Shane Watson is at a stage where he can perhaps part the seas and hit sixes with a toothpick. Cricket’s ‘glorious uncertainties’ have steered clear of him so far in the ICC World Twenty20.
The all-rounder bagged his fourth consecutive `Man of the Match’ award and scripted another Australian triumph as George Bailey’s men defeated South Africa by eight wickets in the Super Eights Group II match at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Sunday. Pursuing South Africa’s 146 for five, Australia scored 147 for two in 17.4 overs. The victory has almost assured Australia of a semifinal berth while South Africa’s fast depleting hopes entirely hinge on other results going in its favour besides defeating India on Tuesday.
During the chase, the riveting mix of aggressive Australian openers and menacing South African fast bowlers produced an interesting blend of caution and menace initially.
Watson and David Warner did not get the flying start that they have dished out in recent times as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel hit the right notes.
A suffocated Warner heaved his bat against Morkel and walked away to the accompanying sound of tumbling stumps.
The first four came in the fifth over as Watson (70, 47b, 8x4, 2x6) streaked Jacques Kallis through the off-side and then there was no stopping the all-rounder as three diverse fours pockmarked Morkel’s next over. Drives, both square and through covers, and a flick revved up Watson and once the spinners — Johan Botha and Robin Peterson — came on, muscular shots replaced the earlier finesse.
Both Watson and his steady partner Michael Hussey, with whom he added 99 runs for the second wicket, picked on left-arm seamer Wayne Parnell as the mid-wicket and square-leg fence became their dartboards.
Parnell dropped Watson on 52 off Peterson and though the errant fielder and the upset bowler combined again to dismiss the opener, Hussey (45 n.o.) ensured that Australia stayed on course.
In the afternoon, South Africa found a revival in its last five overs (54 runs) after three jolts in the Power Play left it reeling for a large part of the innings.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, drafted in ahead of Daniel Christian, scalped Richard Levi and Kallis. Worse was to follow when Hashim Amla edged a hook off Watson and the South Africa wobbled at 33 for three in 5.5 overs.
J-P. Duminy (30) provided the needed adhesive to hold South Africa together and also formed a brief partnership with skipper A.B. de Villiers. Their departure even before revealing their explosive selves left the team with unfinished business at 86 for five in 14.1 overs.
The runs though came at a faster rate as Farhaan Behardien (31 n.o.) and Robin Peterson (32 n.o.) added 60 off 35 balls for the sixth-wicket but that surge failed to alter the match’s fate.
South Africa: R. Levi b Doherty 0 (3b), H. Amla c Wade b Watson 17 (15b, 1x4, 1x6), J. Kallis c Wade b Doherty 6 (7b, 1x4), J-P. Duminy st. Wade b Doherty 30 (25b, 4x4), A.B. de Villiers c Bailey b Watson 21 (24b), F. Behardien (not out) 31 (27b, 2x4, 1x6), R. Peterson (not out) 32 (19b, 6x4); Extras (b-1, w-8): 9; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs): 146.
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Levi), 2-8 (Kallis), 3-33 (Amla), 4-64 (Doherty), 5-86 (de Villiers).
Australia bowling: Doherty 4-0-20-3, Starc 4-0-30-0, Cummins 4-0-33-0, Watson 4-0-29-2, Hogg 3-0-26-0, Maxwell 1-0-7-0.
Australia: D. Warner b M. Morkel 5 (9b), S. Watson c Parnell b Peterson 70 (47b, 8x4, 2x6), M. Hussey (not out) 45 (37b, 2x4, 2x6), C. White (not out) 21 (13b, 3x4, 1x6); Extras (b-1, w-5): 6; Total (for two wkts. in 17.4 overs): 147.
Fall of wickets: 1-10 (Warner), 2-109 (Watson).
South Africa bowling: Steyn 3-0-15-0, M. Morkel 3-0-23-1, Kallis 1-0-8-0, Botha 3.4-0-31-0, Peterson 4-0-41-1, Parnell 2-0-24-0, Duminy 1-0-4-0.
Man-of-the-match: Shane Watson.