Is Virat Kohli “due”? Jos Buttler misplaces Bowling Ali, a naughty pitch + more in our T20 World Cup semi-finals round-up

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In a colossal miscarriage of justice, England (one win from four versus Test-playing nations) were knocked out of the T20 World Cup by unbeaten India after not playing anywhere near as well as them in the semi-final. India will meet the similarly-unbeaten South Africa, who triumphed over both Afghanistan and also another dogshit pitch.

Naughty pitch

Afghanistan got back to their hotel at 3am after their final group game, a full five hours before they needed to leave for the airport to travel for the semi-final.

It had been quite an intense game and no doubt the adrenaline was still flowing. We can’t imagine it was the best four hours sleep they’d all had.

They arrived in Trinidad the day before the semi-final. South Africa were already there. History suggests the more established team probably didn’t need that advantage, but Afghanistan have shown consistent disrespect for history in recent years. You never know. We could, at least, have ended up with a bit more of a game.

At least they didn’t have to play on a completely unpredictable pitch.

Oh, wait.

“It’s a naughty, naughty pitch,” said Steven Finn on Test Match Special. “Not fit for a World Cup semi-final.”

But yet that is precisely what they played.

Is Virat Kohli “due”?

Openers are your most important batters in T20 cricket. Virat Kohli occupies one of those positions for India. His scores so far this tournament go: 1, 4, 0, 24, 37, 0 and 9.

His latest dismissal was just abject filth; the kind of thing you see a child do when they first pick up a cricket bat; a premeditated diagonal hack across the line and the stumps splattered behind him.

Does Kohli deserve a place in India’s T20 side? On current form, no.

Given his typical rate of scoring relative to many of his peers, there’s even a case for saying that he could become even more of a liability were he to ‘find form’ and hang around longer because he’d sentence his side to a few more overs of his presence.

At the same time, is he a bad batter? No, he is not. In the pantheon of batters who aren’t worth their place in the side, Virat Kohli barely registers.

There are dubious selections and there are dubious selections. Inclusion of one of the finest limited-overs batters of all time isn’t what you’d call a real stinker of a decision. Kohli has enough ability and expertise that it’s by no means impossible that he’ll play a defining innings in the final.

We’re not sure we could cope with the ‘form is temporary’, ‘big match player’, ‘delivered when it mattered’, gushing post-hoc rationalisation were that to happen. But he is “due“…

Misplaced Bowling Ali

The second semi-final was played on a pitch that favoured India over England – but that was always likely, simply because they’re the better side. Given the right conditions, the two teams can certainly qualify as ‘evenly-matched’ but the rest of the time it’s unquestionably advantage India.

That’s what being better is: a pretty important advantage.

The Providence pitch was widely predicted to offer a bit of assistance to spin bowlers and while we can easily see why England declined to give Tom Hartley his debut in a World Cup semi-final, one other decision was a little less comprehensible.

England began this tournament with what you might call ‘plenty of spin bowling options’ with Will Jacks, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali supplementing the eternally necessary Adil Rashid. At some point, Jacks was deemed expendable – quite possibly because pretty much every other batter is also right-handed – but that still left Livingstone and the Moeen incarnation we like to call Bowling Ali.

Given India picked three spinners and the fact Rashid and Livingstone barely conceded a run a ball, we assumed the latter was for some reason unfit to bowl.

Apparently not. Jos Buttler just… what… forgot?

“Our two guys bowled well, but in hindsight I should have bowled Moeen in that innings, the way that spin was playing,” said Buttler afterwards.

It’s a bit odd that conclusion should require hindsight given that Buttler had seen (a) the pitch, (b) the opposition’s bowling line-up, and (c) how well his spinners were performing – all while he was still making bowling changes.

The more important point is probably that it just wouldn’t have mattered. Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja are a better spin triumvirate than anything England could have put together, so all that might have changed had Moeen got through a few overs is the margin of victory.

What’s next?

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  1. I’m glad for the lack of a post mortem here, had quite enough of them already.

    Somewhat on the theme of the World Cup, or at least one of its least likely home cities, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, God bless him.

    78 years young and still a legend. Before clicking through though, just stake a guess how fast Steve Bucknor can run 200 metres in his current physical condition. See how close you get to the correct answer.

    I’m told gyms get bumper subscriptions at Olympic time as people feel shamed by all those physical specimens on their TV screens. That’s silly. They are young, they are fit, and not coincidentally they are professional sportspeople. You aren’t going to look like them and there’s certainly no shame that they can run 200 metres a lot faster than you. However, seeing what Steve’s been up to since his so-called “retirement” has made me buck my ideas up.

  2. I can’t help thinking that there will be two ways the final will go (apart from the obvious one, or two). India annihilate South Africa by a thousand runs or 11 wickets, or SA will win by the skin of their teeth much like they’ve done throughout the tournament.

    1. I have my fingers crossed for South Africa to win by 2 runs, officially making India 1 run worse than Nepal. Though if this stuff works transitively, making England a shedload worse than Nepal.

  3. Was that choking? Didn’t sound like it to me. They kept on going for the runs aggressively and just got beaten. Maybe Pants knee problem was what made the difference – after that break in play Klaasen got out and then SA didn’t have good enough tail end hitters.

    Great finish anyway!

    1. Definitely didn’t feel like choking. But it was a case of inches here & inches there. An inch more & SKY would have stepped on the rope.

    2. Having said that, it was strange to see all three of Australia, England, & South Africa deciding to chase in must-win matches vs India/Afghanistan etc.

      They should have seen how Pakistan succumbed to pressure & failed to carry out their ambush vs India in New York. Rohit’s experience of playing a million meaningless T20 coming in clutch

  4. The only bit that felt c-like was taking a single at the end of the 17th over leaving Miller off strike at the start of the 18th.

    The catch that did for Miller looked very much like a match-winning play by the fielder rather than a match-losing hit by the batsman.

    Only caught the last few overs of the match, but those overs were well worth watching.

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