March 25, 2014
Choice of game
Traveling to another city to watch a cricket match had always been on my bucket list, and with tickets for Dhaka matches rare to get a hold of, this was the perfect match. South Africa and New Zealand feature some of my favourite T20 cricketers, and getting a day off from work on a weekday was easier for me than during the weekend.
I love the brand of cricket both teams play, so any team's win would have made me happy. But as the game closed in, I realised I wanted South Africa to win more badly.
JP Duminy played a superbly balanced knock to push South Africa to a fighting total, Kane Williamson was impressive at the top of New Zealand's innings, while Ross Taylor showed glimpses of Pallekelle and threatened to run away with it, but it was the Steyngun who snatched it away. Not just for his closing over; every time he came to bowl, he asserted his authority on a surface deemed slow. While pacers resort to all sorts of fancy slower bouncers and cutters, he went old-school - fast, good length, on the corridor of uncertainty. He was the difference between the sides.
One thing you'd have changed about the match
The Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium is beautiful in its own way, but almost none of the galleries have any shade above the head. With the sun beating down and air humid, the first three hours were difficult. Three of my most favourite T20 batsmen - AB de Villiers, Faf Du Plessis and Brendon McCullum didn't get any runs, which was a little disappointing.
Face-off you relished
Taylor took on Morne Morkel when he returned after a break from his poor two-over spell, and tonked him around for three back-to-back sixes. Steyn cutting through the New Zealand openers was also intense.
Steyn's third over produced the valuable wicket of a free-striking Williamson, as de Villiers, who hadn't had an impact on the game with the bat, sprinted to his right from wide long-on near where I was sitting, for a moment lost the ball in the floodlights, and then flung himself in the air horizontally to get his fingers under the ball at bootlace-height. Spectacular.
Hashim Amla, who had been cautious after wickets fell at the other end, slapped one hard back towards the bowler, which hit non-striker Duminy's bat really hard and looped up in the air as JP's bat slipped from his hand, and bowler Corey Anderson had the presence of mind to swallow up the catch. Arguably the most bizarre dismissal I've seen on a cricket field.
Steyn got loud cheers when he fielded at long-on just in front of us, particularly after a valiant effort to catch a Taylor skier that ended up going for six. Shouts of "Khai de, Steyn, Khai de" (roughly translating to "Eat 'em up, Steyn, eat 'em up") were also hollered at him when he went to bowl the final over.
Shot of the day
Duminy played the most impressive knock of the day, looting runs all around the park. It was his first six, though, crashing a Mitchell McClenaghan length ball from outside off to the cow corner for a 92-metre hit, that stood out.
In the last over of the South African innings, with Duminy getting just the three deliveries to face, he was looking to crash each one of them. One such shot whizzed over umpire Aleem Dar, who took a full backward somersault over his head. The crowd found it funny, particularly after realising no one was injured.
The DJ and the emcee kept the energy going with a variety of songs, and got the spectators involved in chants and applause. There were some fireworks at the beginning and end of both innings. Watching the SpiderCam - flying over like a wired spy drone - was also entertaining. A mid-innings barrel-roll run was also held with sponsor representatives.
ODI v Twenty20
While ODIs are more fulfilling and a better cricketing experience for a spectator, T20s provide more thrill, and are more convenient in terms of time-consumption. To me, their appeals are very different and tough to compare.
It was a high-quality game. Both the teams fielded superbly, which was a welcome change from recent trends. Barring Morkel, the bowling was also very competitive, and the strokeplay from both teams was everything a spectator could have asked for. Add in the tense last-ball finish and the hairline margin of victory - overall, a very satisfying experience. The 500-km round trip to watch two games (the second one between Netherlands and Sri Lanka proved to be a massively disappointing mismatch) was well worth it just for this contest.
Marks out of 10
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