Posted by: nestaquin | June 17, 2009

The Semi-Finalists

t20_world_cup_2009_trophy

The semi-final placings at the World T20 are now decided and two tantalising encounters are promised in the days ahead.

After their comprehensive wins last night both South Africa and Sri Lanka are yet to taste defeat and they will be playing against Pakistan and the West Indies respectively for a place in the final.

Below is a brief summation of the remaining team’s progress, strengths, weaknesses and chances.

SOUTH AFRICA

Undefeated in five matches brushing aside New Zealand, Scotland, England, West Indies and India.

They bat deep and have an enviable blend of youth and experience which will be vital at the sharp-end of the tournament.

In Steyn, they have one of the world’s premier fast bowlers and in Smith, Kallis, Gibbs, de Villiers, Duminy, Boucher and Morkel a batting line-up that has the versatility and skill to succeed in almost any situation.

They play muscular macho efficient cricket, reminiscent of Australia at its most successful, applying relentless merciless pressure and then pouncing on opposition error.

If they have a weakness it is mental and despite assertions that this is no longer the case, a young Australian Test team proved otherwise in February.

PAKISTAN

Defeated Netherlands, New Zealand and Ireland. Lost to England and Sri Lanka.

They have hardly set the tournament alight and should thank an easy draw for their place in the finals.

It would be a monumental upset if they defeat South Africa but they do have some stellar, if frustratingly inconsistent cricketers that could provide something special in this shortest of formats.

Gul, Ajmal and Afridi are bowling well but the team’s fielding is generally atrocious. Their batting line-up contains some class acts but it is a rare day when even three, let alone two of them fire.

They will have plenty of support in London and around the world but they’ll need to improve their cricket remarkably to win the tournament.

WEST INDIES

Defeated Australia, India and England. Lost to South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Calypso cricket has made a welcome return to England and the Windies have done very well considering the tough draw that they were presented with.

Gayle, Fletcher and Simmons can win the match in the first six overs if given the latitude and with Sarwan, Bravo and Chanderpaul to follow they are a nightmare when on song for every bowling attack.

When fit, Fidel Edwards is as slippery as they come and their medium pacers and spinners have been consistent in line and length. Gayle has captained impressively and even if they fail to win this tournament they will be one of the favourites in the next instalment at home in 2010.

Their fielding has improved each match but it too often falls short of international standard as does their attitude in tough situations.

SRI LANKA

Undefeated beating Australia, West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and England

An excellent team at every level that has experience, talent, creativity and outstanding leadership both on and off the field.

Their batting is solid and dependable but it is their bowling that is most impressive. Their four main men Udana, Malinga, Murali and Mendis all are unique, clever, versatile and consequently a handful for any batsman. In combination they ask so many questions and apply so much pressure that no opponent can ever feel completely safe.

Their fielding is excellent and their calmness under pressure, personified by their former and current captains, means that they are usually unflustered and always in the contest.

Their only weakness, a long tail, is fairly well protected by the shortness of the format and if they proceed to the final along with South Africa we will be most fortunate to witness an intriguing contest between two undefeated cricket teams of vastly contrasting styles playing for the most important and prestigious trophy in T20 cricket.

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Responses

  1. Well said Nesta.. the semis are really a contest between the consistent professionals and the unpredictable flair – the next 2 days will show us who will prevail…

    One weakness u fail to touch upon though – South Africa’s batting; no doubt it is very strong but only on paper.. besides against Scotland, they have failed to fire in this competition.

    Only 128 against NZ. 130 against Ind. Took 19 overs to chase 112 against England.

    They could be found wanting.

    • They could well be Q, especially against Sri Lanka maybe even Pakistan. Yet even though they have scored frugally they have yet to be really challenged. Perhaps their bowling as a whole is better than I first thought.

  2. Yep its been the Safrikaan bowling that has helped them defend 128 and 130 against NZ and Ind.. in NZ’s case by 1 run! .. and also their bowling that restricted Eng to 112.

    • I guess South Africa’s fielding has also contributed to them being able to consistently defend what appear low scores. They don’t gift runs to the opposition through error and probably save around 15-20 a match through excellence.

  3. Unless Gul or Ajmal do a miracle, I don’t see how Pakistan can hope to win against SA. If SA bats first and sets a score around 150, I think their bowling will see them through.De Villiers is the key.

    The real thrills should come from WI Vs SL. The Srilankan batting could face the same bouncer barrage that India buckled under.Will be interesting to see how they would choke the chase in case they are defending a par score.

    I want to see either SL or WI win the cup though SA are the favorites by a decent margin.

    • If form holds true and South Africa and Sri Lanka progress I’m of the opinion that Sri Lanka’s freakish talent will trump South Africa’s ruthless efficiency.

  4. @Kumar: I think if SA post anything above 120, that would enough against Pak’s inept batting. However, if Pakistan bats first and posts 140+, you can count on SA choking. Their performance against the Indian part time spinners last night was scratch at best, while Afridi and Ajmal are among the leading wicket takers in the tournament.

    I’m counting on flair to trump consistency in the semis. This T20 cup has been nothing short of shocking.

    Out of the 4 semi finalists, only SA were predicted to be there..

    • This T20 cup has been nothing short of shocking.
      Then pay more attention to Kartikeya! When you get into the mindset that matches between top-eight sides are little more than coin tosses, the results become much less shocking.

  5. @DB: I’ve been paying attention to Karthikeya :-)

    I believe once the set of T20 internationals increases to a significant number, the results between top 8 sides will be more than just coin tosses. We will just have to wait for that and watch.

    The mindset that we do need to get out of however, is that the leading test and ODI sides are also just as good at T20. Many realize this is not the case, but again with a larger base of T20 games, I think we’ll have a clearer picture of the trends.

    • T20 results are always going to be closer to pure random than 50-over results, because of the shorter innings. What a larger number of matches will do is allow us to better separate the good teams from the bad. But you’ll need a lot of games, and each game will still be close to a coin toss.

      eg, a typical contest between two top-eight sides has the better team winning less than 60% of the time. Let’s say there’s a relatively big gap between the sides and the stronger team wins 60% of the time. If those two teams played an 11-game series, the probability of the weaker team winning is about 1/4.

      One in four is a lot (from a cricket perspective) for an 11-game series.

  6. I feel that de Villiers is the key to the SA batting. Get him out and good bowlers should be able to restrict the rest to one boundary per over (unless Albie really gets going). Pakistan’s bowling is very good and may just get them over the line.

    I’m going for the Lankans in the other match and then for Sanga’s old heads to defeat Pak in the final.

  7. @DB, I agree – the shorter the format, the more closely the teams are matched..

    But what I have a problem with is “a typical contest between two top-eight sides has the better team winning less than 60% of the time.”

    What makes u decide who is the better team? I believe a lot of people are using test and/or ODI benchmarks to determine who the better team is.. I do it too.. but I think its wrong.. with a larger set of matches, we will be able to decide in a more concrete way as to who are the better teams and who should win more often than not..

    • What makes u decide who is the better team?
      Most of the time, I have no idea which is the better team in T20. South Africa are undefeated in this tournament, Australia lost two out of two. But they played each other in four T20’s last summer and it was 2-2.

      Until they start playing many many more matches, I will remain largely clueless as to the ‘true’ order of teams.

      I am confident that when two sides play each other, one of the teams is genuinely better than the other, but unless it’s top-eight v minnow, I’m extremely uncertain about it.

      It’s even worse in the IPL – no-one knows who the best team was this year, because there was no significant difference between the results seen and what you’d expect from flipping coins. (To be fair, Rajasthan were probably the best side last year.)

      • Q, I don’t understand your complaint. David’s first comment makes no distinction over who the better side is. He is saying, and he is right, that the better side (regardless of who that is) will only win about 60% of matches in T20. He is right because even a dominant Australian side was only winning 70-75% of ODI games, and T20 games are, by their nature, closer than that, and because looking at the data we do have (and there are now 130 odd games, including unofficial warmups), it is possible to distinguish sides that have done well in only T20 (not ODI and T20, just T20) and rate them in a way that gives consistent results regardless of whether the teams’ initial rating is even or based on their ODI results.

        Those ratings would, on average, mean South Africa and Sri Lanka will win their semi-finals by seven runs. But that is nothing, one good/bad over. And the gap is small enough that an unexpectedly large victory would reverse the positions of the two sides. So, to an extent, no, we don’t know who is the “best” side, but it is also often true, that at any point in the future, between the top 2 or 3 sides at any one time, you can’t know who the “best” side is. You can only rate them as more or less equally strong and perhaps one as very slightly more likely to win.

