Wednesday, February 21, 2024

All to play for in Group 2

Those wanting to know the semifinals line-up of the ICC World Twenty20 will have to wait for the result of today’s last Super Eights match between India and South Africa. All eyes will be fixed on the R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium as undefeated Australia lock horns with a wounded Pakistan in the day’s first match, which will be followed by the last encounter between a rejuvenated India and a downtrodden Proteas.
The excitement and uncertainty surrounding the semifinal possibilities escalated after India’s one-sided victory over Pakistan on Sunday night, with the chances of the two sub-continental giants, who are very popular in Sri Lanka too, generating much discussion. Group 2 is now open as mathematically anybody can qualify for the last four, but the reality is that Australia have all but qualified, sitting pretty on top of the group standings with an all-win record and a very healthy net run- rate.
Anyone of India and Pakistan — with one victory each under their belts — or South Africa can still go through if Australia down Pakistan, and that is just the incentive a winless South Africa need.
2007 champions India are fortunate enough to be playing the last match because they will know exactly what they need to do, or precisely what equation is needed after the first match of the day.
“Yes, it’s the last match of the Super Eights, it could also turn out to be our last match of the tournament. We will see what the situation is, what we need to do. Of course, it will be important to win. But if there is an equation about margins, it will be tricky. It will also depend on how the wicket plays on that day. We will have to wait and watch, we still have a lot of time left,” said India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“Our strategy will depend a fair bit on what happens in the previous match [between Australia and Pakistan], what the result of that match is. There is no point making a strategy now because it is possible that we might not require the strategy we come up with now,” he added before praising his opponents, saying that South Africa are a complete team even though they failed to justify it on the field so far. South Africa captain AB de Villiers indicated that they were going to make some changes in the team for the last game, where their fate will depend on others’ performance.
If Australia can extend its run as the only unbeaten team in the competition, a simple win will suffice for India, who have the same points as Pakistan (2) but a slightly inferior net run-rate (-0.452 as opposed to Pakistan’s -0.426) and then India can even afford to lose to South Africa who have a net run-rate of -0.605, provided that Dhoni’s men manage to keep the defeat to manageable proportions.
However, if Pakistan become the first team to bring the high-flying Australia down, then not only must India win, but win by a big enough margin to go through ahead of their neighbours on run-rate.
Everybody however will be looking forward to see how Pakistan manage to recover from their pathetic show against their archrivals and whether they can stop Shane Watson, for whom ‘purple patch’ would be an understatement to describe the form he is in.
Australia have had a phenomenal run in the competition courtesy of all-rounder Watson’s colossal efforts. His name will doubtless occupy much of Pakistan’s team meetings before today’s must-win game. Australia skipper George Bailey, whose side recently lost a T20I series against Pakistan 2-1 in the UAE, confirmed they will not rest their star player for the match and neither are they thinking of revenge.
So, Pakistan must find a way to breach Watson’s defences early on, but the question is how?
“Poison his food?” Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore replied jokingly but tongue firmly in cheek as he expanded: “He is very good, he is in good nick. But he is a human being; he can also play a bad shot and get out.
“If we play like this [like they did against India on Sunday] again, then we are not going to go very far in this tournament, that’s for sure. There are a number of areas that we are going to improve in, yes,” added Whatmore.
He however wanted to draw inspiration from their recent success against the Aussies.
“We had some reasonable performances against Australia just recently. But they have played very well in the last three weeks or so, in their warm-up games and in this tournament so far. We are used to playing them because we have done okay against them recently. It will be a good test, they are a good side,” said a confident Whatmore.
Regarding the qualification matter, Whatmore said: “It’s not easy to balance the need between having to win, and having to win well. Any one of three teams can actually still make it to the semifinals. It’s fantastic for them [the organisers] and for the spectators, but not for us. But yes, it won’t be easy to balance the two.”

-With The Daily Star input

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