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South Africa v West Indies, Group A, ICC World Twenty20

It's a batsman's game

S Rajesh

September 11, 2007

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Bowlers, beware; Chris Gayle's fierce attack has set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the tournament. © Getty Images
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Thirty-six fours, 18 sixes, 413 runs, and a win for the home team - the first match of the ICC World Twenty20 couldn't have been scripted any better. The bowling of neither team was shown in particularly good light, which only confirmed the belief that this tournament will be about getting huge totals, and then chasing them down.

From a batsman's perspective, the best thing about Twenty20 is the license it gives to attack from the get-go. A rash shot in the first five overs of a 50-over game might elicit criticism, but not in the super-crunched version. For this reason, the two batsmen who revelled today are the two who are likely to have a fairly high success ratio in this tournament, and in future Twenty20 games.

Chris Gayle's style in ODIs isn't very different to what he displayed at the Wanderers today, but often in the one-day version he prefers to see off the new ball: scores of 5 from 30 often convert into a run-a-ball half-century. Here, he just decided to cut off those first 30 deliveries. His shot-selection has improved considerably over the last few years, and there was little that any of the South African bowlers could do once he got into his stride.

Early on, the strategy was to pitch it short or bowl it on a good length and expect the bounce to do the trick. That didn't work, and neither did the fuller length - when Albie Morkel tried it once, he was smashed so hard over point that the ball cleared the ground and a new one had to be brought out. It was the first century in this form of the game at international level, but it will be a surprise if it remains the only one by the end of the tournament.

In fact, if West Indies had scored a few more runs, there might have been another hundred tonight, as Herschelle Gibbs helped himself to another run-fest on the same ground where he had blitzed Australia last year. Like Gayle, Gibbs relishes pitches with pace and bounce but little sideways movement, and this track today - and the lightening quick outfield - were just perfect.

While the batting was electrifying, the performance of the bowlers left plenty of room for improvement. Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, got it right when he said his bowlers showed little variation through the first 15 overs. Albie Morkel bowled one yorker in the tenth over, but apart from that there was little to suggest the team had prepared specific strategies for this tournament. The slower balls were conspicuous by their absence, while the blockhole deliveries were either not attempted or misdirected.

If South Africa were poor, West Indies were downright appalling, putting in such a shocking performance with the ball and in the field that a fabulous batting performance ended up being completely inadequate. Three dropped catches and 23 wides made for a perfect example of how not to defend a target, and while Arthur thought South Africa would have won even without the West Indian largesse - "We had plenty left in the tank; we won with 14 balls and eight wickets to spare, which translates into around a 30-run margin" - it surely wouldn't have been as easy.

West Indies might not have liked the way the evening went, but the crowds had little to complain. For R 100 it was outstanding entertainment - the music, which took off on cue after every boundary, happened so often that it seemed like a three-hour rock concert, while the cheerleaders had plenty to groove to as well. If this match was an indication of how the rest of the tournament will go, expect an absolute blast.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
Related Links
Players/Officials: Chris Gayle
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
Tournament Results
India v Pakistan at Johannesburg - Sep 24, 2007
India won by 5 runs
Australia v India at Durban - Sep 22, 2007
India won by 15 runs
New Zealand v Pakistan at Cape Town - Sep 22, 2007
Pakistan won by 6 wickets (with 7 balls remaining)
South Africa v India at Durban - Sep 20, 2007
India won by 37 runs
Bangladesh v Pakistan at Cape Town - Sep 20, 2007
Pakistan won by 4 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)
Australia v Sri Lanka at Cape Town - Sep 20, 2007
Australia won by 10 wickets (with 58 balls remaining)
More results »
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