Yesterday’s game was the most lop-sided one of the tournament so far, with South Africa defeating West Indies by the huge margin of 267 runs. While the result was not unexpected, since SA has been one of the favored nations to win the tournament and WI has been in a slump generally, recent performances had suggested a close game and nothing like the blowout that happened.
In their previous games SA had lost badly to India while WI had clobbered Bangladesh, with the WI batsmen returning to form in grand style. But the South African captain AB de Villiers demonstrated yet again why he is one of the more feared batsmen in the game, scoring an incredible unbeaten 162 off just 66 balls, breaking all kinds of records in the process as SA marched to a mammoth score of 408/5.
With teams that have a strong middle order batting line up, it is dangerous to let them get to the 30 over mark with a score of around 150 and lot of wickets in hand because you can be sure that they will turn on the pace, and usually this results in the batting team approximately doubling that score in the next 20 overs. SA was 147/3 at the 30 over mark but in this case SA scored another 261 runs, with the last five overs alone producing 96 runs as de Villiers hit everything in sight. When it was their turn to bat, the demoralized WI team did not put up a fight and just collapsed and were all out for just 151 in 33.1 overs. SA also fielded well, holding on to some excellent catches.
I am firmly convinced that at this level of the game, what can be decisive is the quality of the fielding and disciplined bowling. Teams whose bowlers bowl to the field that has been set and where the fielders hustle to cut off boundaries, hold on to the easy catches, and pull off difficult ones are the ones likely to win. So far, both SA and New Zealand have impressed in this area.
Of the three explosive hitters in the tournament, Chris Gayle and de Villiers have already demonstrated how dangerous they can be. Today sees the much-anticipated marquee game between Australia and New Zealand who are both undefeated so far (along with India and Ireland) and it may be an excellent occasion for the third person in that trio, New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, to show his skills and demonstrate the NZ is truly a serious contender or the trophy.