T20 World Cup: Australia Edge Out South Africa On Better Net Run-Rate To Enter Semi Final In Group-1, India Await The Afghani Verdict!

Australia beat the West Indies by 8 wickets and ensuring a better net run-rate ousted South Africa even as the latter beat England, ending their unbeaten streak. In the crucial last match in Group-1 for Australia in Abu Dhabi today, the defending Champions West Indies, for whom the match was of no consequence after being eliminated owing to their loss against the already-ousted Sri Lanka, came out with the right intentions of playing for respect put into bat; but after a few lusty shots by Gayle the same old story unfolded as three wickets fell in quick succession. Chris Gayle, the oldest playing international cricketer at 42 years of age, made only 15 in probably his last appearance in international cricket. A partnership promised to grow between Evin Lewis and Hetmyer, but Lewis getting out for 29 at the team score of 70 ended that. A partnership again seemed to bloom between Pollard and Bravo, but it happened to be only a brief one. Captain Pollard (44), this time, stuck on and helping his team post a respectable total, and Andre Russell remaining not out at 18 off 7 balls hit two lusty sixes in the last two balls as his team crossed the 150-run mark and posted a target of 158 runs for Australia which is a fighting one, but fell short of perhaps by at least 20 more runs. Russell finally seemed to find his touch, but unfortunately he was sent in this time a tad too late. For Australia, fast bowler Josh Hazelwood captured 4 wickets for 39 runs with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa taking one each.


The key to the disastrous performance of the West Indies in this ICC Men’s T20 World Cup-2021 is the consistent failures with the bat of their all-time greats like Gayle, Pollard, Russell and Bravo, the latter coming out of his announced retirement to play for repeating national glory. Almost in every innings, it fell on the shoulders of Hetmyer to do some repairs to the nearly irreparable damage done by the top order. Their bowlers too did nothing in particular to put the oppositions under pressure and were freely hit around most of the time. The once-mighty West Indies, known for their fiery fast bowlers in particular, managed to beat only the down-and-out Bangladesh who lost all their matches.


Dwayne John Bravo got out after making only 10 runs and perhaps we had seen the last time he came in to bat; he also made emphatic goodbye signs as Christopher Henry Gayle did earlier to the viewers. Bravo remains as the highest wicket taker in T20 internationals at 553 wickets. For a rather ironical goodbye Gayle took the wicket of Marsh when Australia were just one run away from victory. At the end of the match every player on the field embraced Gayle and Bravo warmly. Sad moments indeed! Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi recorded these moments forever as a live witness.


Australia with 6 points, after a deadly blow from England, bounced back strongly routing Bangladesh completely and knew their job well against the West Indies: to win the match with a good margin of victory so that it becomes impossible for South Africa, also with 6 points, to overcome the former’s net run-rate even if even they win against England in their last encounter later today. With today’s win Australia made it sure that they occupy the second spot indeed. The total of 157/7 finally offered by the West Indies was not intimidating enough for the professional Aussies. David Warner (89 not out off 56 balls) clicked for the second time in the tournament, and he along with Mitchell Marsh (53 off 32 balls) put up a 124-run partnership taking the match away from the West Indies, and more importantly kept up the run-rate momentum despite the relatively early loss of Captain Finch at the team score of 33 runs. And Australia won by 8 wickets at 161/2 with 20 balls to spare, further improving their net run-rate.


Now, over to Sharjah for the second crucial match. South Africa was desperate for a semi-final berth facing perhaps the impossible task having not only to win against England but win by a significant margin to overcome Australia’s net run-rate (for example, if SA score 200 runs, they’ll have to win by a margin of 67 runs), and as a dampener their captain Temba Bavuma lost the toss to Eoin Morgan and was, expectedly put into bat. South Africa fielded an unchanged team while England replaced an injured left-arm fast bowler Tymal Mills with right-arm fast bowler Mark Wood. South Arica needed to post a huge total on board and indeed had a splendid start despite the early loss of Hendricks thanks to a blooming partnership between the now-knee-taking de Kock and Van Der Dussen. But it was cut short when de Kock fell to Adil Rashid at the team score of 86/2 in the 12th over. Moeen Ali consumed the first wicket. A definitive  rollicking partnership between a brilliant Dussen (94 not out off 60 balls) and Aiden Markram (52 not out in 25 balls) helped South Africa post a challenging total of 189/2, their highest of the tournament and the highest by any team against England in the round-robin stage. However, the margin of victory that has to be at least 60 runs if they win was the point of concern. For the first time England showed chinks in their armor through too many loose deliveries and rare misfields.  

Chasing the highest target of 190 runs so far in the tournament England got off to a solid start putting up 50 in 5 overs with Jason Roy retiring hurt after scoring 20 quick runs even as South Africa started the attack with Spinner Maharaj straightaway. South Africa tasted the first blood as Buttler, fresh from his century in the previous match against Sri Lanka, fell to Nortje for 26 in 15 balls. Shortly after South Africa got a huge wicket as Bairstow was out LBW to spinner Shamsi, England reduced to 59/2 in the 7th over. With good contributions by Moeen Ali (37), Dawid Malan (33)  and Livingstone (28) England crossed the magic figure of 131 runs thus ousting South Africa from the World Cup, and the latter's frustration could be felt in their body language as Rabada who, unfortunately, could not pose any threat to England batsmen was hit for three consecutive sixes by Livingstone in the 16th over. As England wickets fell in quick succession at the death South Africa finally won the match by 10 runs with none other than Rabada achieving a hat-trick. Brave South Africa gave a tremendous fight, but finally lost out on the net run-rate race with all three teams of England, Australia and South Africa ending with 8 points each. 

England have retained their top spot, but this defeat and the probable loss of Jason Roy due to injury may hurt them just before the elimination stage starting 10th of November. Australia is most likely to meet Pakistan in the semi-final unless the latter lose to Scotland tomorrow. Whom England is going to meet in the semi-final will also be decided tomorrow unless New Zealand lose to Afghanistan. 


For India in Group-2, everything depends on Afghanistan spinners delivering a death blow to New Zealand in the encounter tomorrow. In the improbable scenario of New Zealand losing, if the little tottering displayed by them against Namibia was any indication, India would exactly know what to do as they’ll be playing the last Gropu-2 match on Monday against Namibia, because in that case they’ll be locked with New Zealand in terms of points and the net run-rate would come into consideration. As per the requirements India have demonstrated glorious cricket in the last two matches against Afghanistan and Scotland, routing them in incredibly one-sided encounters, as if finally abandoning their ‘death wish’ after being struck with the two near-fatal death-blows in their first two matches by Pakistan and New Zealand. At the moment India is the top team in Group-2 in terms of net run-rate. Whatever happens finally, the NZ Vs Afg match is set to generate one of the highest TRPs, perhaps after the India-Pakistan match, tomorrow. Hope the rampant betting, a usual occurrence particularly during the IPL tournaments, does not come out victorious.