Cape Town - I’ve loved the T20 World Cup. The tournament has been a ripper and playing conditions have rewarded bowlers as much as they have batsmen.
It has made for compelling viewing because there has been a contest between bowler and batsmen.
The very best bowlers are producing quality spells, reducing economy rates and turning dot balls into a strike ball.
T20 competitions the world over tend to be about massive scores, with the bowlers taking a pounding.
Not so in the past fortnight because there has been so much variety in the pitches used in the different stadiums in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Some have given the fast bowlers extra bounce and others have warmed the hearts of the spinners, while the batsmen have had to play really well to get the big scores.
Sharjah, pre-tournament, was spoken of as the most challenging for batters but in the Super 12s it produced the highest scoring rate (7.63) and sixes hit. Teams were averaging 10.5 sixes a match in Sharjah, compared to 8.8 in Dubai and 7.4 in Abu Dhabi.
The fielding skill level in T20 is a given, but still players seem to do the impossible in taking a catch or saving a boundary.
I am a huge fan of the competition format, with the likes of Scotland and Namibia playing excellent cricket in the qualifiers to make it to the main draw, and net run rates being a constant because of how quickly a team’s league standing could change.
There have been few “gimme” moments and there have been sensational results. Pakistan and New Zealand’s hammering of pre-tournament favourites India were two results few would have predicted while Ireland’s failure to deal with Namibia in the qualifiers was a shock.
There has been little margin for error and the quality of the line-ups has meant that a team couldn’t afford to lose more than one of their five league matches to make it to the semi-finals.
A tournament is always a success when the semi-finalists are only decided in the final league matches.
England looked a class apart, while Australia and South Africa fluttered with those magical moments and their early showdown, won in the last over by Australia, was always going to prove tournament-defining.
Defending champions the West Indies were the tournament’s greatest disappointment. They arrived with all their big names but many of those legendary T20 names have succumbed to Father Time and they looked like old men no longer capable of chasing the young ones around.
Chris Gayle, the master blaster of T20 over the past decade, was an impostor of that power hitter. He was lacking in intent and in runs.
Individually, there have been some amazing performances, with South Africa’s highly rated bowling attack always a threat. Anrich Nortje was explosive and quick, Kagiso Rabada as quick but with a more graceful action, and Tabraiz Shamsi enjoyed powerful spells.
England’s Josh Butler smashed his way to a century in the individual batting performance of the league phase and went past 200 runs in just four innings. Pakistan’s top-order duo of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam thrilled with their stroke play and artistry when at the crease.
Sri Lanka, as a team, underperformed but individually Charith Asalanka and Pathum Nissanka were always in the runs and Wanindu Hasaranga ended the tournament with 16 wickets, which included those qualification matches a week before the start of the tournament.
And then there was the all-round contribution of Namibia’s David Wiese, who went past 200 runs and took six wickets. Wiese, formerly of the Proteas, was among the many South African-born players to excel. In the first 23 matches of the tournament, South African-born players won the player of the match on nine occasions.
The quick men were as effective as the spinners in taking wickets and Australia’s leg spinner Adam Zampa produced his most memorable spell at the tournament in taking five wickets against Bangladesh, who like the West Indies never got going.
The semi-finals are where the big players usually make their mark, but the quality of England is that they have so many big moment players, with Moen Ali’s bowling up front and explosive batting, anywhere in the order, the reason that England have been so dominant in T20 for the past few years.
England remain the favourites, but the romantics are willing on Pakistan because of how they have played in a tournament that took forever to get played but will be over way too quickly.