Wednesday, March 30, 2016

India to Face Calypso Music at the Wankhede for a Berth in ICC WT20 Final

2nd Semi Final: India Vs West Indies – Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai 31st March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

Pre tournament favourites and hosts India will clash with the men from Caribbean in the second semi final of the ICC WT20 at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai tomorrow, the winner earning the right to play either England or New Zealand.

India stumbled against the Kiwi spinners at Nagpur but bounced back to trash traditional rivals Pakistan before securing a heart stopping victory against Bangladesh and then finally trounced Australia in Mohali riding on a superb innings by Virat Kohli.

West Indies, on the other hand started off by trashing the English in a high run chase before seeing off both Sri Lanka and South Africa with relative ease before being toppled by the impressive Afghani team.

The Indian batting has largely been a one man show with Kohli doing the bulk of the scoring. Rohit, Raina and Dhawan have failed in all the games and the patience must be running out especially when Dhawan and Raina are considered. Yuvraj might miss the game because of the ankle injury he sustained in the last match. Dhoni remains the only other man in form along with Kohli but he has stubbornly resisted to move himself up the order.

The West Indian bowling might not be as strong as their batting but it does the job in the shortest format of the game with it's variedness. Benn provides the perfect foil for Samuel Badree and these two have been exceptional for the Windies thus far. Bravo provides stability in the middle overs with his variations and Russell opens the bowling for them often hitting 145 kph. The fact that these two are also very good batsmen means that West Indies are served well.

The West Indian batting is almost a scary sight to deal with. With the towering Gayle starting the proceedings, one might easily miss the batsmen at the other end but Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels and Lendl Simmons (drafted in for Andre Fletcher) can all win games on their own. Then comes their string of big hitting all rounders in Bravo, Russell, Sammy and Brathwaite - all of whom can give the ball a proper battering and on a good Wankhede track remain a dangerous proposition to deal with.

The Indian bowling has gelled well and that has given Dhoni plenty of confidence even though their stronger suit, batting, has not functioned as per high standards. Nehra has been exceptional with his line and lengths and has bowled intelligently on the slow Indian tracks. Bumrah has not started well in the power plays but his pin-point yorkers in the slog overs have been almost impossible to hit. Ashwin and Jadeja have bowled well in the middle overs while Raina and Yuvraj have provided alternate spinning options. Pandya has been getting wickets as well with his relative harmless looking bowling.

It will be a great game between two very good teams who are in form and at home in the T20 format of the game. I feel that if India chase then West Indies might lose this as India would prefer chasing wholly the West Indian bowling is not as strong as their batting. Dew might also play a part and bowling might be difficult in the second innings. So I feel that the chasing team will have a great advantage tomorrow and will in all probability go on to win the game.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

England Aim to Bring Down High Flying Kiwis at Kotla - ICC WT20 2016, 1st Semi Final - Match Preview

1st Semi Final: New Zealand Vs England – Ferozshah Kotla, Delhi 30th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

The business end of the ICC WT20 2016 is here with New Zealand and England kicking off the first semi final at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi.

New Zealand have been the team to beat in this mega event and they have impressed everyone with their thoroughness, adaptability and the ability to handle high pressure. The fact that they have not used Boult and Southee thus far speaks volumes about them and when you throw in the fact that Brendon McCullum just retired a few months before the tournament, and then their performances become more magnanimous.

England have also earned their right to be in the last four having chased down a monstrous 230 against South Africa before delivering the knockout punch against the Lankans surviving in the face of an onslaught by Angelo Mathews.

The Kiwi batting has been led by the in-form Martin Guptill at the top who has been in smashing form over the past few months in the shortest format of the game. Kane Williamson proves to be a Zen like partner for the assaulting Guptill. Munro and Anderson, both highly destructive batsmen, have struggled a bit on the dusty Indian pitches but the Kotla track might just suit them. Ross Taylor has been amongst the runs and Luke Ronchi has often provided the Kiwis with the final thrust.

The English bowling appears to be their weaker suit with their pace bowlers lacking the consistency and the spinners being taken to the cleaners by Mathews and co at Kotla in their last game. Jordan and Stokes though hit their length perfectly in the death overs and bailed then out of a tough situation. Willey provides the left armers angle and he got some early swing with the new ball which might be tough to handle in a high pressure game. Liam Plunkett has provided them with a genuine pace option.

The English batting has been their saviour in this tournament raking up huge scores with relative ease. Hales and Roy provide them with high explosive firepower at the top. Root is a class batsman with the ability to adjust to the situation and his innings against the South Africans showed us his enterprising side to all of us. They are followed by Morgan, Stokes and Buttler - all of whom are well capable of taking the game away from the opposition on their own. Their batting depth is emphasised by the fact that Jordan, Ali and Willey come in so late in the order and can tonk the ball at will.

The English batsmen will be up against probably the most adaptable bowling line up of this World Cup. Their trio of spinners; Sodhi, Santner and McCullum - blew India away at the dusty Nagpur before returning to give the Bangladeshi batsmen a run at the same venue in this last game. Against Australia at Dharamsala and Pakistan at Mohali it was more of a team effort with every bowler chipping in with the wickets when required. Milne and McClenaghan have provided the raw pace while Anderson and Elliott have given them the dibbly-dobbly option!

