Having sprung surprises at almost every turn so far, Shane Watson is intrigued by the uncertainty surrounding the two ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semi-finals in Australia.
From Namibia’s win over Sri Lanka on the opening day of the match to Pakistan’s miraculous comeback late in the semi-final, form guidelines were thrown out the window with little to separate the four remaining teams.
New Zealand take on Pakistan in Sydney on Wednesday, while India take on England at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday. The winners will meet at the MCG on Sunday, likely in front of a capacity crowd.
Before reviewing the form of the remaining four teams, Watson applauded the standard of cricket achieved so far at the event, taking his hat off to the competition’s rivals who played their part in providing the tournament’s entertainment.
“Upsets — lower-ranked nations upsetting big teams — nobody really expected that,” Watson said.
“It means all eyes are on every game. You can’t just think it’s going to be an easy game to win, so it’s been a really cool T20 World Cup.
The T20 World Cup has been quite a rollercoaster for Pakistan fans. With India and Zimbabwe in the final fight, their team beat the Netherlands and South Africa before nervously awaiting other results on the final day of Super 12 action.
The Dutch gave Pakistan a lifeline by beating South Africa before Babar Azam’s men seized an unlikely chance to progress to deny Bangladesh.
Entering the final four, Pakistan have little to lose in the eyes of the legendary Australian all-rounder, who begged the team to express themselves in a late push in the tournament.
“There are moments in all tournaments where a team just gets over the line, somehow finds their way to the final and then wins it, especially when they didn’t expect to make it to the semi-finals because of the way they played. at some point in this tournament,” Watson said.
“The freedom they’re going to have, because they didn’t expect much in the middle of the tournament, the freedom they’re going to have will be very dangerous for the Kiwis.”
Standing in Pakistan’s way are New Zealand, who overshadowed Australia in their opening Super 12 match, to boost the hosts’ title defence.
Opener Finn Allen, who stunned Australia with a lightning strike at the SCG Championship, is Watson’s key Kiwi.
“Finn Allen was an absolute standout for them,” noted Watson.
“What he was able to do in the Powerplay against the best bowlers in the world really gave New Zealand the advantage to play as well as they have.”
“They have world-class players in their squad but Finn Allen was really the X-factor that really helped them. It will be interesting to see him match up against quality Pakistani quicks here in Sydney.
The Adelaide-based Indian side, which has a raucous domestic scene, could land England on the favourites.
Having experienced a lot of the current crop on the IPL circuit, Watson believes perhaps India’s biggest challenge is finding the right 11 players to include in the squad.
“You see the depth grow and grow and finally. India can play against another team of world-class players who are currently sitting at home. They just have so many skills waiting to come in and put their hand up,” he said.
“It’s worrying for other countries, knowing that they have another team sitting at home, at least another team that can also rock this World Cup.”
One thing in England’s favor is the recent record between the teams, but Jos Buttler’s men were 215 in defense at Trent Bridge in July.
Watson believes that the English are a tough proposition in semi-final cricket and that India may have wanted to take on a different opponent.
“India would really like to play someone else in this semi-final in Adelaide because they know England have a world-class team and a good record against them,” Watson added.
“It’s going to be two great games of cricket, there’s no doubt about it.”