Australian firepower to the fore

Irrespective of India's fate in the tournament, some of its budding batsmen need to introspect. Many of them run the risk of being called ‘flat track bullies', writes S. Dinakar.

The Indian batting once again stood exposed against well-directed short-pitched bowling on the bouncy pitches of Kensington Oval. It was a repetition of the Indian debacle against a similar mode of attack in the previous edition of the ICC World Twenty20 in England last year. The young Indian batsmen lacked the heart and were found wanting in technique against the fast bowlers who dug it in short.

Irrespective of India's fate in the tournament — having lost its first two Super Eight matches against Australia and the West Indies, the team was on the brink of elimination — some of its budding batsmen need to introspect. Many of them run the risk of being called ‘flat track bullies'.

In contrast to India's performance in the Super Eight stage, Australia impressed in a format where it has so often disappointed. With an explosive pace attack, the Aussies made the batsmen hop around. In Shaun Tait, the bowler with a sling action, and left-armer Dirk Nannes, Australia has the fastest attack of the competition. The two bowlers have also made their speed count.

The batsmen were relentlessly pounded with lifting deliveries and yorkers. As the pressure built up, the batsmen often succumbed to fatal pull shots.

As if the fast and furious pace bowling pair of contrasts, Tait and Nannes, wasn't enough, the left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson too made life miserable for the batsmen. This Aussie attack is high on octane.

Nannes, from a left-armer's natural angle, has been particularly impressive. His short-pitched deliveries have darted into the batsmen, making it difficult for them to duck or weave out of the way or pull. The fact that the ball hurried off the track at the Kensington Oval made the pull shot a hazardous stroke. The batsmen attempting to play the stroke against deliveries that landed short found the ball hurrying off the surface, leading to miscued skiers.

Australia displayed firepower in batting too. Shane Watson and David Warner, a right-left combination of booming strokes, put the Indian attack to the sword. Both play the horizontal bat strokes with aplomb. On the bouncy Kensington Oval track, this was a precious attribute.

The Aussies also showed resilience when the chips were down. When the top and middle order failed against Bangladesh in the early group stage and against Sri Lanka in the Super Eight phase, the left-handed Michael Hussey, calm and calculative in adverse situations, and heavy-hitter Cameron White orchestrated Australia's fightbacks.

The Australian fielding has been sensational. The aggressive bowling backed by sharp fielding helped create pressure on the opposing batsmen, thereby forcing them into mistakes.

India started its campaign confidently with victories against Afghanistan and South Africa in the initial group phase on the slower wickets of St. Lucia. However, a few of its batsmen proved to be vulnerable on the pacey Barbados pitches in the Super Eight stage.

The left-handed Suresh Raina, in roaring form in the IPL, made a strokeful century against South Africa in St. Lucia. He ran into familiar problems against the short-pitched fliers in Barbados. Dhoni admitted that his batsmen had difficulties in coping with lifters on bouncy tracks.

The West Indian captain, Chris Gayle, said the cricketing world was aware of India's weakness against short-pitched bowling and hence they were being targeted.

Playing domestic cricket on hard and bouncy tracks is the way forward for Indian cricket.

Gayle made a well-constructed 98 against India. Then, his pacemen, Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor in particular, bounced the Indian batsmen out of the match. Roach's ‘perfume ball' to the left-handed Gautam Gambhir was a brute of a delivery.

Tactically, the Indians were found wanting. That India did not field a third paceman (Vinay Kumar) — swing bowler Praveen Kumar was ruled out of Super Eight and the rest of the competition with an abdominal strain — on the pacey Barbados pitch against both Australia and the West Indies was puzzling.

Instead, it played left-arm spinner and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who proved expensive in both matches. If the team management did not have confidence in Vinay Kumar, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla should have been included. He would have found the extra bounce to his liking; this was an aggressive option that India overlooked.

It was strange that India elected to field in the two Super Eight matches when it had only two pacemen in the playing XI to utilise the moisture on the surface in the morning. Moreover, sides chasing targets in the competition had not done well till that point; only England had managed to chase successfully against Pakistan.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, with the new ball, and left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra, at the death, impressed. The rest disappointed.

England has been the surprise packet of the tournament. The side has a well-balanced attack with pacemen striking early and the spinners, offie Graeme Swann and left-armer Michael Yardy, complementing each other well.

