Shane Watson opened for Australia with bat and ball in the group matches of the World Twenty20 - a rare occurrence for fast-bowling allrounders - and achieved a high degree of success, almost single-handedly taking the team to the second round of the tournament.
But Australia's first challenge
- India - posed a trickier problem with their strong batting line up and a battery of spinners. India batted first and struggled to force the pace against Australia's fast bowlers. Watson was among wickets again. He got Yuvraj Singh off a bouncer and then removed a struggling Irfan Pathan in the same over. Watson added the wicket of the dangerous Suresh Raina later, keeping India to below what they would have liked.
But India had come into the match with three spinners, and Watson took the sting out by attacking India's main wicket-takers. He went after R Ashwin and Piyush Chawla while David Warner manhandled Harbhajan's offspin at the other end. So clean was Watson's hitting that he hit six sixes before his first hit for four, which came when he was on 46 to take him to his fifty. His assault left the Indian team gobsmacked and won him his third consecutive Man-of-the-Match award. The big win also boosted Australia's net run-rate which held considerable importance in a tight group.
India's less than convincing win over Afghanistan, which had raised a few questions about the right team combination for the crunch match against England, paved the way for Harbhajan Singh's comeback after more than a year in the sidelines. In this period, he had seen other bowlers overtake him in the pecking order, but the pitch and the opposition presented an ideal opportunity.
India's batsmen had raised a strong total
, which was always going to test England's inexperienced batting line up. But England, despite losing two wickets, were looking up to the task, till Harbhajan took over from the faster men in the sixth over. It was just his second ball, when he went past the defence of England's best player of spin, Eoin Morgan, sparking off a celebratory roar from the offspinner. Harbhajan is a different bowler when he gets a wicket early, and he again proved it as he bowled slower and with more attacking lines. He had his second wicket in his third over after he lured Tim Bresnan into playing a false shot - a sweep that resulted in a top-edge. With batsmen struggling to read the variations, it wasn't too late before he had 4 for 12 off his four overs - the best bowling figures by an India bowler in Twenty20s.
The bowling performance set the foundation for India's 90-run win over England and although he was dropped after India's loss to Australia, he had made a statement of intent, which bodes well for India for the coming season.