T20 World Cup: Wickets with new ball vital for Ashes rivals

Australia's Aaron Finch (right) with teammate David Warner. — AFP
Australia's Aaron Finch (right) with teammate David Warner. — AFP

Bengaluru - The Saturday evening encounter in Dubai is an opportunity for either England or Australia to seal their semifinal spot

By Sumit Chakraberty

Published: Sat 30 Oct 2021, 12:15 AM

It’s a clash between the toppers of Group 1 of the T20 World Cup Super 12. Both teams have won their first two games. England beat the West Indies and Bangladesh, while Australia beat South Africa and Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, it can get tricky for the toppers with South Africa breathing down their necks, buoyed by their win over the West Indies. So, the Saturday evening encounter in Dubai is an opportunity for either England or Australia to seal their semi-final spot.


The return to form of David Warner and his 70-run opening stand with Aaron Finch in the game in Dubai against Sri Lanka could not have come at a better time for Australia, setting them up nicely for the clash with their Ashes rivals. Likewise, Jason Roy’s 38-ball 61 in Abu Dhabi against Bangladesh has sounded alarm bells in other camps. The powerplay overs in Dubai are proving vital with wickets clattering but also good scoring rates being achieved. How the teams balance wicket-preservation with strike rate in the first six overs could have a big impact on the outcome of this game.


Australia’s bowling combination of medium-pacer Marcus Stoinis and off-spinner Glen Maxwell went for 51 runs without a wicket in the fifth bowler’s quota of four overs against Sri Lanka. Runs leaked by the fifth bowler could prove hard to cover up in a tighter contest against a tougher opposition. Mitchell Marsh is another bowling option, but he didn’t bowl against Sri Lanka, suggesting that he’s being picked mainly as a batsman. The think tank will wonder if they should bring in a fifth specialist bowler, sacrificing the batting of either Marsh or Stoinis. That would ensure there’s no release of the pressure built up by the three quicks — Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood — apart from leg-spinner Adam Zampa.


Zampa and Sri Lanka’s leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva both picked up two wickets apiece in Thursday evening’s game in Dubai. England’s Adil Rashid will likewise enjoy the bounce on the Dubai wicket, although the Saturday evening game will be on a different pitch alongside. Off-spinner Moeen Ali has also been taking wickets for England, and his loopy, high-arm style may prove effective in Dubai. Or it may just help the batsmen tee off for sixes on the large ground. India may well be watching how Ali and Maxwell perform on Saturday to decide if the world’s leading off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin should enter the fray Sunday evening against New Zealand at the same venue.


England haven’t faced fifth bowler issues yet, with both their part-time spinners Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone bowling economically and even picking up six wickets in their two games. What they may consider is ushering in the extra pace of Mark Wood in place of Chris Jordan. We have already seen from Haris Rauf of Pakistan the effect that bowling at 150 kmph can have in Dubai. Wood has the speed to rattle Warner in particular, given the Aussie left-hander’s vulnerability to short-pitch bowling of late.


It has become a trend that you win the toss and bowl first in most T20 games, more so in an evening game with dew expected to arrive in the latter half. Aussie skipper Aaron Finch lost seven tosses in a row before winning the toss on Thursday. By the law of averages, his luck should now continue into Saturday evening. And in a game between equally matched teams, a 20-30 percent advantage gained with a toss would usually be decisive.

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru. Write to him at chakraberty@gmail.com

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