We’re only four days into the 2016 World T20 and already we’ve seen New Zealand earn a shock victory over India. We were also treated to an absolute exhibition of an innings by Chris Gayle in which the big Jamaican smashed a 48-ball 100 against England.
Friday will see the second double-header of the Super 10 phase of the competition with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand and Australia squaring off in a repeat of last year’s World Cup Final before South Africa begin their tournament against England.
Australia 6/10 | Draw 35/1 | New Zealand 27/20
Australia will be in confident mood heading into the World T20 – the only major honour that the Aussies have never won – following their 2-1 triumph over South Africa two weeks ago. That series win, however, came against a South African side that had been tinkered with to no end by Russell Domingo as he looked for his best combinations going into the flagship event.
Australia possess one of the best top orders in this competition and is underlined by the fact that one of David Warner, Steve Smith, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson will likely miss out on a starting berth against New Zealand on Friday afternoon. It will likely come down to a straight shootout between Finch and Khawaja, with the selectors likely leaning toward the latter; especially considering the fact that finch was relieved of the captaincy leading up to the tour of South Africa.
The middle order picks itself really. Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner and Phil Nevill can all do a job with the bat toward the latter stages of the innings. Maxwell is likely to be the key man in the middle and latter overs. The middle-order maverick can set pulses racing one day and infuriate the next. He showed why he’s so highly-regarded in the second T20 against South Africa in which he smashed his way to a 43-ball 75. Then, just a week later, showed just how frustrating he can be to watch as he was bowled by a relatively tame Sulieman Benn without troubling the scorers.
Where I think the Aussies will really struggle in this tournament is their bowling. They’ve only come into the tournament with two specialist spinners in Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, neither of whom have any real experience at this level; let alone in Sub-Continent conditions. Maxwell will no doubt turn his arm over a bit too, but he’s not really someone you can bank on taking wickets.
Their quicks also lack any real venom and should be easily dealt with opposition batsmen. John Hastings, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Watson and Faulkner are decent enough bowlers, however, their lack of pace through the air will make them easy targets for Martin Guptill and co come Friday.
The Black Caps will come into this tie brimming with confidence following their shock 47-run win over a woefully undercooked Indian side on Tuesday. In many ways, the first few balls of that game characterise the unpredictability and volatility of the New Zealand side. Martin Guptill dispatched the Ravi Ashwin’s first ball for a massive straight six before having across the line and being given out LBW in the second. In strolled Colin Munro who defended the first ball he faced before reverse-sweeping Ashwin for a massive six over the deep-point boundary.
While there were glimpses of brilliance in the New Zealand batting innings, they would have been disappointed after posting a meagre 126-7.Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi top-scored for the Black Caps claiming 34 and 21 respectively.
The New Zealand spinners took full advantage of a rank turner in Nagpur as they laid waste to the Indian batting line-up. Mitchell Santner was the hero after claiming career-best figures of 4-11 in four overs.
I was most excited to see the selectors give Ish Sodhi a go. The young Indian spinner who was born 1356 kilometres north of Nagpur in the bustling city of Ludhiana, came back to his homeland to torment his former countrymen. The youngster is one of the few spinners in T20 cricket that gives the ball air, inviting the drive. And that’s exactly how he claimed the wicket of Virat Kohli after the world’s number one ranked T20 batsman was smartly caught behind on the drive.
As I said in my outright preview, New Zealand are the dark horses coming into this tournament and shouldn’t be taken lightly. A win in their next match will likely see them book their place in the semi-finals with a game to spare.
Verdict: New Zealand 27/10
The Black Caps will be desperately keen to claim their second win of the tournament and book their place in the semi-finals. They look well equipped to pull off their second upset victory of the tournament. If they can make early inroads and get rid of the Aussie top order, their three red-hot spinners should seal the deal. Get on at 27/10.
England 11/10 | Draw 35/1 | South Africa 7/10
England’s tournament hopes will hinge on whether or not they can overcome a fired-up South African side in Mumbai in Friday’s late game. The equation is simple for Eoin Morgan and his charges, win against the Proteas, or face yet another embarrassing first round exit from a flagship ICC event.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the English, however. They put in a strong display last time out against the West Indies, posting a competitive 182-6 in their 20 overs. Joe Root and Jos Buttler top-scored for the English while Eoin Morgan seemed to find a bit of form as he raced to 27 off just 14 balls.
The English tails were up two balls into the West Indies’ innings as Johnson Charles was caught and bowled by David Willey. That’s where England’s joy ended, however, as Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle put their collective foot down. While Samuels didn’t last very long, Gayle played a breath-taking innings, smashing a 48-ball 100 to pile the pressure on the English.
Only Chris Jordan got it right on the day against the belligerent Jamaican. He bowled full and straight, keeping the scoring down as England’s spinners, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, struggled to grip the ball in dewy conditions. They will likely face the same conditions next time out against the Proteas at the same venue, so keep an eye out for the toss.
The South Africans will be quietly confident heading into the 2016 World T20. Their top order looks about as strong as it ever has, and with guys like David Wiese, Chris Morris, JP Duminy and David Miller set to come in lower down the order, this Protea unit will take some stopping.
The only problem the South Africans face going into this game is who to select. Will Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla open the batting with AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis rounding off the top order? Or do you drop one of the openers, promote AB to the top of the order and allow Faf to play in his preferred number three position?
It’s not only South Africa’s top order that faces this conundrum. Can Kyle Abbott and Dale Steyn be picked in the same side at the expense of Morris or Wiese? Personally, I like the look of the side with Amla and de Kock opening the batting. If team selection were up to me, my side would look like this: de Kock, Amla, du Plessis, de Villiers, Duminy, Miller, Wiese, Steyn, Abbott, Rabada, Phangiso and Tahir. The only change I’d be tempted to make from that side would be to bring Morris in for Abbott, however, with the strength of the top and middle order, I’d be hoping that Phangiso and Tahir don’t need to pad up on Friday.
Verdict: South Africa 7/10
As I alluded to earlier, the toss is going to be vital in this game. Whoever wins it will likely want to field first so that their spinners aren’t hindered by the dew. If the Proteas win the toss tomorrow, they’ll confident of wrapping up the victory. They do have the edge over England, having run out 2-0 winners in the T20 segment of this year’s bi-lateral series. Back the Proteas to end England’s hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals at 7/10.