The sub-continent pitches are more often considered synonym of batsmen-friendly and grounds are considered so small that even a mishit can sail over boundary. Critics often refuse to buy the reason that in T20 grounds and pitches across the world are more or less the same, heaven for batsmen, hell for bowlers. Still, T20 World Cup in Bangladesh has given a new dimension to this debate. While almost all the matches are fought very close, only 6 out of 19 matches have seen target above 160 being chased so far, and in the 7 matches of the main round 4 bowlers have earned Player of the Matches award. With equal contest between bat and ball, and most of the matches going to wire, creating world records, is it the best T20 World Cup!!
Thrillers in Qualification Round
Besides the top eight ranked teams, remaining eight teams including the host Bangladesh were divided into two groups to fight in a group of 4 teams each and send two qualifiers for the main round. Bangladesh and Ireland were the easy picks. But the result was very different. In a match that had the fate of three teams hanging, Netherlands dethroned Ireland (and overcame Zimbabwe too) in the best chase ever in T20 matches to qualify.
Even in the second group Bangladesh qualified but not before losing meekly to Hong Kong. In that group all the teams won at least a match, while UAE remained the only team to have lost the matches.
The close contest, exhibition of exceptional T20 talents started a debate at the end of 12 games of qualification matches about inclusion of at least 12 teams in the main round. Zimbabwe and Ireland certainly deserved to match shoulders in the main round. May be next World Cup can be more inclusive, and hence more entertaining too.
Amit Mishra and Dale Steyn has emerged as the match winning bowlers of their team. While Amit Mishra has been the key contributor in both the easy wins of India, winning two player of the match award, Dale Steyn bowled the most economical spell of World Cup 2014 and an unforgettable last over to register win for South Africa from the jaws of defeat against the Kiwis.
Sri Lankan bowlers have already created history by bowling Netherlands for the lowest ever total of 39 in T20 matches, and also chasing in only 5 overs creating the record of winning with a world record 15 overs spare.
But, there has been bowlers specially some famous names who have been taken to cleaners. Southee has given 40+ runs in both matches. Morne Morkel, Jadeja and Mendis has also crossed 40 runs mark in a match.
78 wickets have already fallen down in 7 matches, of which one saw only less than 6 overs bowled for a team. If one leaves Ireland vs Netherlands historical match, then remaining 11 matches of Qualifying round had 164 runs as the highest score, while 2 teams were bowled out for less than 100 (Afg 72, Hong Kong 69), and might Bangladesh were also bowled out for only 108.
Even in the main rounds, besides 39 of Netherlands, 2 matches have seen team scoring 130 or less runs.
Despite having T20 specialist batsmen in the team, chase of 160 runs or above is yet to be achieved in the main round. Bowlers have got a new lease of life in this World Cup.
Already three batsmen have scored half-centuries in less than 20 balls, and there has been 5 instances of 50+ innings with a strike rate above 200, besides many innings below 50 runs achieving the high strike rate. Still the fact is despite small grounds, due to the bowler-friendly pitches scoring has been not so easy. No wonder that after 19 matches and 38 innings, only two innings have seen a total of 190 runs, and any team is yet to reach 200-run mark.
India has won both the matches easily as their bowlers have left a routine chase for their strong batting line up against the likes of arch rivals Pakistan and defending champion West Indies. Being in the habit of facing brickbats in all formats, the performances are a revelation for Indian bowling.
The top ranked team in T20, Sri Lanka is still hunting for a T20 title. And, if their 2 wins are an indication, then they are the team to beat. A spot in semifinal is assured for them.
South Africa and England may fall short of New Zealand in the race to semifinal for finishing second behind Sri Lanka in their group.
In the other group, Bangladesh is yet to play, but they can be best trusted for pulling some team down in the race of semifinal. They cannot reach, but certainly pull one of the other four teams down. At present, that team can be Australia or West Indies. For now, India and Pakistan appear to be the semifinalists from this group.