It promises to be a mouth watering clash between two very good sides that have been playing a very pleasing brand of cricket recently. I believe that New Zealand hold the slight edge, having cruised through without any trouble this far, but England are not that far away. England's familiarity with the Kotla pitch might also negate the slight Kiwi advantage as they have played their last two games here. I believe it will be a close game but New Zealand might just prove to be too hot for the English to handle.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Australia, India Showdown for a Spot in the ICC WT20 2016 Semi Final

India Vs Australia – Mohali, 27th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

It has come down to this crunch match for both India and Australia in this ICC WT20 2016. Having lost to the Kiwis, and won against Pakistan and Bangladesh; Australia and India go head to head in a mouth watering clash that is a virtual Quarter Final and will be played at Mohali.

Australia have an abundance of talent when it comes to their batting department and after having left out Finch for the first couple of games he was back at the top of the order along with Khawaja. With the dangerous Warner at 3, Smith at 4, Maxwell at 5 followed by hard hitting all rounders Watson and Faulkner at 6 and 7; the Aussie batting is almost unmatchable on paper. But how they cope with the Indian spinners will play a huge role on the outcome of this match as this is almost the same side which was crushed 3-0 by India recently.

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were the nemesis for the Australian batting line up during India’s victorious T20I campaign down under and they will again hold the key on a track which is expected to take turn and assist the spin bowlers. Bumrah and Nehra will have to provide the initial thrust while also keeping the runs down in the slog overs.

The Indian batting was led by Rohit and Kohli during that crushing series win which set the Indian T20 juggernaut in motion and a lot will again depend on these two as Dhawan, Raina and Yuvraj appear woefully out of form. There is a case for Dhoni to promote himself up the order as he has looked in good touch out of all the middle order batsmen.

The Australian bowling will be manned by Nathan Coulter Nile and Josh Hazlewood but if the pitch is a rank turner then the Aussie’s might opt for Ashton Agar over one of these. Adam Zampa has impressed everyone with his enterprising leg spin and the slower balls and cutters of Watson and Faulkner will also come into play on a sluggish surface.

This match has all the makings of a potential blockbuster. India and Australia have played some great matches over the past decade and with the pressure of a knock out game I expect a high voltage clash between these two classy sides. I am looking forward to sparks flying and a close and a juicy encounter between Australia and India and I hope that we get to witness a good game of cricket!!

Buttler, Jordan Power England to the ICC WT20 Semi Finals; SL, SA Knocked Out!

England Vs Sri Lanka – Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi 26th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Review

England Beat Sri Lanka by 10 Runs

It was a must win game for both England and Sri Lanka and somewhere in Delhi the Proteas, after losing to both England and West Indies, would also have been backing the Lankans as their fate lay in the hands of the men from the emerald isle.

Mathews won the toss and elected to bowl first on a pitch which looked much better for batting than some of the previous Delhi wickets. Sri Lanka opted for the hard hitting Dasun Shanaka in place of Kulasekara while England brought in Hales for Vince.

Herath drew first blood for the Lankans when he trapped Hales leg before in the second over of the match for a blob. Mathews was using his trump cards in Herath and Vandersey in the power play and the going was tough for the English batsmen. At end of six overs England were 38-1, just about getting some good overs together. Chameera came on after the power play and have away just 7 in his first two overs to keep England in check. England were not going anywhere as they reached 65-1 in 10 and Root fell to Vandersey off the first ball of the 11th, holing out to a rank long hop. Buttler was promoted up the order and he started with a delicious reverse sweep. Vandersey, in his next over trapped Roy right in front with a googly to reduce them to 88-3 in 13 overs. Two more good overs from Mathews and Herath meant England were 99-3 at the end of 15 and staring at a sub-par score.

It was at this point that England seized the game by the scruff of its neck, Perera came in to bowl and Morgan took a four and a six to steal 18 off it. Chameera returned to deliver his final two overs but was carted all over the ground by an enterprising Buttler who by now was going in full throttle. Chameera went for 29 in his final two overs to finish with 0-36 in his 4 overs. Perera came in to bowl the final over after Shanaka had also been taken to the cleaners and bowled a good right over until the final delivery which was a juicy full toss and which was gleefully deposited into the stands by Stokes. Buttler had raced to his 50 off just 28 balls and finished unbeaten on 66 off 37 deliveries, England reaching a mammoth 171-4 in their 20 overs. England had scored 72 off their final five overs with Buttler and Morgan running riot.

Sri Lanka would have been hoping for a steady start but they lost Dilshan in the first over going for a wild hack to the leg side. Chandimal was caught behind off Jordan in the second over and Siriwardene was caught at cover by Morgan in the third before Thirimanne was run out by Stokes off the very next ball to leave the Lankans breathless at 15-4 at the end of 3 overs.

Mathews along with Kapugedara then set out to restore some sensibility back into the innings, both playing cautiously without any risks. Sri Lanka reached an underwhelming 59-4 at the end of 10 overs.  This was a knock out game for them and there was no point in dilly dallying, they might have as well perished while giving it a proper crack.

Mathews and Kapugedara lay into Rashid smacking 3 monsterous sixes in the 12th over which cost English 21 runs. Kapugedara fell in the next over, going for another big hit but finding Stokes on the deep mid wicket boundary. Perera walked in and biffed one into the stands in the next over from Moeen Ali to keep Sri Lanka in the game. Mathews meanwhile did his hamstring and was rendered almost immobile. Sri Lanka needed 61 from 30 and Mathews and Perera took 21 off Ali to bring the equation to a manageable 40 off 24.

