England and Pakistan the teams to beat: A review of the Super 12 so far
First - Four points - two matches - NRR of 3.614
Living up to the hype
England came into this tournament looking to do what no men’s team ever has: become the holders of both the Cricket World Cup and T20 World Cup trophies at the same time.
As the No.1 side on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I team rankings, they came in as one of the favourites as well, boasting a reputation as the most dangerous and consistent team in the format.
So far, they are living up to the hype.
Surprisingly, given the strength of their batting, it’s their bowling that is stealing the headlines right now.
In their tournament opener against West Indies, they bowled the defending champions out for 55, chasing the target down with more than 11 overs to spare in a boon to their net run rate (NRR). Five bowlers were in the wickets, with Moeen Ali finishing Player of the Match with figures of 2/17.
The attack impressed again in their next match, holding Bangladesh to 124/9 with four bowlers among the wickets.
That target also gave England’s batters the chance to show off their own form, and Jason Roy did just that, blasting 61 off 38. Ominous signs for opposing sides everywhere.
Second - two points - one match - NRR of 0.583
In late June, Sri Lanka’s T20 World Cup hopes look slim. Posting 129, 111 and bundled out for 91 in their three-match series against England, several questions were asked of Dasun Shanaka’s men.
To compound things, off-field indiscretions further hurt their hopes, with Danushka Gunathilaka, Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis served 12-month suspensions for breaching COVID protocols.
Five matches into their campaign, and the Sri Lankans are undefeated. Mickey Arthur, on a mission to deliver results, has stopped at nothing to build a competitive team.
Bailed out by Avishka Fernando and Wanindu Hasaranga with the bat down the order on occasion this tournament, Arthur and Shanaka at times have been left yearning for top-order consistency. They may have found the formula through the Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka.
Perhaps benefitting from the three matches in the tournament’s First Round, Nissanka and Asalanka have repaid the faith, and Arthur’s approach appears vindicated.
“I've watched every cricketer now in Sri Lanka, including some of the under-19 bowlers, which are quite exciting to see some of them coming through,” Arthur said. “But I don't see batting talent like Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka.
“Pathum, Charith, Praveen (spinner Praveen Jayawickrama), these are going to be guys that are going to be very good for Sri Lanka going forward.”
Sometimes, opportunity comes from adversity. Given the circumstances, Arthur feels Sri Lanka almost have “nothing to lose” at this stage of the tournament, but the experience of the tournament, irrespective of the results, bodes well for Sri Lanka’s batting of the next generation.
Third - two points - one match - NRR of 0.253
An ideal unideal start for the Aussies
One game into their campaign, Australia’s attack is looking as impressive in reality as it does on paper.
With Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins all in the squad, coach Justin Langer had to make the unenviable decision of leaving Ashton Agar – No.7 on the men’s T20I bowling rankings - out against South Africa. The attack selected vindicated the decision as they held the Proteas to 118/9, with four out of the five bowlers used going at a run-a-ball or better and all among the wickets.
It wasn’t nearly as smooth with the bat as they slipped to 38/3 early and only got home with two balls to spare in the end with Marcus Stoinis (24 off 16*) and Matthew Wade (15* off 10) having to get a hurry on at the end.
Nevertheless, two points is two points and a winning start is hugely valuable given how precarious a position each loss leaves a team.
In short, it wasn’t the perfect performance but it was an important one in the end.
They’ll have taken encouragement from what they managed with the ball and recognised where they can improve with the bat, all without dropping points.
Fourth - Two points - two games - NRR of 0.179
Hendricks importantly hits the ground running
The Proteas’ issues off the field are well-documented, but Temba Bavuma’s men are firmly in the race for the semi-finals thanks to an emphatic victory over the West Indies in their second tournament outing.
Chasing 144 with eight wickets in hand, Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram showed calm in their approach, and the maturity extended to opener Reeza Hendricks, who compiled a confident 39 from 30 balls as a last-minute call-up.
Replacing a player of Quinton de Kock’s batting capabilities is a tall order, though for 32-year-old Hendricks, the dramas of the day showed little effect, with a five-boundary innings full of confidence and expression.
Ticking over 1000 T20I runs in the innings, Bavuma hasn’t been left with a hole to fill in de Kock’s current absence and has a team capable of compiling competitive totals.
Heinrich Klaasen on wicket-keeping duty covers any perceived shortcomings with the gloves, and the South Africans boast a strong bowling attack, boasting Tabraiz Shamsi, top of the MRF Tyres T20I Bowling rankings.
