India outclass South Africa
Australia outclass Pakistan
Suresh Raina of course has made himself a permanent selection for the Indian team in T20 and ODI. Barring any dramatic injuries or loss of form, I would be penciling his name for the next World Cup along with MSD. His innings of 101 had three main dimensions which clearly demonstrate his class
- Quick observation of the South African bowling tactics and appropriate adjustment including his stance in the crease – predictable seam bowlers bowling just short of length, looking for bounce all of them of similar pace.
- Setting the pace of the innings and gradually increasing his strike rate thus avoiding any pressure of the run rate on himself and his partners at the other end
- Willingness to stay at the crease doing both the role of the anchor and the scorer
The Australia Pakistan game as well as the Pakistan Bangladesh game on Saturday had a key commonality. The top order scored heavily upto the 14th-15th over. Then a few wickets fell and the scoring simply stopped. Australia for example were 161 in 16 overs. They ended up with 191 scoring just 30 in the remaining 4 overs and losing about 6 wickets. Pakistan on Saturday had a similar story.
India on the other hand did the reverse. Their run rate in the first ten overs was hovering around the 6 rpo and the second half Raina, Yuvraj and Dhoni went for the runs, 75 runs in the last 6 overs.
South Africa tried a similar tactic with Kallis, Smith and DeVilliers giving it a whack in the last 5 overs. But their fire power was not good enough. At the end of the 16th over, India were 126/3 while RSA were 126/2. In the next 4 overs India scored 60 losing 2 wickets, RSA scored 46 losing 3 wickets. Clearly India’s firepower is slightly better than RSA.
One may ask whether relying on the end over firepower is a sustainable tactic. Maybe not but remember that India were without Gambhir and Vijay, a much improved batsman in this format, got out for a golden duck. Under normal circumstances, the first three of the Indian batting order have the capability to take the scoring in the first half of the innings to above 7-8 rpo.
However, South Africa would really need to open up their thinking processes. Their bowling plan, well prepared in the dressing room, was followed to the T mechanically and one must say precisely. However, the Indians kind of figured out the line and length of the bowling and were benefiting from their moving up the learning curve. Their batting was another prepared plan – with a mental target of 160-165. They thought they can follow the plan and kick up the gear in the closing overs. The extra 20 runs was considered unimportant.
Moving to today’s matches, first match for Zimbabwe and the pressure is on their opponets Sri Lanka who need to win. SLA lost out to New Zealand and thus have the stress. Zim on the other hand had a couple of wins in the warm-ups – against Australia and Pakistan no less. They even had an official T20 (or maybe an ODI, I forget) win over the West Indies very recently. So it’s back on Mahela and Kumar Sangakkara.
England also make their first appearance with KP’s mind more occupied with the birth of his child than on the tournament. West Indies of course had a good win over Ireland but their batting was disappointing.
We are yet to see any major upsets in this tournament so far. Today is as good a day.