Watson is the man

The Aussie all-rounder’s performance has been instrumental in his team’s push for a semifinal spot. By K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

Shane Watson and success seem inter-twined. The all-rounder’s superlative show once again proved to be the cornerstone of Australia’s success as George Bailey’s men defeated South Africa by eight wickets in a Super Eight Group II match in Colombo on September 30. The Proteas batted poorly, a performance that, according to its captain AB de Villiers, gave him a ‘bad taste in his mouth.’

Once Watson posted 70 in a jiffy, Australia was just one foot away from the semifinal.

Super Eights and a super start

A humdinger kicked off the Super Eights as the Group I match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Pallekele on September 27 ended in a tie. Both teams paused at 174 with Lahiru Thirimanne’s run-out forcing the ‘super over’ to be the final yardstick. Lasith Malinga, cricket’s own version of the gun-slinging cowboy, ensured that the host crossed the hurdle.

Caribbean delights

The West Indies soared high with the help of its openers, Johnson Charles (84) and Chris Gayle (58), before Ravi Rampaul’s first over, with the scalps of Craig Kieswetter and Luke Wright, delivered a fatal blow to England in a Group I match in Pallekele. Eoin Morgan’s unbeaten 71 and Alex Hales’ 68 proved futile and the West Indies won by 15 runs.

Umars on top

Sighting victory, South Africa froze and the two Umars — Akmal (43 n.o,) and Gul (32) — lashed out furiously as Pakistan snatched a two-wicket victory over the Proteas in a Group II match in Colombo on September 28. After its spinners tripped the South African batsmen, Pakistan nearly squandered the advantage as its batsmen succumbed meekly. However, thankfully, Akmal and Gul had other ideas.

The Wright way

Luke Wright’s 76 paved the way for England’s six-wicket victory over New Zealand in a Group I match in Pallekele on September 29. Steven Finn’s wickets upfront set up the contest nicely for England and once Wright played his part along with Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales, New Zealand was one step away from the exit door.

Homespun victory

Nuwan Kulasekara prised out Chris Gayle and from that moment Sri Lanka was firmly in the saddle in a Group I match in Pallekele. The West Indies did stage a recovery of sorts through Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo but with Mahela Jayawardene (65 n.o.) and Kumar Sangakkara forging a fine alliance, Sri Lanka won by nine wickets.

Leading from the front

Alert with the bat and miserly with the ball, Mohammad Hafeez lived up to his captain’s role as Pakistan opened its ICC World Twenty20 campaign on a winning note in Pallekele on September 23. Hafeez’s 43 and a spell that read 4-0-15-0 was more than adequate to stymie the Black Caps as Pakistan defeated New Zealand by 13 runs. The top-order contributions from Nasir Jamshed (56) and Imran Nazir along with Saeed Ajmal’s (four for 30) wickets further augmented Pakistan’s strengths.

Monsoon’s last laugh

Cumulus clouds that swirled over Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium on September 24 had the most decisive impact on a Group B match between the West Indies and Ireland. The fixture was abandoned once the skies opened up at the dinner break and the West Indies sailed into the Super Eights on the basis of a better net run-rate. The Irish innings (129 for 6) largely had an air of siesta punctured by the odd blows by the O’Brien brothers — Niall and Kevin.

Winning cameo

A tense chase found its winning hits through Nasir Jamshed’s unbeaten 29 (14b, 2x4, 2x6) and that frenzied nugget helped Pakistan defeat Bangladesh by eight wickets and top Group D in Pallekele on September 25. After Shakib Al Hasan (84) set up Bangladesh on course, Pakistan’s top-order again prospered with Imran Nazir (72), Mohammad Hafeez (45) and Jamshed hoodwinking the pressure associated while chasing 175.

THE SCORES SEPTEMBER 30

Super Eights — Group II (in Colombo): South Africa 146 for five in 20 overs (R. Peterson 32 n.o., F. Behardien 31 n.o., J. P. Duminy 30, AB de Villiers 21, Doherty three for 20, Watson two for 29) lost to Australia 147 for two in 17.4 overs (S. Watson 70, M. Hussey 45 n.o., C. White 21 n.o.).

SEPTEMBER 29

Group I (in Pallekele): New Zealand 148 for six in 20 overs (J. Franklin 50, R. Taylor 22, Finn three for 16) lost to England 149 for four in 18.5 overs (L. Wright 76, E. Morgan 30, A. Hales 22).

Group I (in Pallekele): West Indies 129 for five in 20 overs (M. Samuels 50, D. Bravo 40, Ajantha Mendis two for 12) lost to Sri Lanka 130 for one in 15.2 overs (M. Jayawardene 65 n.o., K. Sangakkara 39 n.o.).

SEPTEMBER 28

Group II (in Colombo): South Africa 133 for six in 20 overs (J. P. Duminy 48, AB de Villiers 25, Hafeez two for 23, Arafat two for 25) lost to Pakistan 136 for eight in 19.4 overs (U, Akmal 43 n.o., U. Gul 32, Steyn three for 22, Peterson two for 15).

SEPTEMBER 27

Group I (in Pallekele): New Zealand 174 for seven in 20 overs (R. Nicol 58, M. Guptill 38, B. McCullum 25, R. Taylor 23, Kulasekara two for 33, Dananjaye two for 32) tied with Sri Lanka 174 for six in 20 overs (T. Dilshan 76, M. Jayawardene 44, K. Sangakkara 21, Franklin two for 34).

Sri Lanka won in the ‘super-over.’

Group I (in Pallekele): West Indies 179 for five in 20 overs (J. Charles 84, C. Gayle 58, Broad two for 26) beat England 164 for four in 20 overs (E. Morgan 71 n.o., A. Hales 68, Rampaul two for 37).

SEPTEMBER 24

First round matches — Group ‘B’ (in Colombo): Ireland 129 for six in 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 25, G. Wilson 21, Gayle two for 21) versus West Indies. No result.

SEPTEMBER 25

Group ‘D’ (in Pallekele): Bangladesh 175 for six in 20 overs (Shakib Al Hasan 84, M. Rahim 25, T. Iqbal 24, Arafat three for 25) lost to Pakistan 178 for two in 18.4 overs (I. Nazir 72, Md. Hafeez 45, N. Jamshed 29 n.o., Abul Hasan two for 33).

SEPTEMBER 23

Group ‘D’ (in Pallekele): Pakistan 177 for six in 20 overs (N. Jamshed 56, Md. Hafeez 43, I. Nazir 25, Umar Akmal 23, Southee two for 31, Oram two for 44) beat New Zealand 164 for nine in 20 overs (R. Nicol 33, Brendon McCullum 32, R. Taylor 26, Ajmal four for 30).