Jordan got Perera in the next over but Shanaka clattered a six and a four in the 18th to keep the chase on track. When he hit another 4 off the second ball of the 19th it seemed like Sri Lanka will win at a canter but Joe Root took a blonde of a catch to dismiss Shanaka off the third ball and Herath was cleaned up on the final delivery to leave Mathews needing 15 off the last over. He tried manly but he was not able to move properly and he could not run so it was way too much especially since all other specialist batsmen were in the pavilion by now. Sri Lanka fell short by 10 runs as England progressed to the semi final of the WT20 2016. Mathews had played a captain's innings of 73* off 54 balls which included 5 huge sixes. With this loss South Africa also bowed out of the World Cup.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

England Look to Seal Semi Final Berth, Sri Lanka to Stay Alive at Kotla

England Vs Sri Lanka – Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi 26th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

Another knock-out game stares at us in this ICC WT20 2016. After South Africa stuttered and stumbled against the West Indies at Nagpur yesterday to lose by 3 wickets, all England need now is a win against Sri Lanka to go through to the Semi Finals without any drama. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, need to beat England to stay alive and then hope that they either defeat South Africa to storm in the Semi Finals or lose by a small margin to them to ensure a higher net run rate as compared to the Proteas!

Sri Lanka would be confident of rattling the English team on a Kotla track which is known for its slow and low nature and especially after watching how the England batting line up was brought to its knees by a spirited Afghani spin attack. Sri Lanka would rely heavily on the wily old fox Herath and the young leg spinning wizard Vandersay and would also likely bring in the off-spinner Senanayake on this track.

How the Lankan batsmen deal with spin though might decide if they can beat the English as this is probably the first time that England have two quality spin bowlers amongst their ranks. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have combined well in this ICC WT20 2016 so far, strangulating opposition batsmen in the middle overs while also picking up wickets thus pegging them further back.

Dilshan and Mathews hold the key as far as the Lankan batting is concerned as their young batsmen, Chandimal and Thirimanne have struggled to even get the ball off the square. Kapugedera, forever an enigma for the Lankan fans and officials alike might be on his final few chances as well as he has not made the most of his latest comeback. The bright point is the sensible batting of hard hitting all-rounder Thisara Perera and the Lankans will bank on him to provide a few lusty blows down the order.

Alex Hales is expected to be back for the English after he missed out on the last game with a bad back, James Vince most likely to sit out. Joe Root is a classy player of spin bowling and he will need to share the bulk of the load if England is to wade through the Lankan spinners with success. Buttler and Stokes remain a potent threat lower down and cannot be taken lightly at all.

The game promises to be a close affair especially given how the pitches have behaved in this tournament so far. I’m expecting another surface which is slow and where the ball will keep low and the shot making will be difficult. It will be a mouth watering clash between two past WT20 champion teams and one that I am eagerly awaiting for!!

South Africa Stare at Exit, West Indies through to the Semi Finals after a Scare

South Africa Vs West Indies - VCA in Jamtha, Nagpur 25th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Review

West Indies Won by 3 Wickets with 2 Balls to Spare.

It was a must win game for South Africa, having lost already to England and Faf was delighted when Sammy won the toss and, surprisingly, decided to bowl first on a Nagpur pitch which was supposed to be aiding spin bowlers.

South Africa started in frenzy, Amla was run out to a brilliant work in the field by Andre Russell off the third ball of the innings. Du Plessis hit a lovely straight six off Russell in the second over but spooned a catch to Benn off the very next delivery. South Africa decided to push De Villiers down and that brought Rossouw out in the middle. With two left-handers at the wicket Sammy played a master stroke. He brought on Chris Gayle to bowl his gentle off spin. Gayle induced a false shot of Rossouw and he was caught at short third man by Russell, he had failed to open his account. South Africa were 20-3 after three overs and with a lot of work to do.

De Villiers crunched a lovely straight drive while De Kock belted a straight six off Badree to give the Protea innings some life but a Bravo slower ball broke the defences of De Villiers and left South Africa in a deep hole. With Miller at the crease, Sammy tossed the ball to Gayle again and Gayle produced a beauty to take the big hitting Miller's middle stump. Gayle celebrated by standing motionless and stroking his chin in a pensive manner, as if meditating on the two wickets that he had got. South Africa 47-5 in the 9th over.

It could have gotten worse for them had Ramdin stumped Wiese of Benn, but he missed the ball and it trickled into the fence for four byes. De Kock and Wiese brought up their 50 run stand and we're just looking to up the ante when De Kock was bowled around his legs for a well made 47 off 46 balls, an innings of high maturity and one which held the Protea innings together.

Morris and Wiese tried to chip in but the last three overs went for just 14 runs as West Indies tightened the screws in the death overs. Sorry Africa finished with a sub-par 122-8 in their 20 overs.

Gayle started with a delicate boundary to fine leg but saw his off stump pegged back when Rabada got one to swing back into him, the crowd went silent and West Indies were 5-1 after 1. The hero of the last match Fletcher and Charles both swung their bats trying to avoid as many as possible while the field restrictions were on but with limited success. Tahir was introduced in the fifth over and he proved to be difficult to get away. When Wiese came on to bowl his cutters in the sixth, the pressure had mounted enough for Fletcher to look for a nonexistent single as Rossouw caught him well short of the crease with a pin point direct hit. West Indies 37-2 in 6 overs.

Phangiso, Wiese and Tahir were putting a strangle on and despite Charles biffing a monster six off Phangiso, Wiese had him caught at cover for 32 off 35 balls. The 13th over from Rabada saw 3 boundaries ease the pressure which was building, Bravo deflecting one to the vacant fine leg boundary before Samuels slashing two; one over point and another to third man. Phangiso got Bravo in his final over to finish with 1-19 in his 4 and ensured that South Africa were still in it.

