T20 World Cup: Losers must show they have learnt their lessons

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T20 World Cup: Losers must show they have learnt their lessons
© Provided by Khaleej Times T20 World Cup: Losers must show they have learnt their lessons

The South Africa versus West Indies encounter in Dubai on Tuesday afternoon is a virtual eliminator because both teams lost their first game. The losers suffered batting collapses, albeit in different fashions, under different circumstances. Now they have to show that the lessons from those debacles have got internalized for them to do better. Captains Temba Bavuma and Kieron Pollard will have to come up with solutions to what went wrong strategically.

DISCRETION OVER VALOUR

Bavuma started with a bang in the first over against Aussie pacer Pat Cummins, then missed a straight skiddy ball from off-spinner Glen Maxwell. Josh Hazlewood’s twin strikes then accounted for three wickets in the powerplay, from which South Africa couldn’t recover.

T20 World Cup: Losers must show they have learnt their lessons
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Even then, the classy SA bowling took it to the wire before Australia squeaked past a target of 119, suggesting that even a score of 140 might have been enough. The lesson is to respect the conditions, instead of aiming too high. The Abu Dhabi pitch was tacky and the day game in Dubai will similarly keep the bowlers interested. So, it’s vital to be judicious at the outset, then aim higher with wickets in hand.

STAY GROUNDED

The West Indies were even more cavalier in their approach to the game against England. They have a reputation for having the power to hit sixes even on large grounds, but all they dished out were skiers into the hands of fielders in the outfield. Their lack of footwork against spinners was badly exposed even on a wicket with only slight turn. The spinners induced mis-hits simply by bowling a good length. The Windies batsmen will have to use their feet to get to the pitch of the ball against South Africa’s two spinners, especially leg-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi.

GO FOR PACE

Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje brought South Africa back into the game with early strikes against Australia. But then, a partnership developed as there was no third pacer to challenge Steve Smith. The medium pace of all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius, while being economical, lacked penetration. Bavuma should consider playing Lungi Ngidi instead, which will make it a formidable pace trio alongside the two spinners. It will mean sacrificing batting depth, but the ability to bowl the opposition out is a huge strength. The six specialist batsmen will just have to shoulder more responsibility.

REBOUND POTENTIAL

It’s hard to imagine a side that gets bowled out for 55 remaining a title contender. But the defending champions have such a string of power-hitters that they can beat any team on their day. In fact, it was the West Indies bowling that appeared the weaker aspect of the team before the tournament commenced, given the shocking omission of Sunil Narine and Jason Holder. But the bowlers gave a good account of themselves, taking four England wickets before the tiny victory target was reached, despite Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo cooling their heels. It’s the batting that needs a smarter approach, and for that the experienced Pollard has to promote himself in the order and set an example.

FORGET SLOWER BALLS

When you have bowlers like Rabada and Nortje who can cross 150 kph and also use their height to get steep bounce on the Dubai wicket, it would be wise for them to put away their slower balls. Almost the only times that Rabada and Nortje got tonked in the Australia game were when they tried the variation. Their game plan should be simple: toe crushers, chin music, and just back of a good length. They will be hard to handle whether they bowl first or second in the day game in Dubai, where dew will play no part.

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru. Write to him at chakraberty@gmail.com

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