Calcutta/Colombo: If Friday’s matches at the R Premadasa Stadium witnessed a clash of styles, then Sunday’s showdown will pit teams who boast similar strengths against each other.
The first game of the double header in Group 2 of the World T20 will bring together Australia and South Africa, sides that play almost identical brands of cricket with a distinct emphasis on pace bowling.
Any advantage South Africa and Australia might have had in their previous Super Eights encounters, against Pakistan and India respectively, will be neutralised when they go head-to-head, largely because both have been brought up on lively pitches and against a steady diet of high quality pace bowling.
The short ball that South Africa employed against Pakistan with modest success, and Australia against India with far greater returns, won’t quite be as effective against each other, even though both sides possess the class and the wherewithal to trouble the best in the business.
Australia is undeniably in a happier state of mind, having begun their Super Eights campaign with a commanding all-round performance against India. Having made all the early running, Australia have gradually brought consistency into their T20 cricket, and for all the affront they felt at having been ranked below Ireland in the ICC T20 rankings not so long back, Australia aren’t unaware that they have often been their worst enemy.
Under George Bailey, the team is making a conscious effort to not lose focus, and to approach each game like it is the most important match ever. That approach has paid off, though it might also have something to do with the fact that Shane Watson, its understated but certainly not under-achieving all-rounder, has been in the form of his life.
Watson has enjoyed himself in Sri Lanka with both ball and bat. He has taken the most wickets in the tournament to date, eight, hit the most sixes, 13, and been the Man of the Match in each one of Australia’s three matches, clearly the force that is driving Australia’s campaign for their first World T20 crown.
“He has been outstanding, that’s a no-brainer,” said Bailey. “Whether he can continue to play like that, I don’t know, we are forecasting. But you would think the way he plays and I know the way Watto prepares, there is no reason why he couldn’t.”