Faf brought his trump card Tahir in the 17th, and he immediately had a huge impact. Having dropped Samuels off his first delivery, he induced Russell to play a big shot on the leg side only to find the fielder before cleaning up Sammy off the very next ball with a delightfully flighted googly. That set the cat amongst the Windies dug out and a tight 18th from Wiese left the West Indies with 20 to get off 2 overs.

Samuels hit a couple of boundaries in the penultimate over but he perished going for a big hit, reprising memories of the Bangladesh brain fade against India from just a couple of days ago. West Indies needed 9 from the final over and it seemed as if West Indies will wilt under pressure but Brathwaite smashed a huge six off the second ball to almost seal the deal. They did not make the mistakes that Bangladesh had made the other night, choosing to take singles and finish the game off without any further drama.

The loss left South Africa on the brink of elimination, and West Indies in the semi finals with still a game against Afghanistan to go for them. South Africa would want Sri Lanka to beat England tonight and then hope that they can eke out a huge win against the Lankans themselves for them to have any remote hope of making it through to the semi final stage of the ICC WT20 2016!!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Nagpur Pitch in Focus as West Indies Clash with South Africa

South Africa Vs West Indies - VCA in Jamtha, Nagpur 25th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

The Group 1 is not as clear as Group 2 where New Zealand is already through and it is almost a certainty that they will lead the group as well. Here the West Indies appear most likely to finish on top as they are on 4 points from 2 games but South Africa, England and Sri Lanka are all in with a chance to go through to the semi finals as well. Hence, every match of Group 1 becomes very important from here on in.

The West Indies and South Africa clash will bring us back to the Jamtha in Nagpur and the pitch will come under scrutiny again after it had massive turn and bounce in the opening encounter between hosts India and New Zealand. Although a different surface is to be used but spin is almost certainly expected to play a huge role in this important Group 1 clash.

The West Indian batting flourished under Gayle against England where he went on a rampage while his replacement Fletcher ran riot against the Lankans in game 2 as Gayle could not bat with a hamstring twinge. The other batsmen have not looked as comfortable as the others with only flashes of brilliance from Samuels and Russell providing a silver lining for them. Brave, Ramdin and Charles must step up on a pitch which can be difficult to bat on. Captain Sammy and Brathwaite lurk lower down and belt the living daylights out of any attack in this World Cup.

The Protea bowling has not yet lived up to its high reputation – they gave away 230 runs to England to lose a match that was firmly in their grasp and then Afghanistan gave them a real scare almost chasing down a mammoth 200. Steyn was dropped for the Afghanistan match and I don’t see him coming back in with Morris having picked up 3 wickets in the last match. Aaron Phangiso might get a game since JP Duminy will not be available for this clash having injured his hamstring during the last game at Wankhede. Tahir, with the ball expected to grip and turn, will be a key figure for this encounter in Nagpur.

The South African batting has been in ominous form with De Kock and Amla proving them with blazing starts and AB De Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Miller providing the charge in the slog overs. De Villiers made a stunning return to form in the last game as he tore in to the young leg spinner Rashid, taking him for 29 in an over – it was that over which eventually proved to be the difference between the two sides! With Duminy missing they might consider bringing in Behardien or Rossouw in his place.

The West Indian bowling has been served well by their bevy of slow bowlers in Badree and Benn while their slew of all rounders in Russell, Bravo and Brathwaite provide a huge solidity to their overall composition. They might not play Taylor and Holder as the pitch is as it is not expected to be conducive to pace bowlers.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

India Keep Nerve to Clinch a Nail Biter against Bangladesh

India Vs Bangladesh – Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, 23rd March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Review
India Defeat Bangladesh by 1 Run

It was a must win for both India and Bangladesh. The ground was packed to the rafters and there was a smattering of green amidst the sea of blue at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. The pitch was expected to be a batting beauty and the stage was all set for an important clash between India and its noisy neighbours.

Bangladesh won the toss and inserted India in to bat first, Tamim was back for them too providing a huge boost to their batting department. India started slowly as Mashrafe rotated his bowlers cleverly in the opening 6 power play overs. India lost Rohit Sharma off the last ball of the 6th over to Mustafizur after two sixes had been stuck in that over – one by each opener. Shakib trapped Dhawan leg before in the very next over to put the skids on further.

Raina, played his initial few balls like he has done in the recent past – struggling for timing and jumping and prodding all over the place. Kohli, on the other hand was just looking for singles at this stage. Raina slugged a couple of sixes in the 11th over to inject some momentum in the Indian innings but Shakib and Mashrafe bowled two quiet overs to pull things back. It was a cat and mouse game, the pitch was slower than expected and the ball was not coming on to the bat nicely.

In the 14th over bowled by Shuvagata Hom, Kohli hit a flat six but was bowled trying to repeat the dose again and India were in a spot of bother as Dhoni promoted Pandya up the order to up the sagging run rate. Pandya clattered a huge six off his second delivery and creamed Shakib – their best bowler on view for two boundaries in the very next over.

But Al-Amin Hossain returned to first pick Raina as he mistimed another slog to mid-wicket before Soumya Sarkar took a blinder to dismiss Hardik Pandya – he intercepted a full blooded pull shot by diving full length at deep mid wicket and picked up the catch with both hands. Yuvraj continued to look clueless in his short stay while Dhoni, Jadeja and Ashwin all tried to hit out without much success as India posted 146/7 in their 20 overs.

