Impressive in every round so far, Shane Watson will be fascinated by the uncertainty that comes with the two semi-finals of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
From Namibia’s win over Sri Lanka on match day one, to Pakistan’s miraculous late semi-final comeback, form guides have been thrown out the window, with the remaining four teams not much different.
New Zealand take on Pakistan in Sydney on Wednesday, while India face 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 at the event so far and presented the competition to the dogs who played their part in providing the entertainment of the tournament.
“The upsets – the lower-ranked nations upsetting the big teams – that was something nobody expected,” Watson said.
“It means everyone’s eyes are on every game. You can’t think it’s going to be an easy game to win, so it was great to be a part of the T20 World Cup. “
For Pakistan fans, T20 World Cup was very important. Having fallen in a final-ball heartbreaker between India and Zimbabwe, their team beat the Netherlands and South Africa and await other results on the final day of the Super 12.
Babar Azam’s men gave Pakistan a lifeline with a win over Dutch South Africa before they capitalized on an unlikely chance to brush aside Bangladesh.
Heading into the final four, Pakistan have nothing to lose in the eyes of the legendary Australian all-rounder, who has pleaded with the team to define itself in its final run of the tournament.
There are times in all competitions where a team falls over the line, somehow makes it to the finals and goes on to win, especially when they don’t expect to make it past the semifinals with the way they’ve played. At certain times in this competition,” Watson said.
“The freedom they have, the freedom they have is very dangerous for the Kiwis because they don’t wait too much in the middle of the tournament.”
Standing in Pakistan’s way were New Zealand, who defeated Australia in the tournament’s opening Super 12 match to claim the host trophy.
Watson’s key Kiwi is opener Finn Allen, who impressed Australia with a blistering performance in front of the SCG.
“Finn Allen has been an absolute highlight for them,” Watson said.
“What he was able to do in the powerplay was take on the best bowlers in the world and give New Zealand a great opportunity to play like them.
“They have world-class players around their squad, but Finn Allen is the X factor that has really helped them. It will be interesting to see his match here in Sydney against the quality pace of Pakistan.”
In Adelaide, the Indian side, whose strength has been built on a cut-throat domestic scene, could edge England for the favourites.
While on the IPL circuit, Watson rubs shoulders with many of the current crop and feels that finding the right 11 players to put on the team sheet is India’s biggest challenge.
“The depth is growing and growing and you can see it’s at the end. India can sit at home and play other world-class players at the moment. They’ve got so much skill that they can’t come in and put their hands up.
“This is a concern for other countries, knowing that another team will sit at home, at least another team that can shake the World Cup at home.”
One thing in England’s favor is the most recent result between the teams, but Jos Buttler’s men managed to defend 215 at Trent Bridge in July.
Watson feels the English are a serious proposition in semi-final cricket, and India may be looking for a different opponent.
“India will definitely prefer to play someone else in this semi-final in Adelaide because they know that England have a world-class team and they have a good record with them,” added Watson.
“It will be two great games of cricket, no question.”