With almost every surprise so far, Shane Watson has been intrigued by the uncertainty that comes with the two semi-finals of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
From Namibia’s victory against Sri Lanka on match day one, to Pakistan’s miraculous comeback in a late semi-final push, the form leaders have been thrown out the window, with little to split the remaining four teams .
New Zealand take on Pakistan in Sydney on Wednesday, while India meet England at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday. The winners will then meet on Sunday at the MCG, probably in front of a packed crowd.
Before reviewing the form of the other four teams, Watson applauded the standard of cricket so far at the event, tipping the cap to the competition’s underdogs, who played their part in providing the tournament’s entertainment.
“The upsets – the lower-ranked countries upsetting the big teams – that was something nobody really expected,” Watson said.
“It has meant that everyone’s eyes are on every game. You can’t think it’s going to be an easy game to win so it’s been a really cool T20 World Cup to be a part of.”
For Pakistan fans, the T20 World Cup has been quite a treat. Falling in the final round to India and Zimbabwe, their team rallied to beat the Netherlands and South Africa, before nervously waiting for other results on the final day of the Super 12 match.
The Netherlands gave Pakistan a lifeline by beating South Africa, before Babar Azam’s men seized an unlikely chance to progress, brushing aside Bangladesh.
After sneaking into the last four, Pakistan almost had nothing to lose in the eyes of the legendary Australian player, begging the team to express themselves in their late bid in the tournament.
“There are certain moments in every tournament where a team just falls across the line, somehow finds their way into the finals, and then goes on to win it, especially when they weren’t they expected to reach the semi-finals because of the way they played. at certain times during this tournament,” said Watson.
“The freedom they’re going to have because they don’t expect much in the middle of the tournament, the freedom they’re going to have is going to be very dangerous for the Kiwis.”
Standing in Pakistan’s way are New Zealand, who overshadowed Australia in the opening Super 12 match of the tournament to put the hosts’ title defense on hold.
Opener Finn Allen, who stunned Australia with an upfront blitz at the SCG, is Watson’s key Kiwi.
“Finn Allen has been an absolute standout for them,” Watson noted.
“What he has been able to do in the Powerplay, which is to challenge the best bowlers in the world, has really given New Zealand an advantage to be able to play as well as they do.
“They have world-class players around their team, but Finn Allen has just been that X-factor that has really helped them. It will be interesting to see his game against the quality Pakistan quicks here in Sydney.”
Over in Adelaide, an Indian team, with their strength in depth built by a progressive domestic scene, may edge out England for the favourites’ tag.
Having rubbed shoulders with much of the current crop while on the IPL circuit, Watson feels finding the right 11 players to put on the team sheet may be India’s biggest challenge.
“You can see the depth grow and grow and in the end. India could field another team of world-class players currently sitting at home. They have so much skill waiting to be able to come in and put their hand up,” he said.
“That worries other countries, knowing that they have another team sitting at home, at least another team sitting at home that could shake this World Cup as well.”
One thing in England’s favor is the latest result between the teams though, Jos Buttler defending 215 at Trent Bridge back in July.
Watson feels the English are a tough proposition in semi-final cricket, and India may want to take on a different opponent.
“Certainly India would prefer to play someone else in this semi-final in Adelaide because they know that England have a top class team and a good record against them as well,” added Watson.
“They’re going to be two great games of cricket, there’s no question.”