A rollicking start

Sanath Jayasuriya on way to his half century against New Zealand. The Sri Lankan relishes the Twenty20 format.-AP

The preliminary stage of the World Twenty20 had all the thrills and frills. Cricket’s new format had well and truly arrived. Nandita Sridhar reports.

The group stage of the World Twenty20 witnessed a world record total, a world record innings, upset wins, the lowest total and the tournament’s first bowl-out.

Chris Gayle’s mind-numbing boundary-fest got the tournament off to a rollicking start. That the then record total of 205 by the West Indies was bettered was alarming.

How much is enough? South Africa’s coach Mickey Arthur admitted that the teams would prefer fielding first since no one knew what total was really enough. “Most captains might choose to do that. You never know what’s quite enough, but the same rate of scoring cannot be repeated in places like Kingsmead (Durban) and Newlands (Cape Town),” he said.

Arthur was right, as the bowlers soon came into their own. New Zealand mauled Kenya in Group C, reducing it to the lowest ever total — 73 — in a Twenty20 international. Mark Gillespie returned figures of four for seven.

Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi further proved that good attacking bowling had its place in Twenty20, even if they did it against the minnows, Scotland.

The seismic upset of the tournament came in the match between Australia and Zimbabwe (Group B). The Aussies were a little indifferent towards the tournament and the format and paid the price, crashing to an embarrassing defeat to Zimbabwe. Brendan Taylor batted with a courage and was composed in the final over when 12 runs were needed for victory. “I guess we have to start respecting the game (Twenty20) now. The top-order’s been diabolical and we’re embarrassed by the defeat. I’m sure everyone back home feels the same,” said the Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

The Aussies, however, came back strongly, beating England in a do-or-die clash. The compressed stage for the game’s oldest rivals was not without some heated exchange of words with Kevin Pietersen hoping to “humiliate Australia” before the match. England captain Paul Collingwood had better words to say after the defeat. “The better side won. It was a disappointing performance. We can play better than that, we realise that, but we’re still learning. We didn’t get enough runs on the board and if we’re going to progress in this, I think we’re going to have to be a little bit braver in our strokeplay,” he said.

“Quite a lot of batsmen got in and didn’t go on to make that big total. It was always going to be hard to defend a total like that on a pitch like that against a side like Australia who played fantastically well,” he added.

Ponting was pleased with the clinical win. “We knew that we had some better cricket in us than we had the other day and it was a pretty comprehensive win. We bowled pretty well and did the job with the bat so it was pretty satisfying,” he said.

“The bowling group was where the game was won, we fielded well and took our chances and took our chances with the bat as well. Gilly and Matty were very good,” he added.

On Pietersen’s remarks, Ponting said: “A lot of the guys in this side have been playing cricket a long time and unless you can back up comments they don’t mean anything. They had their chance to do what he (Pietersen) said they wanted to do, which was to try to humiliate us, and if anything they were the ones who walked off humiliated.”

“Kevin’s obviously Kevin. We just wanted to go and win the game,” said Collingwood while attempting to brush off his batsman’s remarks.

In the tournament’s other surprise, though a Bangladesh win can no longer be called that, the West Indies was knocked out of contention. The Caribbeans struggled with their fielding and bowling in both their matches.

Captain Ramnaresh Sarwan was critical of his team’s lack of consistency. “One of the things I’ve stressed on since I became captain is consistency and that is something we need to focus on,” he said. “It is a matter of us going back and working hard. I know we’ve been saying this for the longest while about our fielding and bowling and sometimes our batting.”

Chris Gayle celebrates his century against South Africa. The West Indian, however, ended up on the losing side as South Africa successfully chased down 206 runs in just 17.4 overs.-AP

Mohammed Ashraful smashed the fastest fifty (20 balls) in Twenty20 internationals and together with Aftab Ahmed hammered the West Indies bowling, especially Dwayne Bravo who conceded 34 runs in his first two overs.