And Kevin Pietersen is in tremendous form with the willow. His stunning strokeplay against pace ace Dale Steyn in England's duel against South Africa has been among the highlights of the tournament. His footwork and balance enable to him to strike the ball with finesse through the open spaces.

Another smooth stroker Mahela Jayawardene made headlines for Sri Lanka. His soft hands and delicate touch are his allies as he picks the gaps on the field. Jayawardene and skipper Kumar Sangakkara put on 166 — a tournament record for any wicket — as Sri Lanka crushed the West Indies. But Sri Lanka's batting came apart against Australia's pace and fury.

The duel between New Zealand and Pakistan — the Kiwis clinched the humdinger by one run — has been the closest match of the tournament. The Kiwis fought hard to nail the game off the last ball. Defending champion Pakistan's batting was fragile.

The Scores

1st match (Group B): New Zealand won by 2 wickets.

Sri Lanka 135 for six in 20 overs (M. Jayawardene 81, L. D. Chandimal 29, S. Bond 2-35) lost to New Zealand 139 for eight in 19.5 overs (J. D. Ryder 42, M. Muralitharan 2-25).

2nd match (Group D): West Indies won by 70 runs.

West Indies 138 for nine in 20 overs (R. R. Sarwan 24, D. J. G. Sammy 30, W. B. Rankin 2-35, A. R. Cusack 2-19, G. Dockrell 3-16, A. C. Botha 2-7) beat Ireland 68 in 16.4 overs (R. Rampaul 3-17, D. J. Bravo 2-5, D. J. G. Sammy 3-8).

3rd match (Group C): India won by 7 wickets.

Afghanistan 115 for eight in 20 overs (Noor Ali 50, Asghar Stanikzai 30, P. Kumar 2-14, A. Nehra 3-19) lost to India 116 for three in 14.5 overs (M. Vijay 48, Yuvraj Singh 23 not out).

4th match (Group A): Pakistan won by 21 runs.

Pakistan 172 for three in 20 overs (Kamran Akmal 73, Salman Butt 73, Shakib Al Hasan 2-27) beat Bangladesh 151 for seven in 20 overs ((Mohammad Ashraful 65, Shakib Al Hasan 47, Mohammad Aamer 2-16, Mohammad Sami 3-29).

5th match (Group C): India won by 14 runs.

India 186 for five in 20 overs (S. K. Raina 101, Yuvraj Singh 37, R. K. Kleinveldt 2-48) beat South Africa 172 for five in 20 overs (J. H. Kallis 73, G. C. Smith 36, AB de Villiers 31, Y. K. Pathan 2-42).

6th match (Group A): Australia won by 34 runs.

Australia 191 in 20 overs (D. A. Warner 26, S. R. Watson 81, D. J. Hussey 53, Mohammad Aamer 3-23, Saeed Ajmal 3-34) beat Pakistan 157 in 20 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 41, Shahid Afridi 33, D. P. Nannes 3-41, S. W. Tait 3-20, M. G. Johnson 2-21).

7th match (Group B): Sri Lanka won by 14 runs (D/L method).

Sri Lanka 173 for seven in 20 overs (M. Jayawardene 100, T. Perera 23, R. W. Price 2-31, G. A. Lamb 2-34) beat Zimbabwe 29 for one in five overs.

8th match (Group D): West Indies won by 8 wickets (D/L method).

England 191 for five in 20 overs (M. J. Lumb 28, C. Kieswetter 26, K. P. Pietersen 24, E. J. G. Morgan 55, L. J. Wright 45 not out, D. J. G. Sammy 2-22) lost to West Indies 60 for two in 5.5 overs (C. H. Gayle 25, G. P. Swann 2-24).

9th match (Group B): New Zealand won by seven runs (D/L method).

Zimbabwe 84 in 15.1 overs (T. Taibu 21, H. Masakadza 20, N. L. McCullum 3-16, D. L. Vettori 2-10, S. B. Styris 3-5) lost to New Zealand 36 for one in 8.1 overs (B. B. McCullum 22 not out).

10th match (Group D): No result.

England 120 for eight in 20 overs (E. J. G. Morgan 45, L. J. Wright 20, W. B. Rankin 2-25, K. J. O'Brien 2-22) versus Ireland 14 for one in 3.3 overs.

