Unlike the first two quarterfinals, the Australia-Pakistan match proved very competitive. if it had not been for a dropped catch, Australia might have been in deep trouble even though I have no doubt they would have pulled it out. What sets Australia apart from the other teams ( in addition to the quality of their pace attack) is their batting which goes all the way to number 9; even numbers 10 and 11 can put some runs on the board. Still, Pakistan must rue Rahat Ali’s costly drop of Shane Watson when the batsman was just in to bat. All credit to Watson for weathering a torrid spell from Wahab Riaz and playing a mature innings to guide Australia home. It was scary watching the replays of him swaying and ducking Riaz’s barrage of bouncers.
Earlier, Australia backed up their bowlers with some excellent catching to dismiss Pakistan for a modest total of 213. After Pakistan’s openers were dismissed cheaply, it was slow going, All the Pakistani batsmen, except the tail enders, got into double figures but were unable to convert their starts. Shahid Afridi smashed 23 of 21 in a typical cameo but the others were unable to force the pace and 213 was never going to be enough.
As for the sanctions against Watson and Wahab Riaz: Not knowing what exactly was said by the players, one has to go along with the fines. Riaz’s actions were very visible but the instigation by Watson and other Aussie fielders was more subtle. The amount of the fines seems about right. Good to read that after the match the two main protagonists shook hands and made up.
This of course was the end of Misbah-ul-Huq and Shahid Afridi’s careers. Misbah has been a great captain for Pakistan, calm and collected in moments of stress, and did not often get the support he deserved from his players. He will be very difficult to replace. Shahid Afridi , however, was long past his sell-by date and should have been dropped at least a couple of years earlier. He long ago stopped being ” Boom Boom Afridi” and his bowling too had deteriorated markedly. He was a colorful character but also a handful to manage.
The other quarterfinal between New Zealand and West Indies was never in doubt after Martin Guptill’s violent double century. Poor West Indies. They must have felt great at getting Brendon McCullum out cheaply and then dismissing Kane Williamson with the score still below 100. What a downer to have Guptill take their bowling apart. They don’t have to look far for reasons for their defeat. Dropped catches, slipshod fielding, wayward bowling and some poor tactical decisions by the inexperienced Jason Holder are some of them. They were never going to win this match but at least they could have made it more of a contest. Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get better soon. Chris Gayle’s departure is not exactly a loss. He had some explosive moments as a batsman but was a liability in the field. And some of the others did not play hard. Still, where are their replacements? Jason Holder has a tough time ahead of him.
My favorite moment of this match was Daniel Vettori leaping high in the air to grab an amazing one-handed catch and still keeping inside the boundary line. It was a catch that a much younger man would be proud of; for him to pull it down was phenomenal. It was heartwarming to watch the rest of the Kiwi fielders rush to the outfield to hug him and to see the joy of the New Zealand crowd and the pride they have in their team. Bravo!!