Bangladesh got a boundary off the first ball as Bumrah mis-fielded a ball at fine leg before Nehra dropped Tamim off his own bowling. Ashwin came in to the attack in the 3rd over and stuck immediately – getting Mithun out caught at long on by an elated Pandya. Bumrah was having a shocker in the field as he dropped a dolly to reprieve Tamim off the bowling of Ashwin. Tamim punished the young Indian pacer by hitting 4 boundaries in his next over as he wilted under the pressure. At the other hand Sabbir Rahman was also playing some delectable shots, he had hit a huge six off Ashwin which almost went in the second tier! Bangladesh at 45/1 after an action packed 6 overs.

Jadeja came in the 8th over and removed the dangerous Tamim getting him stumped as he charged down the pitch. India then had a moment of luck as Sabbir was out stumped as Dhoni disturbed the bails just at the correct time – Sabbir’s feet had lifted momentarily and it was exactly at the same time that Dhoni took the bails off. Mashrafe decided to promote himself up the order and just like Pandya he too clobbered a six off the second delivery that he faced. Ashwin dropped Shakib in the meanwhile as Pandya gave away 20 off his first two overs.

Jadeja returned to snare Mashrafe in the 12th over before Ashwin got rid of the dangerous Shakib in his final over to jolt the Bangla run chase. At the end of 13 overs Bangladesh required 51 off 42 balls with 5 wickets in hand. Sarkar and Mahmudullah were at the crease. Both the teams played sensibly after that as Bangladesh looked to collect the singles while India were happy with the increasing runs required and balls remaining equation.

It came down to the final over bowled by Hardik Pandya as Bangladesh required 11 to win and 10 to take the match in the super over. Mahmudullah got a single off the first ball and Mushfiqur then smashed two 4’s in two balls to bring the equation down to a simple 2 off 3 balls for Bangladesh. It was this precise moment that Bangladesh, instead of playing with a calm head and looking for a single went berserk. Mushfiqur was out off the fourth delivery pulling the ball in the air and was easily caught by Dhawan in the deep. The cool Mahmudullah then commited a blunder by hitting a juicy full toss towards Jadeja in the deep who does not drop many and he accepted the gift with glee. When Shuvagata Hom could not lay bat to ball off the final delivery and Dhoni ran out Mustafizur as the batsmen scrambled to steal a bye, the crowd erupted and the ICC WT20 2016 had seen its first nail biter!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Pakistan to Face Australia in a Virtual Knock-Out in Mohali

Australia Vs Pakistan - Mohali, 24th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

The ICC WT20 is a short tournament and you cannot make too many mistakes. There is not much time to make a comeback and you can be eliminated even before you blink an eye.

Both Pakistan and Australia are already facing a must win game, Pakistan more so having won just a solitary game against Bangladesh and this being their last match. Australia still has a game in hand against India after this so their situation is not that desperate but they would not like it to leave it that late.

The Australian batting has stuttered and stumbled losing wickets in clusters against both New Zealand and then against Bangladesh, so they will be looking to a stable and a much more convincing show. Khawaja has been good at the top of the order and a fluid batting line up has not yet lived up to the high expectations that is set for any Aussie team. Smith has also been out of touch and he might consider moving down the order to accommodate Maxwell or Marsh higher up.

The Pakistani bowling has been blowing hot and cold too, with Amir proving expensive in the last game against the Kiwis at this very ground. Irfan and Sami have also not been consistent and hence it becomes imperative that the Pakistani bowling attack is sharp and penetrative because so much depends on them for Pakistan to do well.

The Aussie bowling comprises of all rounders in Watson, Faulkner and Marsh along with the spin of Adam Zampa who was the man of the match and bowled very well against Bangladesh. The pace bowlers have left a lot to be desired and Hastings and Josh Hazlewood will have to lift their game up against a weak Pakistan batting line up.

Pakistan were given a flying start courtesy Sharjeel Khan against New Zealand but they lost their way against the Kiwi spinners and coach Waqar put most of the blame on Shahzad and Akmal for that debacle and rightly so. Pakistan needs Hafeez back to bolster their batting and Shoaib Malik also needs to take up more responsibility for them to succeed.

The match will be played at Mohali, where Pakistan suffered a defeat against New Zealand and with that pitch suiting the spinners, Pakistan might consider playing an extra spinner in this do or die match. Australia will be confident of overcoming an inconsistent Pakistan side but they will need to fire at full blast to be able to do so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Team India To Take on Bangla Tigers in Bangalore - ICC WT20 2016

India Vs Bangladesh – Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, 23rd March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

India will clash with Bangladesh in an important group 1 clash tomorrow at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. The pitch for this clash is expected to be a flat deck after India has got two rank turners in Nagpur and Kolkata. The small boundaries will also mean that the batsmen can expect to breathe a little easily.

India will be high on confidence after they defeated arch rivals Pakistan in a high voltage match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. On the other hand, Bangladesh are coming off a defeat to Australia and having also lost to Pakistan in their opening game they will have to win this one to have any chance to progress to the knock out stage of the tournament.

The Indian batting, apart from Virat Kohli has looked pretty shaky with Rohit, Dhawan and especially Raina all falling cheaply at both Nagpur and Kolkata. Yuvraj too has not had much to do in the middle and it is only Kohli and to an extent Dhoni who have carried the Indian batting in the recent games. A game against the weaker Bangladeshi bowling line up might just be the tonic that the Indian batsmen need to get back in form.

The Bangladesh bowling attack will be sans Taskin and Arafat, both of whom have been banned after their bowling actions were deemed to be illegal. Their bowlers strived manly against a strong Aussie line up at Bangalore, with Mustafizur and Shakib being the key men. Mustafizur is someone who has tasted plenty of success against India and he will be hoping to make an impact in tomorrow's game as well.

