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Semifinal lineup’s confirmed! England vs New Zealand, Pakistan vs Australia

Monday 8 November 2021 | Written by Rahul Patil | Published in Cricket, Sports

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Semifinal lineup’s confirmed!  England vs New Zealand, Pakistan vs Australia
David Warner top scored for Australia as they beat defending champions West Indies. Getty Images/21110702

Australia beat West Indies and although England lost to South Africa, they made it to the semis from Group 1 with Australia on the basis of their superior net run rate. New Zealand and Pakistan won their respective matches in Group 2 and confirmed their spots in the semis.

Game 26

Australia 161 for 2 (Warner 89*, Marsh 53, Gayle 1/7) beat West Indies 157 for 7 (Pollard 44, Lewis 29, Hazlewood 4/39) by 8 wickets.

West Indies had already been eliminated from this edition of the World Cup but if they won their last group game against Australia, they had a chance to spoil Australia’s chances of making it to the semifinals.

Australia won an important toss and elected to field first. The West Indian innings was full of small cameos but nobody converted the starts they got into a significant score. Probably playing his last game in West Indian colours, Chris Gayle hit six sixes in a manner only he can but it didn’t last for long. There were small contributions from Evin Lewis (29), Hetmyer (27) but apart from captain Pollard (44) nobody else got past 30. Thanks to a couple of big sixes from Andre Russell at the end West Indies finished with a par score of 157 for 7 from their 20 overs. Josh Hazlewood with his test match line and length bowling was the most successful Aussie bowler picking up 4 for 39 of his 4 overs.

In reply a man of the match David Warner special made short work of the target. After a poor IPL on and off the field David Warner has found form and rhythm in this World Cup. When he is at his best, he is a busy player who places good balls into gaps, calls loudly, runs hard between the wickets and takes full toll of the bad balls by dispatching them to the boundary. We saw all that in his match winning innings of 89 not out yesterday. He was well supported by Mitchell Marsh (53) who matched him stroke for stroke. When you are out of the tournament it is sometimes difficult to pick yourself up and perform. The West Indian bowling looked like they were just going through the motions and the only highlight was seeing Chris Gayle pick up a wicket in what might be his last ball in international cricket.

This generation of West Indies cricketers has done a lot for T20 cricket. The brand of aggressive cricket that they play with a huge smile on their face is extremely popular with T20 cricket lovers all over the world. With Dwayne Bravo announcing his retirement from international cricket and the ‘universe boss’ Chris Gayle too hinting of retirement it is truly the end of an era. It was a lovely gesture from the Australians to give a guard of honour to both these legends at the end of the game. Seeing Bravo and Gayle walk into the sunset definitely made everyone watching have a lump in their throat.

Game 27

South Africa 189 for 2 (van der Dussen 94*, Markram 52*) beat England 179 for 8 (Moeen 37, Malan 33, Shamsi 2/24, Rabada 3/48) by 10 runs.

With Australia winning their game against the West Indies, South Africa’s chances of qualifying for the semis took a big blow. They not only had to defeat tournament favourites England but had to beat them by a massive margin to make sure their net run rate was better than Australia’s.

Winning the toss and fielding first England picked up a wicket in the 3rd over and at that stage it looked like England were going to make it 5 wins from 5 games in their group. But in walked man in form Rassie van der Dussen who had other plans. Playing smart cricket, he first stitched together a 71-run partnership with Quinton De Kock (34) of just 52 balls and on QDK’s departure he and Aiden Markram (52 not out) shared a brutal unbeaten 103 run partnership in 52 balls. Their assault on the English bowling was so severe that for the first time the English attack looked ordinary and clueless. Man of the match van der Dussen fell short of a well-deserved century and finished on 94 not out. South Africa finished on massive 189 for 2 of their 20 overs.

England’s reply started in dramatic fashion with Jason Roy (20) retiring hurt in the 5th over with a calf injury. Roy is a key member of England’s squad and it will be a big loss to England if he is unavailable for selection during the knock outs. From then on, the English innings was a mixed bag. Batters came in and struck boundaries but they kept losing wickets at regular intervals too. Buttler (26), Moeen Ali (37), Dawid Malan (33), Livingstone (28) and captain Eoin Morgan (17) all got starts but none of them could convert it into a substantial innings and none of them stayed till the end to see England home. There was too much left to do in the final overs for the English tail and in the end, they fell short by 10 runs. For South Africa Tabraiz Shamsi continued his fine returns with the ball picking up 2 for 24 of his 4 overs.

Even though they didn’t win by a big enough margin to make it to the semifinals South Africa should be really proud of their World Cup campaign. They are a new look side that is still coming out of the shadows of past legends like AB de Villiers and Faf Du Plessis. As long as they can keep off field controversies at bay, they have all the makings of a good side for the future.

