Shane Watson en route to his 70 against South Africa, on Sunday
Colombo: Want to know the secret behind Shane Watson’s brilliant form? A decent rest and a very good bat!
The Australian opener, who picked up his fourth consecutive Man of the Match award at the World Twenty20 on Sunday, has revealed that he benefited mentally and physically from being forced to sit out in the recent one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE.
On Sunday, Watson struck another superb 70 off 47 balls to complement his two wickets as Australia crushed South Africa by eight wickets to virtually seal a semi-final berth. George Bailey’s men have won both their matches so far in the Super Eights and have a very strong net run-rate (+1.712).
As AB de Villiers conceded, South Africa didn’t choke, they were simply “outplayed” by Australia.
The early loss of David Warner made no impact as Watson and Mike Hussey stitched together a 99-run stand to put the match beyond South Africa’s reach. Watson, who clubbed seven sixes against India to equal David Warner’s record, struck two on Sunday, besides eight boundaries.
Only the other day, he didn’t wish to take much credit for such big hits and instead praised his bat.
“'I’m lucky I have a very good bat, so even if you mis-hit, it can still go a very long way,” he said.
Watson made batting look easy on this slow pitch and picked up the first boundary of the innings in the fifth over when he cut Jacques Kallis. In the next over from Morne Morkel, he plundered three boundaries. There was no stopping him thereafter as he took Robin Peterson and Wayne Parnell to the cleaners.
While most teams would prefer to start with a spinner, South Africa relied on the express pace of Dale Steyn and Morkel.
But that didn’t mean much to their fortunes as the Aussie batsmen were on a roll. Mike Hussey (45 not out) and Cameron White (21 not out) saw them home, after Watson’s dismissal, with the latter’s six off Johan Botha helping them reach 147 in 17.4 overs.
Australia had progressed mainly through a late surge from Farhaan Behardien and Peterson after struggling against the spin of Xavier Doherty.
The left-arm spinner, playing his first match of the tournament, removed Richard Levi off the third ball of the innings and then had Kallis caught behind in his second over.
In his next spell, JP Duminy paid the price for stepping out to Doherty. In between, Hashmim Amla’s over-ambitious hook landed in the gloves of Matthew Wade. Australia's decision to field first looked to be paying off as the Proteas were reduced to 86 for five at the start of the 15th over.
Behardien and Peterson were then engaged in an unbroken 60-run partnership that gave the innings some respectability, of which 39 came off the last three overs.
Most of those runs came off Peterson, who gave the Australians a scare finding six boundaries during his unbeaten 32 off 19 balls. Mitchell Starc was carted around in the last over, including a scoop towards fine leg.
Behardien remained not out on 31 off 27 balls., but his unwillingness to go for big shots robbed the South Africans of vital runs towards the close.