Fifth- zero points - two matches - NRR of -1.655
Shakib Al Hasan has come to play
After losing their opening two Super 12 matches, Bangladesh are in a precarious position in their group. One more defeat will all but certainly end their hopes of reaching the next stage.
Of course, they were in a similar position in the First Round and turned things around.
The key to revitalising their hopes will be Shakib Al Hasan, whose form through this tournament has been stupendous.
The all-rounder sits atop the tournament wicket-taking charts, with 11 to his name – the most in a single Men’s T20 World Cup campaign – and is fourth for runs scored with 112 at 24.40.
He has been quieter with the bat through the Super 12 stage so far, posting scores of 10 and 4, while still impressing with the ball. If he can get back into a rhythm with the bat, Bangladesh are an altogether different team.
Encouragingly for Bangladesh, he does not hold sole responsibility for their fate with Mushfiqur Rahim (135 at 33.75) and Mohammad Naim (131 at 32.75) the tournament's top run-scorers.
Sixth - zero points - two games - NRR of -2.550
Need to catch up fast
The defending champions are in trouble midway through their Super 12 campaign, suffering big losses in both their games so far.
Against England, they were blown away for 55, and slumped to a six-wicket defeat with 70 balls to spare, decimating their net run rate.
They tasted another big defeat against South Africa, losing by eight wickets with 10 balls remaining.
That’s a pair of results that has left them sitting last in their group and they will be at least four points adrift of the semi-final spots by the end of Sri Lanka’s match against Australia on Thursday.
The Caribbean outfit have not been helped by a run of injuries, with Andre Russell coming into the tournament off the back of a hamstring injury, Fabian Allen ruled out late and Obed McCoy injured mid-campaign.
Despite all that, there’s simply no ruling West Indies out of the title race. Six points could very well be enough to reach the next stage and few teams are as hard to stop when they get on a roll as they are.
They go into each of their next three matches knowing they must win but pressure has never been something they have had trouble dealing with.
First - Four points - Two games - NRR of 0.738
Well and truly the real deal
Pakistan are going to take some serious stopping this tournament.
On paper, they’ve played their two toughest matches of the Super 12 stage and they’ve won both comfortably.
Against India, they shed the shackles of history to deal their arch-rivals a 10-wicket defeat. With the ball, they were simply too hot to handle, with Shaheen Afridi’s 3/31 simply the highlight of an attack that performed near perfectly. Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam then showed why they’re one of the most feared opening pairs in the game by getting the chase done with more than two overs to spare.
The only question mark from the match to emerge was what happens if the opening pair come unstuck. They answered that perfectly against New Zealand, winning by five wickets and eight balls as Shoaib Malik (26* off 20) and Asif Ali (27* off 12) iced the game after a quieter evening from the top-order. It was a match that also saw Pakistan’s attack function in perfect harmony, with Haris Rauf (4/22) this time the star.
Alongside England, Pakistan look the team to beat at this tournament.
Second - Two points - One game - NRR of 6.5
Watch out opponents - the batting groove has been found
Afghanistan’s spin-bowling qualities grabbed all the headlines in their rout of Scotland, but Mohammad Nabi and the Afghan coaching team may have been more satisfied with the batting performance, posting 190 on a slow and low Sharjah surface.
Plundering 11 sixes in the innings, Afghanistan were relentless, with all of the top four enjoying solid starts to the competition. The opening pair of Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad found their range despite a lack of cricket in the lead-up, and Rahmanullah Gurbaz showed no rust, batting from overs 7-19 in a score of 46 (37).
Though perhaps the most encouraging part of Afghanistan’s batting blitz was Najibullah Zadran’s 59 (34) batting at No.4.
It’s fair to say that Najibullah hasn’t been able to settle into one batting role in T20I cricket. Across 55 innings, he has batted in every position from No.3 to No. 9 across a nine-year career.
A big-game player, the 2021 tournament may be the competition that truly puts Najibullah’s name in lights. His average of 34.40 and strike rate of 156.36 across matches at the tournament are both upon his overall international career numbers (33.90 and 143.64 respectively), and a set role in the middle order should lead to similar solid performances.
If Afghanistan were to continue with their batting form to complement the bowlers, semi-final aspirations could be realised.
