Pakistan, New Zealand, England and Australia ploughed different furrows to the semifinals of the 2021 T20 World Cup. Ability and strategy, conditions and luck all played their part. Here are five vital elements that determined who made it from the two groups of the Super 12:
The standard mode in T20 games is to go hard in the six powerplay overs at the start, taking advantage of only two fielders being allowed outside the 30-yard circle. This comes unstuck in conditions that favour seam bowling, as they have mostly been in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It explains why so many wickets have fallen to the new ball in this tournament. Pakistan adjusted the best to this from their very first game against India, as they batted conservatively at seven an over in the first 10 overs before raising the ante. They had the advantage of batting second and a modest target, but they’ve kept to the same gameplan even while batting first. The induction of the great Australian opener, Matthew Hayden, as their batting coach paid off.
Effective teams were those with the right bowling combinations as well as ploys for the different conditions at the three venues. In Dubai, speeds exceeding 145 kmph and swing with the new ball got early breakthroughs. In Abu Dhabi, a Test match length on the tacky wicket proved fruitful for the likes of Josh Hazlewood of Australia. In Sharjah, banging the ball short on a skiddy surface with low bounce was the hardest to handle for batsmen. Among spinners, those exploiting bounce with overspin were more likely to get wickets consistently, because these weren’t abrasive pitches.
The unique local conditions made team selection vital. Among the strong contenders, India and the West Indies messed this up the most. Despite the Indian Premier League (IPL) having been played in the UAE, India fielded only two fast bowlers who could hit the responsive decks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi at over 140 kmph. And they relied too much on finger spin. The West Indies, who were the defending champions, left out two of their most successful bowlers in the IPL, tall medium-pacer Jason Holder and mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who are both all-rounders. Holder came in later as a replacement, but it was too little too late to make a difference.
NET RUN RATE
Three teams were tied on 8 points in Group 1. South Africa got eliminated even though their only loss was by the narrow margin of two balls. Australia got through despite a thrashing by England with 50 balls to spare. It all came down to how South Africa and Australia played against Bangladesh. Both bowled the hapless Bangladeshis out cheaply. But while the Proteas dawdled to their target of 85 in the 14th over, the Aussies notched up the 74 they needed in six overs and two balls. One of the vagaries of net run rates determining the qualifiers is that teams have to maintain the same intensity in easy games as they would in more challenging circumstances.
No team has been able to win an evening game in Dubai batting first or even come close to defending their score. The closest were Afghanistan who lost in 19 overs to Pakistan. There’s bounce, swing, and seam movement when the game commences in the evening. Then the dew arrives at night and the team bowling second has to literally throw in the towel. India were the unluckiest, losing the toss in Dubai evening games against their two toughest opponents, Pakistan and New Zealand.
Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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