WT—20:20| This season has seen some thrilling contests
Indo-Australia quasi quarter final to decide the final semi-final place provided a thriller. Virat Kohli by his unbeaten 51 ball 82 confirmed the often repeated comment by experts that he is one of the finest finishers in shorter versions of the game.
What qualifies him is spacing his innings and tailoring it as per situational demands. Gradual blunting of opposition attack followed by acceleration is an art, he has mastered.
He took the game away from Aussies, even though the asking rate in the closing overs had raised to 13 an over.
However with another famed chaser—skipper Dhoni to partner Virat; you could not rule India out. The twosomes ran like hares to convert ones into twos, with the chase spaced by fours and sixes in the few remaining overs. Save Watson in his economic spell with 2 wickets, other Aussie bowlers were taken apart.
Aussies score of 160 was challenging, if not imposing. Kangaroos failed to capitalise on bright start provided by Khawaja and Finch. The opening pair hoisted 59 before power play was over, with a spate of boundaries and sixes. Ever dependable Ashwin conceded 22 in his opening over. It took Australia 16 more overs to add 100 odd runs to their tally, after Khawaja departed right at the start of 5th over. Ashwin returned to account for Warner, stumped by a mile. And Jadeja applied brakes, with Yuraj accounting for Smith. Ashish bowled economically taking the key wicket of Khawaja—the man responsible for providing Aussies with quite a few bright starts. Usman Khawaja could be the key Aussie batsman by being little more circumspect.
On Sunday, March, the 27th while waiting for India v/s Australia big game to decide the 4th team to line-up for semis, Afghans sprang a surprise by successfully defending their score of 123 runs against WI, winning by 6 runs. Disciplined bowling by Hamid, Mohammad Nabi and teenager Rashid, some brilliant catches, a spectacular run-out by Shahzad, and deft fielding saw Afghans through. Najib chipped in with unbeaten 48 to help Afghans pile-up the defensible total. Chris Gayle donning Afghan colours felicitated the victory of minnows in a magnificent gesture of sportsmanship. Olympian in spirit, Gayle did the Caribbeans' proud. Such are the moments that enrich the sport.
West Indies had earlier qualified for semis; the loss did not affect their position. Caribbeans beat springboks to qualify. The win though was hardly convincing. WI toiled to reach what South Africans had posted—none too challenging 122 runs, with de Kock's 47 only innings of note. Samuels with 44 and Charles with 32 framed Caribbean chase, though they were 20 short in final two overs. They got the required runs providing a keen finish to an otherwise dull encounter.
In another group match Pakistan were ousted out of contention by Aussies. Chasing an imposing total of 193, Pakistan failed to capitalise on the bright start provided by Sharjeel, who is showing a lot of promise. Aussie—Faulkner banking on his back of the hand slow deliveries took five wickets, without anyone of his five victims picking up the variation. Pakistan's chase folded with a total of 172. Latif with 46 and Malik with 40 following Sharjeel's initial dash could be translated in to victory with an organized effort.
Team Pakistan, bright in patches lacks organization—the hallmark of success in key competitions. Throughout 2016 WT-20:20, the team seemed to be lacking plans, plan A to start with, and plan B to fall back on, once A wouldn't work. The batting lacked depth and intent. And the team once famed for its bite in spin attacked lacked quality spin. Afridi, Wasim and Malik combine is neither a patch on past performances in spin department, nor effective enough like the spin combine of other teams, particularly New Zealand and India. In the contest with Aussies that was curtains for Pakistan in WT-20:20 Aussie spinner Adam Zampa looked ahead of Pakistan's spin combine, though Wasim put in his best with two wickets. As such, he wasn't a regular feature for spin friendly wickets, for reasons unknown.
England—Sri Lanka encounter in Delhi proved one of the brightest in 2016 WT-20:20. Chasing England's 171 for 4 buttressed by unbeaten 66 by Buttler and 42 by Roy, Sri Lankans were reeling on 15 for 4, before the resolute Angelo Matthews played a captain's innings of high quality. Combining with Chamara Kapugedera 80 runs were realized in 10 overs. Continuing his heroics, Angelo badly affected by hamstring injury took Sri Lankans to a stage where they needed 63 of last 4 overs. As the chase heightened in intensity, Lankans took 21 from Adil Rashid over, and followed it with 21 from Moen Ali over, with Angelo clearing the ropes six times. However two excellent death overs by Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes spelt the England victory by 10 runs. Angelo Matthews was left with unbeaten 73 with Chris Jordan taking 4 for 28. The contest resulted in semi-final berth for England.
NZ already ensured of semi-final beat Bangladesh comfortably. Chasing NZ total of 145, Bangladesh in a lacklustre display folded up for 70. Mustafizur Rahman's five wickets with subtle variations was an event of note. Mustafizur with his variety is a real find. South Africa-Sri Lanka encounter was a non-event without an effect on final line-up.
Saturday next the semis and final, inshallah
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
(Author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist)