In three days, the weather has turned in Dhaka. A general mugginess has given way to cruel, torrid heat. It rises up in gusts off the road, blowing vengefully into the faces of afternoon motorists. Mid-day temperatures hover around 40 degrees centigrade and even the hitherto pristine green of the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium’s outfield now wears small patches of brown. Summer is here.
It is just as well, then, that the ICC World Twenty20 is reaching its business-end in Bangladesh. All that remains before the semifinals is for the last spot to be taken, which boils down to the final game in Group 2.
West Indies will meet Pakistan here on Tuesday, in what is, for all practical purposes, a quarterfinal. Both teams have lost to India, the dominant side in the group, and recovered to beat Australia and Bangladesh.
It helps West Indies that by the time it takes the field, four days will have elapsed since its fiery defeat of Australia.
It cannot be easy to recover quickly from an emotional high like that. But for all its cricketing horsepower, Australia seemed a team too simple and naive in local conditions.Sterner challenge
Pakistan will present a different, sterner challenge. There is a feeling that the West Indies batsmen, particularly the middle and lower order, are more comfortable facing pace than spin.
It will be harder to smack Saeed Ajmal or Shahid Afridi for sixes than it was Mitchell Starc or James Faulkner.
Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels — who has had a quiet tournament so far — will have vital roles in that regard. Runs will have to keep flowing through the middle overs, with fours hit and the strike turned over. Either that or Gayle will have to have a good day, in which case all other issues are overridden.
Ten days into the Super 10, the pitches have gradually grown slower. Pakistan will not mind that, with Mohammad Hafeez and Zulfiqar Babar also ready for deployment.
But West Indies arrives with two good spinners of its own — the world’s top two in the format, incidentally — in Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree. Most teams have preferred to play Narine out while Badree is still seen as someone they can take risks against.
It shows in their numbers: the former has only three wickets (at 4.66 runs an over) but the latter seven (at 6.66 runs an over). Either way, the pair has been a thorn in the flesh of rival batsmen.
Pakistan will thus be delighted with Ahmed Shehzad’s hundred on Sunday, against Bangladesh though it may have come. On paper, at least, its batting group looks more balanced than the opponent’s.Better NRR
It may not come to matter but West Indies has the better net run rate of the two sides and will go through in the event of a tie or a washout. Darren Sammy and his men are enormously driven to retain the trophy they won two years ago. But in Pakistan, it faces an obstacle of some enormity.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Australia, teams still seeking their first win, will meet in the afternoon in a game of zero consequence. The home side will want to give its adoring fans something to cheer about while George Bailey will expect a reaction to the humiliating loss to India.