        • Russ: there is no complaint, I was just having a statistical debate with DB, although I know I can never win one when it comes to stats.. just debating whether the outcome is a little more than a coin toss or not.

          I get the point he was making.

          • Q, the shorter way of saying what I meant above is this: where the variation in results is large, and the difference between teams is small, the results will resemble a coin toss. It is entirely possible that the true difference between the top 8 sides is neither constant enough, nor large enough to measure reliably, regardless of the number of games played.

            Conversely, I’d argue that we do have enough T20 data to support the claim that South Africa and Sri Lanka are superior to their opponents in the semi-finals. But that the data doesn’t support either of them being more than 60-40 favourites to win. And moreover, is not likely to in the future either, given their results prior to the start of the tournament.

      • “Until they start playing many many more matches, I will remain largely clueless as to the ‘true’ order of teams.”

        Thats the point I was trying to make DB :-)

  8. I would go for WI against SA final and the Saffers to choke again!

    Reason is WI is the only team fully embraced to t20 spirit. They make the game look most fun with thier typical Caribbean exhibition of Raw skill, Flair, athleticism and inspired play

    By contrast SA is the most boring team you can watch win a match. SL choke a game like Anaconda with thier VERY VERY good bowling skills and insistent Pakistan win it will be a big Joke on this tournament. Like the Jokes which are Pak captain’s post-match interviews :-)) (He has a very atypical and too much of a level head for his country and passionate but unthinking South Asian fans

    So WI then. It will also create some artificial interest in the next T20 cup in WI which is only 10 months away. OH NO!! (hopefully this can revive the dying game in WI from near extinction)

    • typo… (I meant) InCONsistent Pakistan

  9. Found this consoling comment from this link

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/sports/cricket/18iht-CRICKET.html?hpw

    “Each semifinal, and Sunday’s final at Lord’s, will be the second half of a double-header — preceded by an afternoon match from the same stages of the first Women’s World Twenty20.

    This should provide consolation for nations eliminated from the men’s competition, since the women’s semis are India versus New Zealand and England versus Australia”

  10. marees – That’s a great spot!

    • Yes it was some consolation after watching the dis-appointing performances of IND/NZ/AUS.

      To lose is 1 thing But to be OutClassed gives total dissappointment to their fans.

      If only 4 teams play like they deserve to be in Semis then what is the point of Super8s?

  11. The Black Caps have a proud tradition in international limited-overs tournaments: we scrap our way to the semis, and then get beaten by a classier side (the exception being the Champions’ Trophy in 2000, which we won against the odds).

    Even with the injury problems we had, the NZ men’s performances were very disappointing. The NZ women, on the other hand, are looking good to make the final – but I expect England to be their opponents, and England will be extremely tough to beat.

    • The Black Caps were disappointing but when half the team selected are carrying injuries it is to be expected. Some, like Oram and Styris, are in the team on reputation alone while promising players like Neil Broom and Tim Southee are missing out.

      I think New Zealand should embrace their next generation before it is too late. Also, I was mighty impressed with Guptill’s reaction when dismissed against Sri Lanka. It cut him deep and that is a sign of a young man who despises losing and he’ll remember the pain the next time he is in a similar situation.

  12. @Russ,

    If u take a look at the stats of all T20 internationals played, Pakistan has the best Win% at 75%, SL next with 72%, and then SA with 69%…

    If u take the games against Minnows out, the 3 still have similar win %, then the claim that SA and SL are better doesn’t hold.

    If u talk abt this tournament alone, then yes SA and SL have been the better teams.

    I still think we need a larger set of games to determine, who the better teams are.

  13. Q, obviously how you rate sides depends on how you calculate it. I do a lot of ratings, as you’ll see if you click through to my site, so I am not stating this without running lots of numbers. Based on the games played to date, but weighted towards more recent results, Pakistan are inferior to South Africa, and West Indies are inferior to Sri Lanka.

    Not by much mind you (none of the top 8 are), and only since they lost to Sri Lanka, but the statement I made above is based on who is best, right now, not the past four years. If Pakistan win by more than 50 runs then the ratings will put them higher than South Africa; if South Africa win then the ratings will put them further ahead. Both of which are, I think, reasonable extrapolations based on recent form and results.

    • Russ, I just briefly hopped over to your site and looks like some very interesting work u’ve been doing.. will go through it in more detail in the morning and give my 2cents on it. I wasn’t aware of ur site before this, should have been more alert :-)


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