11th match (Group A): Australia won by 27 runs.

Australia 141 for seven in 20 overs (M. E. K. Hussey 47 not out, S. P. D. Smith 27, Mashrafe Mortaza 2-28, Shakib Al Hasan 2-24) beat Bangladesh 114 in 18.4 overs (Shakib Al Hasan 28, Mushfiqur Rahim 24, D. P. Nannes 4-18, S. P. D. Smith 2-29, D. J. Hussey 2-8).

12th match (Group C): South Africa won by 59 runs.

South Africa 139 for seven in 20 overs (G. C. Smith 27, J. H. Kallis 34, J. P. Duminy 25, J. A. Morkel 23, Hamid Hassan 3-21) beat Afghanistan 80 in 16 overs (Mirwais Ashraf 23, Hamid Hassan 22, D. W. Steyn 2-6, C. K. Langeveldt 3-12, M. Morkel 4-20).

13th match (Group E): England won by 6 wickets.

Pakistan 147 for nine in 20 overs (Salman Butt 34, Umar Akmal 30, R. J. Sidebottom 2-28, S. C. J. Broad 2-25, M. H. Yardy 2-19) lost to England 151 for four in 19.3 overs (M. J. Lumb 25, C. Kieswetter 25, K. P. Pietersen 73 not out, Saeed Ajmal 2-18).

14th match (Group E): South Africa won by 13 runs.

South Africa 170 for four in 20 overs (J. H. Kallis 31, H. H. Gibbs 30, AB de Villiers 47 not out, J. A. Morkel 40) beat New Zealand 157 for seven in 20 overs (J. D. Ryder 33, N. L. McCullum 26 not out, C. K. Langeveldt 2-39, M. Morkel 2-27, J. Botha 2-23).

15th match (Group F): Australia won by 49 runs.

Australia 184 for five in 20 overs (S. R. Watson 54, D. A. Warner 72, D. J. Hussey 35, A. Nehra 2-31, Yuvraj Singh 2-20) beat India 135 in 17.4 overs (R. G. Sharma 79 not out, D. P. Nannes 3-25, S. W. Tait 3-21).

16th match (Group F): Sri Lanka won by 57 runs.

Sri Lanka 195 for three in 20 overs (D. P. M. D. Jayawardene 98 not out, K. C. Sangakkara 68, K. A. J. Roach 2-27) beat West Indies 138 for eight in 20 overs (R. R. Sarwan 28, D. J. Bravo 23, B. A. W. Mendis 3-24, S. L. Malinga 3-28).

17th match (Group E): New Zealand won by 1 run.

New Zealand 133 for seven in 20 overs (B. B. McCullum 33, D. L. Vettori 38, S. B. Styris 21, Mohammad Sami 2-25, Abdur Rehman 2-19, Afridi 2-29) beat Pakistan 132 for seven in 20 overs (Salman Butt 67 not out, Abdul Razzaq 29, K. D. Mills 2-33, I. G. Butler 3-19).

18th match (Group E): England won by 39 runs.

England innings 168 for seven in 20 overs (C. Kieswetter 41, K. P. Pietersen 53, E. J. G. Morgan 21, J. Botha 2-15, M. Morkel 2-40, C. K. Langeveldt 2-34) beat South Africa 129 in 19 overs (J. P. Duminy 39, R. J. Sidebottom 3-23, S. C. J. Broad 2-26, M. H. Yardy 2-31, G. P. Swann 3-24).

19th match (Group F): West Indies won by 14 runs.

West Indies 169 for six in 20 overs (C. H. Gayle 98, S. Chanderpaul 23, A. Nehra 3-35) beat India 155 for nine in 20 overs (S. K. Raina 32, M. S. Dhoni 29, K. A. J. Roach 2-38).

20th match (Group F): Australia won by 81 runs.

Australia 168 for five in 20 overs (C. L. White 85 not out, M. E. K. Hussey 39 not out, A. D. Mathews 2-24, S. Randiv 3-20) beat Sri Lanka 87 in 16.2 overs (T. M. Dilshan 20, D. P. Nannes 2-19, M. G. Johnson 3-15, S. P. D. Smith 2-12).