Game 28

New Zealand 125 for 2 (Williamson 40*, Conway 36*) beat Afghanistan 124 for 8 (Najibullah 73, Boult 3/17, Southee 2/24) by 8 wickets.

The combined population of New Zealand and Afghanistan is about 45 million but over a billion people watched this game because India’s future in the tournament depended on the result of this game.

Whenever there is an ICC event New Zealand’s always referred to as the underdogs. The country of 5 million that punches above their weight etc. But since the Mike Hesson-Brendan McCullum era and now the Gary Stead-Kane Williamson era, they are well and truly a force to be reckoned with. Just look at their results in the last six years. Finalist at the 2015 ODI World Cup, semifinalists at the 2016 T20 World Cup, finalists (and one could argue winners) at the 2019 ODI World Cup, winners of the inaugural World Test Championships in 2021 and now semifinalists at the 2021 T20 World Cup. They are a smart team, led by a smart captain and play percentage cricket. They have plans in place for every opponent and the personnel to execute them. And the best part is that they do all this without any controversies on or off the field.

Afghanistan chose to bat first in a must win game for them. The idea was to put on a big score and then try and strangle their opponents with their world class spinners. But they lost three wickets in the first six overs and their innings never recovered. Najibullah Zadran played a lone hand for Afghanistan with a stunning innings of 73 from 48 balls. He scored 59 per cent of his teams runs and faced only 40 per cent of the deliveries. It seemed like he was batting on a different pitch compared to the rest of the batters who struggled against the disciplined Kiwi attack. Except for Mitch Santner who got a bit of tap going for 19 in an over, all the other Kiwi bowlers bowled economically and picked up wickets. Experienced duo Trent Boult (man of the match) and Tim Southee picked up five wickets between them going for only 41 runs of their eight overs. A special mention to the New Zealand fielding effort which not only saved runs on the field but caught some tough chances to restrict their opponents. Afghanistan managed a well below par score of 124 for 8 of their 20 overs.

The target of 125 was never going to test New Zealand on a good pitch and they went about the run chase in clinical fashion. Needing just over a run a ball all the batters did exactly the same without taking any undue risks. They defended the good balls, found the gaps in the field, ran hard, and put the bad balls away to the boundary. Captain cool Kane Williamson (40 not out) and Devon Conway (36 not out) got them home without much fuss. With the win New Zealand confirmed their place in the semis and knocked both Afghanistan and India out of the tournament. The India vs Namibia game (this morning) became a dead rubber and a chance for India to play their bench.

Game 29

Pakistan 189 for 4 (Babar 66, Malik 54*) beat Scotland 117 for 6 (Berrington 54*, Shadab 2/14) by 72 runs.

As Pakistan had already qualified for the semifinals this game was inconsequential for them but for Scotland it was their last chance to show their wares on a world stage.

As they did in their last game, Pakistan decided to test themselves by batting first and then letting their bowlers have a go in dew-covered conditions. For a change Mohammed Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman were dismissed cheaply. What did not change though was the fact that captain Babar Azam scored yet another 50 i.e. his fourth of the tournament in five games.

Babar is in such good form that no matter what the surface is like, no matter who the bowlers are and no matter what the match situation is, he always finds a way to score runs. His game is based on a pure and simple technique, great hand eye coordination, impeccable timing and the ability to always find the gaps in the field which is the hall mark of all great batters.

While Babar kept the score board ticking with ones and twos and the odd boundary, the impetus to the innings was provided from the other end by veterans Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. Before the tournament started there was lot of criticism by the Pakistani media over the selections of both Hafeez and Malik. But both 40 plus cricketers have let their bats do the talking for them and have silenced all their critics. Hafeez scored 31 of 19 balls whereas man of the match Malik went berserk scoring 54 of 18 balls at a strike rate of 300 studded with 6 huge sixes. Pakistan’s innings which was struggling a bit at the half way stage with only 60 runs on the board finished on 189 of 4 i.e. a whopping 129 runs coming of the last 10 overs. Except for Hamza Tahir (1/24) all the other Scottish bowlers including the impressive Mark Watt were taken to the cleaners by the Pakistan batters.

Scotland never looked like chasing 190 and specially when the aggressive Munsey got stuck at the top of the innings, the writing was on the wall. Barring an attractive 54 not out by Richie Berrington, none of the other batters contributed and they only managed 117 for 6 of their 20 overs. Leg spinner Shadab Khan was the best of the Pakistani bowlers picking up 2 wickets for only 14 runs of his 4 overs. Pakistan won by a huge margin of 72 runs and will now meet Australia in the second semifinal.