It was built up as a Chris Gayle versus AB de Villiers clash, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, the lesser known mortals of West Indies and South Africa took centre stage after both superstars failed with the bat in this Super 10 Group 1 clash on Friday.
The Caribbean outfit, though, handled the pressure better in a low-scoring encounter to record a thrilling three-wicket win and secure their semi-final spot. For South Africa, it might be curtains if England beat Sri Lanka in New Delhi on Saturday.
While the capacity crowd wasn’t treated to the slam bang associated with the format, it was still an enticing contest with strategies coming to the fore. It also showcased the strengths and weaknesses of both the teams.
Before the match West Indies skipper Darren Sammy had said if they do the basics right, they are a destructive team. They got the basics right and the destruction followed. They bowled in right channels, forced the South Africa batsmen to create something out of nothing and throw away their wickets, fielded well and latched on to all the chances.
The bowlers are putting the 2012 champions on the drivers’ seat. On a placid Wankhede Stadium wicket, they restricted England to below 200 before Gayle ripped into the bowlers.
They then restricted Sri Lanka for 122 before crossing the line with ease.
For the third time in a row, Sammy chose to field after winning the toss and the bowlers didn’t put a foot wrong. None of them are one-dimensional; neither do they have similar bowling styles.
Carlos Brathwaite is quick, likes to hurry batsmen, and on a slow pitch he managed to push AB de Villiers on to the back foot. Andre Russell is somewhat similar, but varies his speeds and line and length often.
Dwayne Bravo is a captain’s delight in T20 and he was full of trickery on Friday as well. No wonder, India skipper MS Dhoni liked to have him on his side at the Chennai Super Kings.
Spinners Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn too have been solid. Both have different roles with leg-spinner Badree given the new ball and left-arm spinner Benn handed a containing job in the middle overs. Benn has the best economy rate among the West Indies bowlers.
While they are packed with all-rounders, it is the batting, especially the middle-order, which is a concern.
Though Gayle recorded a rare flop, the good work done by the bowlers meant their batsmen just had to keep their heads about to see them over the line. They did stutter a bit, but eventually got through.