The Bangla batting has also been in good form with Tamim, Sabbir, Shakib and Mahmudullah all making runs in some game or the other from Asia Cup onwards to the qualifying games and also against Pakistan and Australia. Tamim missed the match against Australia due to fever but he should be back for this crucial encounter.

The Indian bowling was expected to be carried on the shoulders of Ashwin buy he had performed well below par in the first two games on helpful pitches. Nehra and Bumrah have been exceptional at the top of the innings and also been doing a good job at the death.

This being a do or die game for both India and Bangladesh with a loss seriously jeopardising the prospects of a semi final appearance for them. Bangladesh has had a healthy rivalry with India recently and it should be a good game as the stakes are high in this clash.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pakistan Battle for Survival against a Rampaging Kiwi Team

Group 2: Pakistan Vs New Zealand, #WT20 2016 at Mohali - Match Preview

New Zealand and Pakistan are two teams who are having a polar opposite time at the ICC WT20 2016. While New Zealand have thrived and prospered under new skipper Kane Williamson, Pakistan suffered a convincing loss against arch rivals India. The loss has jeopardised Pakistan's chances of making it to the semi final stage. New Zealand, on the other hand has tasted two victories against India and Australia and are almost through to the last four barring any calamity.

The Pakistan batting, which showed glimpses of their prowess against Bangladesh crumbled against India in the face of pressure. They need men like Hafeez, Malik and Akmal to provide the spark in the batting. Shahzad and Sarfaraz must also take greater responsibility if the above key men fail to deliver.

The Kiwi bowling has hummed nicely even without two of their most potent bowlers on Southee and Boult but one or both of them might return at Mohali, a ground which traditionally favours the quicker bowlers. They already have McClenaghan and Milne who will provide raw pace while the left arm spin off Mitch Santner has also strangled the opposition in both the games that New Zealand have won so far.

The Black Caps batting to had left a bit too be desired but on pitches which are as alien to them as any they will encounter, they have mannered to apply themselves better than their opponents. Williamson had been a calming head at the top which allows players like Guptill, Munro and Anderson to go ballistic at the other end. The experience of Taylor and the firepower of Ronchi have also served them well thus far. Then there is the ever improving Mitch Santner who can be rock solid or enterprising depending on the situation.

They will be up against a very good Pakistani pace attack comprising of Amir, Irfan, Wahab and Sami who will certainly be hoping that the Mohali pitch lives up to its reputation of being helpful to the faster bowlers. They also have Afridi who was very good against Bangladesh but might not get much purchase from the pitch in Mohali.

It promises to be a keenly contested match between two teams who will be eager to get a win under their belt, New Zealand so that they can seal their semi final spot and Pakistan so that they can stay in contention for the same. Another thing of interest in this match will be the captaincy of Williamson and Afridi - while Williamson has seamlessly taken over from Brendon McCullum, Afridi seems to be struggling and is under huge pressure to perform especially after the loss to India.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pictures and Videos from the South Africa England Clash in the ICC WT20 2016 played at Wankhede in Mumbai

18th March 2011. I visited the hallowed Wankhede Stadium for the first time ever to witness a Cricket Match Live. It was the ICC 50 over World Cup 2011 and the match was between Sri Lanka, a team that I strongly support and New Zealand, a team that is likeable on and off the field.

 There was plenty of support for the Lankan Team that day 5 years ago!!

Two Friends, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, combined to torment the Kiwi's with a stand of almost 150 runs! Sanga made 111, Mahela 66.

Murli, then ran through the Kiwi line up - 
picking up 4 wickets in his 8 overs for just 25 runs!

Move 5 years forward. 18th March 2016. I went to watch South Africa take on England at the Wankhede, this time in the ICC WT20 2016. It turned out to be a cracking match with over 450 runs being scored in under 40 overs. I had a great view of the happenings on the field, having secured a seat in the Sunil Gavaskar Stand.

Here are some of the Pictures and Videos that I captured from that day! Enjoy!!

The Team Buses - Ready to ferry the Players from the Trident to the Wankhede, 
the Players must have enjoyed the Marine Drive Ride!

Wankhede looked pristine, filling up slowly - the crowd had waited in the searing heat to get in almost 3 hours before the game started!

The South African team arrived to a huge applause and 
chants of ABD... ABD... filled the air!

South Africa were the team that had the support of, I reckon, 90% of the crowd. 
AB De Villiers probably had 100%!

The match started furiously with both Amla and De Kock hitting 4's and 6's at will, they put on almost a 100 in just 7 overs!!

De Kock hit superbly through the off side, I managed to capture this wonderful lofted Cover Drive!

The huge crowd was on it's feet when De Villiers walked out, a huge roar greeted him and the chants reverberated in the Wankhede again... ABD... ABD... ABD...

The English made a spirited start to a huge chase, Hales and Roy putting up a show before Joe Root continued the assault with a calculated innings!

Chris Jordan was out caught brilliantly in the deep off the first ball of the last over by JP Duminy but the match was almost as good as over by then!

In the end, it was a stroll in the park for England, they needed just a solitary run off the last over to chase down the huge 230 set by the Protea team!!

I had a wonderful time at the Wankhede, a boisterous and colourful crowd adding to the atmosphere of this important WT20 2016 clash.

