In an unlikely twist India crafted — yes “crafted” — a victory over South Africa that enabled a show down between two Subcontinental teams and two Antipodean teams. It perhaps represented the balance of cricket in these modern days. The subcontinent has the money, the crazed following and the passion while the Antipodes has the current champions.
It is strange, however, that two teams that were knocked out in the first stage of the 2007 ODI World Cup, less than six months back, are in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup!
India beat South Africa at “their own den” (in the words of Ravi Shastri) and on a pitch that was tailor-made for — and perhaps pre-ordered by — the South Africans. This was a green top that afforded bounce, seam, movement and zip. India perhaps exploited the conditions better.
The next time South Africa visit and whinge about the pitches in the Subcontinent, someone should remind them of Thursday September 20th @ Durban — the day South Africa were beaten and bundled out of the T20 World Cup.
Once again, Durban had caused an upset. Once again South Africa had been eliminated from an important tournament on the world stage at Kingsmead, Durban. Once again South Africa had choked at an important point in a major tournament.
So, the only side to not lose a single lead-up game — South Africa — bowed out of the tournament after their first loss in the T20 World Cup! Australia had lost to Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Pakistan had lost to India. India had lost to New Zealand. New Zealand had lost to South Africa. And yet, the semi-finals line-up reads Pakistan V New Zealand and Australia V India!
It was a spirited performance by young India which was dealt a double-blow in the morning: a juicy pitch and an injury-blow to Yuvraj Singh — hero of the previous game against England and middle-order anchor.
Rohit Sharma played brilliantly after India suffered a few early set-backs. The early set-backs were mainly of their own doing. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag played cautiously for a few overs. And then, Gambhir had a brain explosion. Sehwag tried a cute tickle to third man when a slip was in place. The ‘keeper pounced on the offering. Dinesh Karthik was out first ball to a flick off his leg. And Uthappa, after appearing to steady the ship was another batsman to suffer a brain explosion! The intial hard work appeared to have slipped. But then Rohit Sharma and M. S. Dhoni took India to a defendable total.
The bowlers had to deliver and they did! I thought the bowlers were the true match winners for India. In particular, R. P. Singh who had 4 for 13 from his 4 overs! R. P. Singh has grown from strength to strength since the start of this season and is a young lad with a bright future ahead of him. He is a clever bowler and has everything in his arsenal except perhaps a good slower ball.
Sreesanth was a bit erratic initially but it was good to see that he was trying hard. Although his first ball slid down leg-side for a wide and 4 byes, his intent was right. He was trying te inswinger to Herschelle Gibbs as opposed to his stock ball, the outswinger. He picked up two wickets too.
Irfan Pathan was sensational too. His in-swinger was back and one can perhaps claim that he is back to full form. The rhythm is there. He is running through the crease efficiently and the swing is there too. His pace has dipped a bit, but that can certainly be worked up over time with more match-fitness. And Harbhajan Singh, after a wayward first over that caused an end-switch, was efficient and effective too. The bowlers won the match for India in the end.
Joginder Sharma was good in patches. He bowled at least one hit-me ball every over. I am sure he will improve with every match as long as someone tells him to stop talking to Ajit Agarkar 🙂
I thought the man-of-the-match should have gone to R. P. Singh — in a game that is dominated by batsmen, such an exquisite and clinical performances should not be overlooked in my view. Having said that, Rohit Sharma was a deserving man-of-the-match. He is a young man with a bright career ahead of him in the Indian middle-order.