), non other could reach the double figure. New Zealand managed to maintain their 100% record of wins against India in T20 encounters. It was harakiri of sorts, as India lost a winning game....something that might hurt them big time ahead in the tournament, when the crunch time comes & the run rate matters.

This group, has been touted as the Group of Death,  & looks to throw a few more surprises as we progress. Interesting indeed.....

Monday, March 14, 2016

World Cup T20 Cricket 2016 - Extravaganzaaaaa....

With rain playing spoilsport for most of the qualifying matches, the World Cup T20, is now set for all the extravaganza. Lets do a quick analysis of the ten teams vying for the coveted trophy.

Group 1 has West Indies, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka & Afghanistan.
Group 2 has India, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand & Bangladesh.

West Indies : Currently ranked no 2, the mercurial team from the Caribbeans, has been in crisis for the past few months. The Board & the players disrupting over match fees has seriously dented the morale. On top of that impact players like Narine ( suspect action) & Pollard deciding to stay away, would certainly take the sheen off the capabilities. However, the champions of 2012 edition, as a team still has enough fire power to go the distance. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels at the top can decimate any attack, While Dwayne Bravo, Sammy, Andre Russel can tear apart all the bowlers at the middle & lower end of the batting. This team bats real deep, & on their day, they can topple any score. The players are excellent fielders too & can make impossible catches look easy. Their bowling department does look a little wobbly & the loss of Narine is going to hurt them. I still believe, this team is the dark horse of the competition, & can make it to the semis.

South Africa : Currently ranked no 3, the eternal chokers of this game, especially in big tournaments, the Proteas have something to prove to themselves. Its going to be their self belief at crucial stages of the tournament that will determine their chances of lifting the Cup. They have one of the best batting line ups in the tournament. With AB DeVilliers, Faf du Plessis, de Kock, Hashim Amla, Duminy, David Miller, Behardien, the list of batters is absolutely endless. To add to that  are all rounders like Chris Morris, David Wiese & Abbot lower down. The bowling too looks formidable with Styen, Rabada, Morkel, for sheer pace, Tahir, Phangiso for quality spinning, the team is stupendous on paper. This team should go the least till the semis. They provide with such entertainment, that every cricket loving fan would pray for their performance. Fingers crossed.

England : The team currently ranked no 6, under Eoin Morgan, is quite capable of springing a few surprises. They have players like Butler, Ben Stokes, Hales who can belt any attack & one their day chase any target. But, the team lacks consistency & may struggle in bowling especially against quality batting. I personally dont see them making it to the last four.

Sri Lanka : Currently ranked no 8, the defending Champions, look a depleted force. They are yet to find adequate replacements to Sangakkara & Jayawardane, & Dilshan is clearly over the hill. Malinga, too has been carrying niggles & may not be fit enough the lead the attack. In Mathews, Chandimal, a couple of new comers, the team is gradually shaping up, but, I dont see them making an impact in this edition. The recent losses to India, Pakistan & Bangladesh in Asia Cup would also haunt them, as they struggle to find the rhythm. I would be happy to see them win a couple of good games.

Afghanistan : Currently ranked at no 9, the minnows have done themselves proud by qualifying for the main round, going past Zimwabwe, & winning thier matches in style. The pace attack in Zadran & Hassan look promising, & they should be putting up a fighting display. They have already earned the respect from the playing teams, & should use this platform to improve their rankings ahead.

India : Currently ranked no 1, the host nation look overwhelming favorites to win this tournament. The recent winning of Asia Cup emphatically, defeating the mighty Aussies 3-0 in their backyard, blowing away Sri Lanka, all this has added to the imagination of the billion plus fans following across all the nooks & corners of India. The batting line up is awe inspiring. Rohit, Dhawan, Virat, Raina, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Pandya, Jadeja, Ashwin....its just unending. Then you have Nehra, Bumrah to bring up the bowling....piercing & effective. The bench is equally strong in Rahane, Harbhajan, Yadav, & others. Its an extremely competent & strong team in all functions - batting, bowling, fielding.....& then you have the inspiring captaincy by Dhoni. The only flaw I see in this team is becoming self destructive in the underlying overconfidence, & this could be the deciding factor between winning hands down & letting victory slip away. The pressures of expectations from all & sundry would also add up to the pot boiler. I however, see them make it to the semis at least. However, the opening game against the Kiwis will set up the tone. India has never won against the Kiwis, & if they cross this tricky hurdle, they should qualify to the semis.

Australia : Currently ranked 5, the Aussies are a formidable team as usual. They have not won this edition of the game yet, & would be hungry to prove their mettle. The team under Smith looks composed & mean. The recent win over the Proteas would do their confidence a world of good. Finch, Watson, Smith, Warner, Maxwell, Khawaja, Marsh, Faulkner - its a super super line up, capable of tearing apart any bowling. The team also has brilliant fielders, but what they lack is quality bowling. With no Starc, Cummins, etc, the pace looks brittle, & without a quality spinner, the team might struggle to contain a top batting line up. However, the team has been shaping well, & I expect them to make it to the semis at least.

New Zealand : The Kiwis are currently ranked no 4, & are quite a formidable side for this format, Having lost Brendon McCullum may hurt them eventually, but under Ken Williamson, the team looks solid. Martin Guptill, Taylor, Corey Anderson, Elliott, Munro, Luke Ronchi, all capable hitters, & then they have the surprise element in Santner & the Indian origin Sodhi - both quality spinners who should make an impression in the subcontinent pitches. This team has always been the dark horse & I wont be surprised if they topple some of the favourites & make it to the semis. They certainly have the firepower to do so. The recent retirement of Mccullum could hurt them, as would the unfortunate demise of Martin Crowe. But then, this could also inspire the team to play out of their skin & create sensational upsets.

Pakistan : Currently ranked no 7, this team has an enviable pace attack in Md Aamir, Irfan & Wahab Riaz, which can decimate any batting line up. The trouble for them would be the batting which has been inconsistent & vulnerable. Hopefully Afridi, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik find their touch with the willow & provide entertainment to the crowds. However, I dont see them making it to the last four.

Bangladesh : They are currently ranked no 10, & have qualified to the main round with relative ease. The team has done well in the recent Asia Cup, reaching the finals, defeating more fancied teams like Pakistan & Sri Lanka. The tam under Mashrafe Mortaza, looks good to spring a couple of surprises. Tamim Iqbal has already stroked a century in the qualifying games, & Shabbir Ahmed, Mahmadullah, Shakib ul Hassan are all capable of impacting big wins against stronger teams.

The next couple of weeks would be smashing cricket....the Indian turf promising high scoring games & almost every Indian keeping awake into late night, cheering for yet another World Cup triumph....
Will it or will it not........... let the games unfold & the may the best team win....