I hope you enjoyed this post!! Please share this post if you liked it and leave your precious comments regarding the South Africa-England WT20 Match!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nervy India to Clash with Surging Pakistani Team at Eden Gardens in Kolkata

India Vs Pakistan - Eden Gardens, Kolkata, 19th March 2016 - ICC WT20 Match Preview

After all the uncertainty that clouded Pakistan Team's participation in the ICC WT20 2016, they outplayed Bangladesh quite convincingly - their batsmen putting up their hands collectively before the bowlers put in a strong effort to defend the total.

India, on the other hand, overwhelming favourites of probably reach and every Cricket pundit under the Sun endured a horrific start to their campaign as they capsized to 78 all out in their opening encounter against a fired up Kiwi team at Nagpur.

An India vs Pakistan clash is always big and when it comes with the added tag of being a World Cup match, the stakes are almost unmatchable, the pressure almost unbearable and the winner of this match will take huge confidence and momentum going forward in the World Cup.

These two teams clashed in the Asia Cup T20I recently in Bangladesh and the Pakistani batting collapsed on that occasion on a seaming track. India has some problems early on as Mohammad Amir ran through the Indian to order before Virat Kohli rescued India with sublime batting.

The main clash will be that of the Pakistani bowling attack comprising of Amir, Irfan, Wahab and Afridi against the likes of Rohit, Kohli and Raina. With the Indian batsmen enduring a metronomic brain fade in Nagpur the onus will be on them to put up a better show this time around but it will not be that easy against Pakistan.

The Indian bowlers to need to guard against complacency as Pakistan have Hafeez, Malik and Akmal all in good form of late. Ashwin was not at his best against New Zealand and on a pitch that is expected to afford turn a lot will depend on Ashwin from the Indian point of view.

Bumrah and Nehra will have to ensure that they keep things tight early on and build the pressure so that the spinners can force mistakes of the batsmen as they will look to hit out.

I am especially looking forward to the Kohli-Amir duel part 2, after they played out a fascinating opening round in the Asia Cup clash. Amir will be keen to get one back on Kohli while the Indian batting superstar will no doubt look to stamp his authority on the big game.

This match was shifted from one of the most scenic cricket grounds where one can meditate looking at the snow capped peaks of the Dhauladhar Range in the background to one that is probably a cauldron of noise and chaos as 80,000 people cram into the Eden Gardens. The crowd will back India to the hilt and will give the Pakistani fielders a tough time for sure on the boundary. India must capitalise on the home support and win this all important clash else they are in danger of being thrown out of the party that they are themselves hosting in their house!

Key Battles to Look out for in the #IndVsPak Match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, ICC WT20 2016:

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan Vs Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Irfan
Virat Kohli Vs Mohammad Amir
Shahid Afridi Vs Yuvraj Singh
Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal Vs R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja

Monday, March 14, 2016

Favourites India take on Dark Horse New Zealand in the Opening Encounter of the ICC WT20 2016

Group 2: India Vs New Zealand, #WT20 2016 at Nagpur - Match Preview

The qualifiers are done and dusted with (Afghanistan and Bangladesh have qualified) and now the main show of the ICC WT20 2016 can begin in all earnestness. Hosts and favourites, India will lock horns with the Kiwi team tomorrow at Nagpur to kick things off in this much anticipated mega event.

India are strong favourites for this WT20 having looked almost invincible lately - defeating Australia 3-0 in Australia, blanking Sri Lanka 2-1 in India before storming home to lift the Asia Cup convincingly. New Zealand have also won their last two T20I series and will pose a huge challenge to the Indian team first up.

Brendon McCullum might have retired but the Black Caps still possess a well rounded team filled with several explosive players like Guptill, Anderson and Munro. Williamson is probably the best batsmen currently going around and with Ross Taylor also coming back their batting looks solid and intimidating. The addition of Mitch Santner has added a penetrative look to their spin department, with him providing them with a left arm spin option too.

The Indian bowling has been humming noiselessly and has been a huge contributing factor in their recent success story. Nehra and Bumrah have almost always provided the early breakthrough along with keeping the opposition batting in check. R Ashwin has been at his deceptive best and he has been ably supported by Jadeja and Pandya. Dhoni also has the services of Yuvraj, Raina and Rohit if one of the main bowlers have a day off!

The Kiwi bowling might be more suited to seaming conditions but they cannot be taken lightly as the new white ball might swing and seam under lights. Boult and Southee are terrific exponents of the moving ball and with one of Milne and McClenaghan providing fiery back up, the Indian batting will have to be wary of them. They also have the canny Anderson and Elliott who are adept at taking the pace of the ball. Santner, Sodhi and Nathan McCullum provide the spin options for Williamson.

The Indian to order has been in scintillating form with Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli all being amongst the runs recently. Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni might not have had long stints out in the middle but they have looked accomplished whenever they have had a chance for a hit in the middle. This is a fearsome batting line up, more so considering the form that they are in and the Kiwi bowlers will have their hands full trying to contain India's batsmen.

With the Nagpur pitch affording significant turn during the qualifying matches it remains to be seen what kind of a surface is prepared for the main rounds. If it is as slow and turning as it was during the last week then New Zealand can be in for a difficult first game. I hope it's a good pitch and we get a close game worthy of a big multi nation opening encounter.

Key Battles to Look out for:

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan Vs Trent Boult and Tim Southee

Virat Kohli Vs Mitch Santner

Corey Anderson Vs R Jadeja

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor Vs R Ashwin

Sunday, March 13, 2016

ICC WT20 2016 - A Short Tournament Preview

So the ICC WT20 is upon us!! The Group A & B Matches are almost over with Afghanistan having proceeded already from the former after winning all their matches comfortably and more importantly playing a brand of cricket which is refreshing to see.

