India crafted a victory today and kept her hopes alive of a semi-finals berth in the T20 World Cup.
India were spurred by a brilliant 58 off just 16 balls in 14 minutes of brilliance by the dashing Yuvraj Singh. In the process, Yuvraj Singh hit Chris Broad out of the park for 6 sixes in the 19th over of the match — the first time that this feat has been achieved in T20 matches. In the process, Yuvraj Singh also made the fastest T20 half-century — off just 12 balls! From memory, his half century had six 6s, three 4s, two 1s and one dot ball!
By winning this match handsomely, India kept alive her chances of a semi-finals berth. All they need to do is to beat South Africa. I believe they have the run rate issue solved as a result of this win against New Zealand.
Even three dropped catches — two off the bowling of the hapless Joginder Sharma and one off the bowling of Sree Santh — did not help England’s pursuit of 218 runs. Yuvraj Singh missed a sitter at point. R. P. Singh slipped as he went for a catch at 3rd Man. Joginder Sharma dived at square leg behind the umpire — and was perhaps unsighted by the umpire — and dropped another easy catch to make up the drops. But the team also fielded and caught well. They bowled well in patches to deny England a victory. Harbhajan Singh’s catch on the boundary ropes was sensational — perhaps even the catch of the tournament so far!
India went in with Jogidnder Sharma instead of Ajit Agarkar. This was a good move. Despite the runs that he leaked, I think this was a good move. India may persist with this option for the final game against South Africa. An option well worth considering is that of Yusuf Pathan for Joginder Sharma. The older of the Pathan brothers is a thinking bowler and can give the ball one heck of a tonk. However, I think Joginder Sharma will have learnt from this experience and may get the nod in the final do-or-die game.
India also went in with Rohit Sharma instead of Dinesh Karthik,
The Indian bowlers bowled reasonably on a somewhat flat pitch. In particular, Pathan was impressive. He bowled at about 130kmph and bowled with accuracy. He also bowled a few well-disguised slower balls. Sreesanth seems to have dropped the verbals and the needless glares. He seems to be doing an Ntini in his follow-through these days. He runs through and immediately turns and sprints back in that distinctive Ntini-way! He seems to have learnt from his England experiences.
Andrew Flintoff’s verbals banter seemed to have spurred Yuvraj Singh onto his onslaught. But at the man-of-the-match award, Yuvraj Singh was all diplomacy and indicated that what was said on the field would be left on the field. This is good to see.
Finally, a word on M. S. Dhoni’s captaincy. With each outing, he continues to impress. He is not a “formula captain” who works off a set song-sheet. He was willing to move and change his bowlers around. He tried to attack early on and when nothing much happened, he switched to a clever defence ploy. He could have had a man on the mid-wicket fence. This may well happen in the next match which is at the same ground. He also bowled his best bowlers in the last 3 overs. If anything, he perhaps should have tried an over or two from Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh around the 12th over mark.
The win was, however, in my view, crafted mainly by a solid start by Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. They played sensibly and provided a sold platform for a later-overs launch. I think I need to re-assess my views on Gambhir! He is batting well and appears to have a good head on his shoulders. Sehwag, in my view, is not quite there — the ball that jags back will continue to find him. But he is playing more freely now than I have seen in some time. Moreover, he is looking fitter and meaner than ever before. Hopefully he will crack the big one soon.
A big game against South Africa coming up. Bring it on…