Watson runs eye over T20 World Cup semi-finals

With surprises at almost every turn so far, Shane Watson is obsessed with the uncertainty that comes with two ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semi-finals in Australia.

From Namibia’s victory over Sri Lanka on the first day of play to Pakistan’s miraculous comeback in the latter stages of the semi-finals, form guides have been thrown out the window, leaving little to separate the remaining four teams.

New Zealand will face Pakistan in Sydney on Wednesday and India will face England at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday. The winners will then meet at the MCG on Sunday in front of what is likely to be a capacity crowd.

Before taking a look at the form of the remaining four teams, Watson hailed the standard of cricket so far at the event and lifted the lid on the competition’s underdogs playing their part in making the tournament entertaining.

“The upsets — the lower-ranked states upsetting the big teams — it was something nobody expected,” Watson said.

“It meant that everyone’s eyes were on every game. You just can’t think it’s going to be an easy game to win, so it’s been a really great T20 World Cup.”

T20 World Cup has been quite interesting for Pakistan fans. Having dealt a final blow to both India and Zimbabwe, the team rallied to defeat the Netherlands and South Africa before nervously awaiting other results on the final day of the Super 12 competition.

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The Dutch gave Pakistan a lifeline by defeating South Africa before Babar Azam’s men seized an unlikely opportunity to go ahead by brushing aside Bangladesh.

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Heading into the final four, Pakistan have almost nothing to lose in the eyes of the legendary Australian all-rounder and begs the team to express themselves in the final phase of the tournament.

“There are times in all tournaments where a team just gets out, somehow gets to the final and then goes on to win, especially because of the way they played, they didn’t expect to get to the semi-finals. At certain times throughout this tournament,” Watson said.

“The freedom they’re going to have, the freedom they’re going to have, because they don’t expect much in the middle of the tournament, it’s going to be very dangerous for the Kiwis.”

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New Zealand turned the hosts’ title defense into a turnaround by eclipsing Australia in the tournament’s opening Super 12 match on the road to Pakistan.

The key to stunning Australia with a breakthrough blitz at the SCG is key Kiwi Finn Allen Watson.

“Finn Allen definitely stood out for them,” Watson said.

“What he was able to do in the Powerplay, going up against the best bowlers in the world, really gave New Zealand an advantage to be able to play as well as they did.

“They have world-class players around their team, but Finn Allen has really been the X-factor that has helped them. It will be interesting to see him take on a quality Pakistan fast team in Sydney.”

In Adelaide, the Indian side, with their depth built by a strong domestic scene, could overtake England for the favourites’ tag.

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Watson, who has rubbed shoulders with much of the current crop while on the IPL circuit, believes finding the right 11 players to field in the squad is perhaps India’s biggest challenge.

“You can see the depth grow and grow and at the end. India could field another team of world-class players currently sitting at home. They have a lot of skills waiting to come in and raise their hands,” he said.

“It’s worrying for other countries knowing that there’s another team at home, at least another team that’s sitting at home and can rock this World Cup.”

Something in England’s favor is the most recent total between the teams, with Jos Buttler’s men defending 215 at Trent Bridge in July.

Watson feels England are a tough proposition in the semi-finals in cricket and India will want to face a different opponent.

“India would certainly have preferred to play someone else in this semi-final in Adelaide because they know England are a world-class team and have a good record against them,” Watson said.

“They will be two great games of cricket, no question.”



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