A Newfound Love of 20/20

9 05 2010

Its official. The Compulsive Hooker has been converted to 20/20 cricket. We still retain our cricketing purists natural bent towards test cricket, but right from the start this tournament has been captivating and most importantly a genuine contest.

With the Super 8’s stage well under way, there are, by our reckoning, 7 teams still in with a chance of reaching the knock-out stage, current world champions Pakistan being the only ones likely to be going home. Yet even their fate is not completely decided as if they win their last game well and England beat the Kiwis there is still an outside chance. Extraordinarily England are currently the only team looking certain to qualify for the semi’s, which considering their travails in the group stage is unlikely.

Of the others Australia, typically, have looked an awesome unit. Their fielding has been better than any other teams, with their catching in particular superb. In this shortened form of the game, fielding takes on an added significance. A half chance taken, or direct hit to effect a run out can be crucial in stopping a batting sides momentum and it is interesting that the one side looking likely to go home, Pakistan, have dropped a large number of chances.

The Aussie game plan, like the South African one, revolves mainly around pace bowling. In Nannes, Tait and Johnson they have genuinely fast and intimidating bowlers, which so far in this tournament is paying dividends. This is then backed up by a level of hitting ability which is unusual in 20/20 cricket, Warner, Watson, the two Husseys and Cameron White all having their moments. Warner in particular, much as we don’t like the idea of a cricketer focused on 20/20 cricket, does seem to have been fashioned particularly for the shortest form of the game. His ability to hit more or less any type of ball for six is extraordinary. The Aussies have a genuine chance to win the tournament, although of course being English fans we will be hoping they come unstuck somewhere along the line!

South Africa, similarly to the Aussies have been relying on the pace of Morne Morkel and the, until last night, devastating Dale Steyn. To watch these two reduce Afghanistan to 32-8 was as awesome as it was sad for the Afghani’s. The fairy tale came to an abrupt end under the pace, bounce and swing of these two brilliant bowlers. Yet, as David Lloyd pointed out on the commentary during last nights England vs South Africa game, the Proteas are like a school yard bully. Tough and domineering until you take the fight to them and stick it up their noses instead, at which point they are wont to fold. Last night Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter and briefly Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan demonstrated exactly how to play a South African team.

England, using a more balanced method of attack having brought in Yardy who bowled his left arm tweakers very effectively, look like (and it worries us to write it in case we jinx them) the real deal. For the first time in our cricketing memory an England limited overs team looks like a genuine contender for the title. Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter must be praised for their positivity at the top of the order, as despite neither having made a major contribution, the fast scoring starts have been crucial, allowing England’s high class middle order of KP, Collingwood and Morgan to come in and dictate terms.

Of the others, India cannot be written off although their bowling looks a little lightweight. India have also never been the best fielding side in the world and this was illustrated against the Australians in the Super 8 stage perfectly. The number of times Australian batsman sneaked two runs to an Indian boundary fielder was astonishing.

Sri Lanka, touted as the potential winners by the Compulsive Hooker prior to the tournament, have had an up and down couple of weeks. The one constant though has been Jayawardene whose peerless batting has made him the leading run scorer in the tournament. As long as he keeps firing there is no reason they shouldn’t progress to the semi finals as they have the requisite quality in all disciplines. Similarly to Sri Lanka, New Zealand have also had a mixed bag of results and probably need to beat England on Tuesday to qualify. Difficult to write off in any situation, we do feel however that the Super 8’s will be as far as it goes for this gutsy team.

West Indies, the host nation, are struggling and to our eyes look to mercurial to really threaten the more clinical teams at the tournament. Their batting hasn’t really fired and their bowling, like India’s does not look particularly threatening. All is not lost although they will have to win their next two games to have a chance. As they have tournament heavy weights Australia and India to come, we feel it unlikely that they will progress.

The most captivating thing of all, though, is that this tournament has shown that if you have good bowling attacks, 20/20 cricket can be a genuine battle between ball and bat. Watching Pietersen’s battles with Dale Steyn last night was brilliantly exciting. Some balls beating the bat, others travelling great distances and crucially one not dominating the other. Whilst there have still been a high number of sixes hit (particularly by Warner and Watson), unlike the extended slog fest of the IPL, they have been interspersed by periods where the ball has been difficult to get away and this factor alone has meant that the tournament as a whole has kept our interest.

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