Third - Two points - One game - NRR of 0.55
Clear plans and bucking the batting trend delivers dividends
Namibia’s campaign is one of the fairytale stories of the T20 World Cup thus far, though it’s the tactical manner of their performances, particularly with the bat, that has caught the eye of fans and pundits.
Despite a loss to Sri Lanka first up, coach Pierre de Bruyn and skipper Gerhard Erasmus have stuck to a set gameplan, and have reaped the rewards of their faith in the team.
Predicated on aggression in the middle to late overs through their “Bomb Squad” from numbers four to six, Namibia’s modus operandi with the bat is almost the opposite of every other team: a platform through a circumspect start in the Powerplay, gradually accelerating to a back-end peak.
Leading with measure at the top, before the bruising of Erasmus, Wiese and Smit, the tactic is almost a nod to ODI innings of a bygone era, infused with the modern brutality of T20 hitting. Whether it be Stephen Baard, Zane Green, Craig Williams or Michael van Lingen at the top, the openers have often brought calm through nullifying new ball threats.
Even in this rigid mindset though, players must be flexible. Craig Williams and Erasmus are adept at both batting roles and have exhibited the ability to adjust accordingly. Batting second in all three of their victories thus far, Erasmus and company have measured their chases to perfection.
Finding the extra gear in posting a big score is the next burning question for the Eagles, but the team will be comforted in the knowledge that JJ Smit, batting at No.6 and yet to be dismissed, is yet to truly free his arms. Showing glimpses of his power, the all-rounder has only faced 46 balls at the tournament, though boasts a career T20I strike rate of over 150. An eight to ten-over partnership between him and Wiese could take a game away from anyone.
Fourth - zero points - One match - NRR of -0.532
Primed by Pakistan
There were certainly lessons learned in a first-up defeat to Pakistan, who to this point can lay claim to being the form side of the tournament.
On a tricky Sharjah surface and with Babar Azam’s men oozing confidence from a ten-wicket win over India, New Zealand mustered 134 with the bat and held Pakistan to 87/5 in the 15th over.
On the verge of stealing victory, it took the exploits of Asif Ali (27* from 12 balls) and the experience of Shoaib Malik (26* from 20 balls) to pull the match away from the Black Caps, who were chased down in the 19th over.
With this in mind, Kane Williamson’s men should take comfort in the knowledge that there is little to come in the group that they haven’t experienced already. India pose a similar threat on paper, though the surface in Dubai will arguably suit New Zealand’s line-up better both with bat and ball.
Fifth - Zero points - One match - NRR of -0.973
Virat Kohli ready to dominate
India were off-colour in their T20 World Cup opener against Pakistan, suffering their first-ever loss against their fierce rivals in Men’s World Cups.
Indeed, the Men in Green outshone India with both bat and ball.
The silver lining for India however was a typically calming half-century from their skipper, Virat Kohli. It wasn’t the most fluid of innings Kohli has produced, but it was still something special given the regular strikes at the other end and the ferocity with which Pakistan’s seamers – Shaheen Afridi in particular – were bowling.
With India in dire straits at 36/3 by the end of the Powerplay and regular wickets stymying their efforts from there, Kohli made 57, hitting five fours and one six before falling to Afridi in the 19th over – ending his streak of not outs against Pakistan in T20 World Cups.
Incredibly, across his past 10 T20I World Cup innings, he has only been dismissed for less than 50 three times and never before reaching 20.
Kohli is simply at home at the T20 World Cup, and if he gets going then India will be hard to stop.
Sixth - Zero points - Two games - NRR of -3.562
Watt thriving but batting best is still yet to come
It’s peculiar to think that Scotland are yet to reach their best, even with an unbeaten record through the first round which included an unforgettable victory over Bangladesh.
Despite the early success, Scotland will feel they still haven’t reached their potential with the bat. George Munsey is yet to capitalise on a start having been dismissed between 15 and 30 in four of five innings thus far, with Calum MacLeod reaching double figures just once at the tournament.
On the bowling side, it’s the consistency of the group that has shone through. Josh Davey’s nine wickets at an economy of 7.02 has led the attack, while Mark Watt has claimed a wicket and gone for less than a run a ball in every match of the tournament. No Scottish bowler has leaked more than eight runs an over across the five matches, with Safyaan Sharif and Brad Wheal also picking up five wickets apiece in the campaign.
While mathematical outsiders to progress after two Super 12 defeats to Afghanistan and Namibia, if a rhythm is found at the top of the order through a big innings by either opener, Scotland could still play spoilsport or conjure a T20 World Cup miracle.