Bangladesh and Oman will face off today at Dharamshala to decide which of them will earn the right to play against Australia, India, New Zealand and Pakistan. Bangladesh will fancy their chances as they have in red hot form after beating both Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Asia Cup which concluded recently.

Second Round - Super 10

Group 1 - England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Afghanistan
Group 2 - Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Bangladesh/ Oman

India will face New Zealand in the Super 10 opener against a strong Kiwi outfit at Nagpur, a pitch which has afforded lots of turn already in the qualifying matches.

I expect the World Cup to be a close affair with each team having something in their favour and going for them. Yes, India starts off as the overwhelming favourites after their recent pyrotechnics but a couple of bad days can throw you out of the competition.

The teams that I expect will give India a run for their money are New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. South Africa looks tremendously strong on paper and has it in them to go all the way. The Trans-Tasman neighbours also boast of strong unit’s but their ability to play spin is questionable and might prove a hindrance in their progress.

The West Indies team is filled with T20 cronies who ply their trade all across the globe in various T20 tournaments. Whether they can all gel together and provide an eye popping display remains to be seen.

The English team is all playing an attacking brand of cricket and they even possess a good spin attack this time around but the inability of their batsmen to face quality spin might just go against them.

Sri Lanka are a team that often goes under the radar when any multi-nation tournament starts but which comes together beautifully with each player suddenly finding form at the right time. They have had a wretched run recently but have the ammunition to turn things around quickly.

Pakistan, after all the turmoil and indecision regarding their participation in the ICC WT20 have finally arrived in India. They are a dangerous unit and are at their best when chaos and confusion reigns supreme all around them. Beware of them, is all I would say to all other teams facing the Men in Green!

Afghanistan are the story of this tournament thus far, they have won hearts and captured the attention of fans all around. They certainly have the players who can give a tough fight to any top nation and with their array of spin bowlers they can prove to be a big headache for some of the teams.

I can’t wait for the first ball to be bowled on the 15th of March and I know neither can you!! Which team are you supporting? Which 4 team’s do you think will progress to the Semi-Finals?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of T20I Cricket for Australia and Sri Lanka!

Twenty Twenty Cricket is very much like a human life. It is very difficult to predict what it will throw up at you, it will surprise you at every turn and it will leave you dumbfounded every time you try to make a smart prediction about the game.

I have been interacting with a lot of Sri Lankan fans online and they think that their team is crap. It is filled with players who can’t bat, they seem to rely too much on a few bowling superstars and they also drop catches at will. They are plagued by selection issues and don’t have any decent all-rounders expect Mathews (who also cops a lot of flak for his negative captaincy and silly team selections); Dilshan is ageing fast and so are Malinga and Herath; players like Shanaka and Kapugedera are labelled domestic beast’s at the most. Chandimal has a dismal T20I record (he improved it a bit with 2 50’s in the Asia Cup) for all the natural talent and flair that he seems to possess while their star wicket-keeper Kusal Perera is embroiled in a doping offence. Thisara Perera only plays to his potential once in a blue moon and Senanayake cannot extract turn for his life. Players like Jayasuriya, Vandersay and Rajitha are said to be products of a dysfunctional domestic structure which seems to be rotting.

Now compare this lot to the current Australian team which is, on paper, probably the most attacking team in the world and should be winning everything and destroying every team that comes in their way. They have Warner and Finch, a dangerous right-left combo which is keeping another left-right combo in Watson and Khawaja on the sidelines. Their middle order is filled with enterprising batsmen like Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell. They have dangerous all-rounders like Mitch Marsh and James Faulkner who can take the game away from the opposition within a matter of a few overs with either the bat or the ball in hand. Their bowling, though it is missing the raw fire-power of Mitch Starc, still has just about enough reinforcements to complement their ultra aggressive and strong batting unit. All these men are hardened by playing in the extremely successful and competitive Big Bash League back in Australia.

There seems to be a vast gulf between the two sides but the results of the two teams have been very similar over the past two to three months as far as the T20I’s are concerned. Sri Lanka lost 0-2 to New Zealand away, and then lost 1-2 to India in India before crashing out of the Asia Cup with just a solitary win against UAE, losing to India, Pakistan and even Bangladesh along the way; thus winning only 2 out of their last 9 T20 internationals. Australia, on the other hand lost 0-3 to India in their own backyard before being marooned by the Proteas in the 1st T20I of the three match series yesterday; in effect losing their last 4 T20 internationals.

Momentum is, what I feel, the biggest single all encompassing factor in T20 cricket. It is like an avalanche which starts off with a small mound of snow but assumes the form of a humongous monster gaining momentum and feeding on itself, thus annihilating anything and everything that comes in its wake. On the other hand, a huge boulder even if it seems immovable, is cut eventually even by water if it just sits in its place doing nothing. T20 cricket can change very quickly, a single good innings or bowling performance can take a side home, a single brilliant catch or a run-out turn around the fortunes of a sagging outfit.

India has the momentum behind them and they are riding on that wave which is feeding on itself. Each man knows its role right down to the bottom and they are executing their acts perfectly. Sri Lanka and Australia may not be winning too many matches at the moment but all they need is one or two sterling performances, a few men to stand up and take the game by the scruff of the neck and their more experienced men to guide the youngsters while coursing through the troubled waters. T20 Cricket, like human life, is not giving in while being down but getting up and trying to win even in the face of tricky situations. If you do that consistently, then your luck will turn, and eventually life will smile at you and shower you with unmatchable happiness and success!