Aus v Pak, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Colombo October 1, 2012

Watson's dominance is absolute

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Even Australia's captain is running out of words to describe Shane Watson's current form. Four matches into the tournament, Australia's supposedly suspect middle order has barely seen the light of day. Watson is yet to be dismissed for less than 50, has made a tournament-leading 234 runs with a strike rate of 164, has hit the most sixes and is the leading wicket-taker to boot.

He prospered on the bouncy tracks at the start of the tournament, and has remained as effective when they have slowed down. Oppositions have bowled short to him, whether by plan or mistake, and Watson has been unerringly brutal. Others have tried pitching fuller, but his lofted drives have been no less merciful. He has been as comfortable against Dale Steyn's swing as he was against Sunil Narine's offspin. His bowling almost seems an afterthought, given how colossal he has been with the bat, but Pakistan will do well to plan for his steady seamers as well, if they wish to avoid a three-way tie for the second semi-final berth or being knocked out by an Indian victory.

"Things are just falling my way at the moment," Watson said. "Even against South Africa, bowling-wise the wicket of AB de Villiers wasn't one of the better balls I bowled, especially with the field I had. Batting-wise I knew how important it was to get through the first four or five overs with the quality of quick bowlers South Africa had, and then you sort of hope you can get away. You've just got to make the most of it when you can because I know how quickly it can turn and your form can go against you."

Australia arrived at the World Twenty20 barely fending off Ireland for number 9 in the Twenty20 rankings but with four dominant victories, have established themselves as the frontrunners of their Super Eights group. Watson said although Australia had lost the Twenty20 series against Pakistan in the UAE days before arriving in Sri Lanka, that experience has played a significant role in their success at the World Twenty20 so far.

"I think we all knew exactly what conditions we were going to have," he said. "The conditions in Dubai were brilliant practice because what we had there was very similar to what we have here. We know the further the tournament goes, the more it's going to turn. That's going to be a big challenge for us, but at the moment, the top three [are] scoring the bulk of the runs, and when that happens you are able to keep your run rate pretty high."

Australia picked left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty ahead of seam-bowling allrounder Daniel Christian for their match against South Africa, on a drier-looking pitch than the surfaces they had encountered previously in Colombo. Doherty took 3 wickets for 20 having opened the bowling, including the scalps of Richard Levi and Jacques Kallis in the first three overs. With pitches expected to become more spin-friendly as the tournament progresses, Australia captain George Bailey said Doherty's attitude and form was encouraging ahead of their match with Pakistan.

"Xavier handled the pressure of taking the new ball really well. It was a really specific role that we wanted him for today and he got the absolute best result that he could have. To have South Africa three wickets down after that first six overs really put them on the backfoot and made it hard for them to gain any momentum through those middle overs."

Bailey said Australia are also wary of the spin threat their opponents pose. Saeed Ajmal was the leading wicket-taker in the UAE series, with six wickets at 8.66 and an economy rate of 4.33, while left arm spinner Raza Hasan and offspinner Mohammad Hafeez took five wickets between them. Bailey said Australia's batsmen had had trouble reading Ajmal, but that they had learnt from their clashes with him in the UAE and devised new strategies for him.

"I don't know if you can decode Ajmal. He's going to be a key for the rest of the tournament, and will probably become more dangerous the deeper the tournament goes. We've got some thoughts and ideas, but if he comes out and bowls unbelievably, it's going to be tough for sure."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on October 2, 2012, 12:09 GMT

    Watson's dominance will work agst AUS. His dominance has prevented the other players from coming to the party in a big way. And he will fail in one of the remaining games and when he does, Aus will be in big trouble. Let,s hope he doesn't fail in the semis or the finals. On the other hand Gayle's failures were up front, and allowed the other players opportunities. Along with the two hard fought victories, WI is now battle ready, and a force to reckon. However, I like AUS in this one.

  • dummy4fb on October 2, 2012, 9:49 GMT

    As an Australian, our form thus far has me a little worried. This is cricket, and no matter the player, there are cases where they will be bowled out cheaply. It just seems we have relied an awful lot on Watson so far and if he falls early we could be in trouble....

  • bjg62 on October 2, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    Ahhhh RednWhiteArmy! So all along Andrew Symond's inability to handle the pressure at the top can be tracked back to his English bloodlines. Thanks very much for pointing that out to me...

  • Joy_Shree_Krishna on October 2, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    For Watto a tough battle on the cards is awaiting, especially playing the wizard called "Ajmal", provided if he survives the early bite of Hasan and Hafeez, but if he can play out the spinners, Pak can well go on chasing the leather. But for starters its the Pakis who have to bat and normally they like setting totals. All the Best 2 both the teams.

  • navsl on October 2, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    Truly this man is great not like the overrated Indian batsman like kholie. Who can only play on flat pitches and couldn't handle classy phase attack. But this man can do it in anywhere.

  • cricket_fan_1980 on October 2, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    Watson this tournament is reminding me of Afridi in 2009, dominating generally on the field and coming out with major accolades like leading wickets, runs etc. Only difference is, then Afridi peaked in the semi-final and final. Has Watson peaked too soon? :) Well, I wouldn't bet any money on it, Watson tends to be quite consistent on his good runs. If Pak get Watson, Warner and Mike Hussey early on, the Aussie's are going to be up against it ...

  • Rez_Rez on October 2, 2012, 9:13 GMT

    Pakistan have no chance. they can only play on their day. Australia and Watson in their best form at this moment. So Pakistan can only watch with their bowlers when Watson starts.

  • zenboomerang on October 2, 2012, 7:25 GMT

    @RednWhiteArmy :- "Probably australias best all rounder since Englishman Andrew Symonds"... Born to WI father & Scandinavian mother in Eng, adopted out as a baby & moved to Oz... Yes, I do love his englishness... lol...

  • Meety on October 2, 2012, 7:07 GMT

    @RednWhiteArmy on (October 02 2012, 04:02 AM GMT) - great, you're here, can you let us know how England are progressing? Two teams have been eliminated last night, NZ and ....?????

  • cricfan25434597 on October 2, 2012, 6:36 GMT

    I can feel tonight it will be all or nothing for Pakistan.. They will have to bat first and score 160-185 (how not sure) and bowl, field their a*s of... if they are chasing than forget it they will be blown away by Starc, Cummins and co...2nd game I hope India gets smashed as well because I think team SAF has been the better side in all department but the kuggage they have carried since entering the world cricket marred them of winning any silverware to date... I think they would want to win for sake of winning at least one game in super eight and it will all depend how the match before their fair.. I Pak lose they will be full on confidence to beat india as they will be in prime position to claim that elusive 4th spot for the semis.

    food for thought... any one considered Aussies to lose to Pakistan and Indian to beat SAF and both qualify and Aust after winning 4 straight games would miss out on the SF spot. I think this will be a extraordinary change of event and would make T20 mad

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