Rishabh Pant’s punts, Jos Buttler’s gut feel, Fazalhaq Farooqi floors NZ + more in our latest T20 World Cup round-up

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No prizes for predicting that England and Pakistan would be two of the ‘big’ nations struggling to qualify for the next phase of this T20 World Cup. New Zealand aren’t usually on the receiving end of drubbings though, even if Afghanistan victories in these tournaments don’t exactly qualify as upsets any more.

India and Pakistan brave the New York pitch and weather

May as well start with the big one. India v Pakistan ended up as a decent match, despite the clumping pitch, high friction outfield and a downpour at the time they were due to start.

India’s 119 felt like a pretty handy score on this ground – but let’s be honest, it was still only 119. This meant that for most of the match you could make out a path to victory for either side, if you squinted one way or another.

Looking at the scorecard with the benefit of hindsight, Rishabh Pant’s 42 off 31 balls made the difference, which is really a peculiar thing because it was, in all honesty, mostly a pretty bad innings. A sizeable proportion of his more ambitious hoiks benefited from an obtuse slice of luck (we’re slicing luck like a pizza here, so that means a big slice) even if there were some decent shots dotted between them.

Pant did at least try to score more quickly though. You could argue that his gambling was rewarded, except that any number of other players were dismissed as soon as they so much as considered a flutter. For those who say ‘you make your own luck’… Mmm, no, you don’t. Not really. Sometimes luck just happens to you.

It’s hard to know what to conclude really, other than that Pakistan should have tried to play quite a lot better when they lost to the USA earlier in the week.

Will Jacks, opening bowler

We have very low tolerance for cricket decisions made by the gut. They always smack of self-aggrandising mysticism, like the captain’s claiming to be imbued with some cricket version of The Force. They could just feel what the right decision would be, you know?

Kudos then to Jos Buttler, for claiming his gut was responsible for what turned out to be a pretty godawful decision: asking Will Jacks to open the bowling against Australia.

What was only Jacks’ third over in international T20 didn’t go magnificently. He conceded 22 runs. After that, Australia were rollicking along.

“It was a gut call to go with Jacksy,” said Buttler… before going on to explain the whole thread of logic underpinning a decision that was very obviously in fact made by his brain.

“We talked a lot in the build-up about potentially bowling two overs of spin straight away against the two left-handers and Moeen bowled an excellent over first up. He is a very good option with his off spin. He’s done that role well in the IPL and I made a gut call today having seen Moeen’s first over. Having seen how that played out, that’s why I went with Will.”

Buttler’s gut apparently only picked up on the short boundary and wind direction later.

It feels increasingly jarring that Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott have a World Cup win to their names (the last T20 World Cup, no less – which was all of two years ago). Things can turn quickly in this tournament, but it doesn’t currently feel like they will for England.

Maybe England and Pakistan are both still warming up.

Fazalhaq Farooqi

Afghanistan’s strategy in all formats has generally involved more spin than Vic Reeves’ Wheel of Justice, yet they have two wins from two because they have a left-arm swing bowler who’s taken nine wickets.

When Fazalhaq Farooqi took 5-9 against Uganda, it was incredibly silly but comprehensible. Uganda’s batting is not dynamite. Their 58 all out in that game has since been followed by 39 all out against the West Indies, and even when they beat Papua New Guinea they lost seven wickets in pursuit of a target of 78.

Farooqi then did it again against New Zealand though, a wicket with his first ball launching him towards 4-17. Rashid Khan also took 4-17 and the Kiwis were all out for 75 chasing Afghanistan’s 159-6.

If Afghanistan have a weakness, it is that their batting seems to lean quite heavily on the openers. At least they won’t have to face Farooqi with the new ball.

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  1. Fascinating world cup so far, certainly shows the gap between top nations and associates is shrinking. There was a prominent news outlet referring to Bangladesh as “minnows” which probably reflects a bit of contrast between general perception and the reality of the strength of some of these teams. If we consider the “Big 8” to be every country that’s won a world cup of some sort + SA & NZ, there’s a good chance that half of them won’t make the super-8s, and whilst the people calculating the TV ratings might disagree, I recon that’s probably a good thing.

      1. I agree that it is a good thing that associate teams get stronger and can challenge for Super 8 places in a tournament of this kind, but I don’t like it when several group stage outcomes might come down more to downpour timings than cricket.

        I’m finding it hard to engage with this tournament so far which is unusual for me. But almost every time I have made an appointment to view so far, it has been raining and I turn my attention to other things.

        How come no-one has yet mentioned Hayden’s ghastly commentary around here? Either I am getting less tolerant with age or Hayden is getting even worse with age or, quite possibly, both.

      2. It’s a pity there’s not a venue in Savannah, Georgia—the most appropriate terminus for Australia’s march to the sea.

        I’m enjoying the tournament. These events are much better when more associates are involved. I’ve really only been disappointed by rain spoiling Eng v. Scot and yesterday’s contest between the Buddhist North & South.

        I’ve liked Steven Finn as part of TMS, particularly his dismay re: pickle brine and his dubiety re: how wheelbarrows work.

      3. “How come no-one has yet mentioned Hayden’s ghastly commentary around here? Either I am getting less tolerant with age or Hayden is getting even worse with age or, quite possibly, both.”

        Well Ged Ladd, I’ve noted it too, but those notes have yet to be processed logically beyond crude acronyms.

        I now recall a very recent match where at least two male Aussie commentators, probably including Hayden, were involved in a verbal demolition of how badly one of the associate, part-time, teams (Uganda I think, or maybe Namibia) was playing compared to the top teams. This was akin to criticising your great-grandmother for being old.

        Anyway, it seems that my brain partially shut down as a defence mechanism against such needless over-the-top verbal diarrhea, and it’s only your mention of Hayden that brought such repressed memories to the fore.

        Maybe KC is keeping a running log of Hayden’s ghastly commentary until the post-tournament analysis to assail us all with a compendium of his awful oratory!

        …or maybe he’s repressing it too.

        Anyway, here’s for an Afghanistan vs USA final.

  2. Also, during Ind v. Pak one of the television commentators said: “If you think as a bowler—’Okay, I’m only gonna play t20 format, and my life will be fine’—it won’t.”

    A true statement, regardless of what one thinks about or does in life.

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