Kenya’s woes continued, as Sanath Jayasuriya subjected it to the sort of assault he has so often conducted in the game’s longer versions. Sri Lanka scored the highest total in Twenty20 internationals — 260 for six — and Kenya succumbed by 172 runs.

Jayasuriya was at it again, against New Zealand. The Sri Lankan clearly enjoys this format. Shane Bond, expected to make an impact, was smashed around the park

The revenge clash between South Africa and Bangladesh (the latter had beaten South Africa at the World Cup) had nothing of note, except that Bangladesh’s mindless approach to batting brought it back to earth after its stupendous victory over West Indies.

India beat Pakistan in an exciting, if not satisfying bowl-out. Twenty20 had arrived with a bang.

THE SCORES GROUP A

Johannesburg, September 11, 2007. South Africa won by eight wickets.

West Indies 205 for six in 20 overs (C. Gayle 117, D. S. Smith 35) lost to South Africa 208 for two in 17.4 overs (G. Smith 28, H. Gibbs 90 not out, J. Kemp 46 not out).

Johannesburg, September 13, 2007. Bangladesh won by six wickets.

West Indies 164 for eight in 20 overs (D. S. Smith 51, S. Chanderpaul 37, M. Samuels 27, D. R. Smith 29, Shakib Al Hasan four for 34) lost to Bangladesh 165 for four in 18 overs (A. Ahmed 62 not out, M. Ashraful 61).

Cape Town, September 15, 2007. South Africa won by seven wickets.

Bangladesh 144 in 19.3 overs (A. Ahmed 36, S. Pollock three for 40) lost to South Africa 146 for three in 18.5 overs (G. Smith 41, J. Duminy 36, J. Morkel 41).

GROUP B

Cape Town, September 12, 2007. Zimbabwe won by five wickets.

Australia 138 for nine in 20 overs (A. Symonds 33, B. Hodge 35 not out, E. Chigumbura three for 20) lost to Zimbabwe 139 for five in 19.5 overs (B. Taylor 60 not out, H. Masakadza 27).

Cape Town, September 13, 2007. England won by 50 runs.

England 188 for nine in 20 overs (K. Pietersen 79, P. Collingwood 37, E. Chigumbura four for 31) bt Zimbabwe 138 for seven in 20 overs (V. Sibanda 29, B. Taylor 47, H. Masakadza 27, A. Mascarenhas three for 18).

Cape Town, September 14, 2007. Australia won by eight wickets.

England 135 in 20 overs (A. Flintoff 31, N. Bracken three for 16, M. Johnson three for 22) lost to Australia 136 for two in 14.5 overs (A. Gilchrist 45, M. Hayden 67 not out).

GROUP C

Durban, September 12, 2007. New Zealand won by nine wickets.

Kenya 73 in 16.5 overs (M. Gillespie four for seven) lost to New Zealand 74 for one in 7.4 overs (L. Vincent 27).

Johannesburg, September 14, 2007. Sri Lanka won by 172 runs.

Sri Lanka 260 for six in 20 overs (S. Jayasuriya 88, K. Sangakkara 30, M. Jayawardene 65, J. Mubarak 46 not out, J. Kamande three for 48) bt Kenya 88 in 19.3 overs.

Johannesburg, September 15, 2007. Sri Lanka won by seven wickets.

New Zealand 164 for seven in 20 overs (P. Fulton 25, R. Taylor 62, J. Oram 33 not out) lost to Sri Lanka 168 for three in 18.5 overs (U. Tharanga 37, S. Jayasuriya 61, M. Jayawardene 35 not out).

GROUP D

Durban, September 12, 2007. Pakistan won by 51 runs.

Pakistan 171 for nine in 20 overs (Y. Khan 41, C. Wright three for 29) bt Scotland 120 in 19.5 overs (D. Watts 46, U. Gul four for 25, S. Afridi four for 19).

Durban, September 13, 2007. India v Scotland. Rain. Match abandoned.