Watson fronts up
Shane Watson, whose three successive Man of the Match awards have confirmed him as the star of the World Twenty20, expressed the hope after Australia's mauling of India that his destructive opening partnership with David Warner will survive long enough to turn his side from tournament laughing stocks to world champions.
Watson grabbed 3 for 34 and struck 72 off 42 balls in a first-wicket stand of 133 with Warner as Australia strode past India's 140 for 7 to win by nine wickets and with more than five overs to spare. A career that has never entirely delivered, partly through a series of disruptive injuries, is promising to come to fruition at the World Twenty20.
"We know how important the part between me and Dave is on top of the order to set the platform," Watson said. "So far it has worked and we hope to be able to do that for the rest of the tournament. We want to set the scoring rate up higher enough early on so guys lower down don't have to take risks lower and don't need to score at 10 an over."
Watson's match-winning display followed his star turns in the qualifying stage: 51 and 3 for 26 against Ireland and 41 not out and 2 for 29 against the West Indies.
Australia were ranked lower than Ireland in T20 a few weeks before the tournament, an occurrence so incredible that ridicule was the only option. That inconsistency could return at any time. Their unexpressed fear is that one night soon Watson and Warner will fail and a middle order that was held to be vulnerable even before it became short of opportunity will prove unequal to the task.
"We were No. 9, very poorly ranked," Watson said, "and the reason was that our T20 cricket was very inconsistent. We played some very good games and we played some poor games as well. Things have fallen my way over the last few games. It is a very fine line. You have to make the most of those times because there are always times when things won't go your way."
Watson has been asked after every Man of the Match award why he is in such good form. In a time of cricketing overkill, his answer is revealing: he puts it down to rest. "I came off a five-week break and I was able to get some physical strength under my belt and have a mental break as well and hit this Twenty20 running," he said. "We came up once short against England last time and we have to play some very good cricket to get into the semi-finals and hope we then combine as a team in those two knockout games, but there is still a long way to go."
George Bailey is an Australia T20 captain who is clearly capable of building an excellent team spirit. One day soon he might have to go out to bat to win a cricket match.
Watson chuckled quietly at a suggestion that India's reliance on a battery of spinners had been affected by a brief rain stoppage early in Australia's innings. "In the end you have to make do with what conditions were given to you," he said. "India went in with three frontline spinners and in the end there is likely to be some rain around, like there always has been in Colombo, so you just have to make the best of the conditions and play as well as you possibly can."
"We knew that India were going to hit us with quite a bit of spin. That is their competitive advantage over us. I have been lucky in a way that I have been able to play all those spinners in IPL over the past few years so I knew how they were going to bowl to me and how they were going to try to get me out."
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo