England Grade A
They came to win the trophy and did, in some style to boot, adding it to the 50 overs version that already resides at Lord’s. Jos Buttler, explosive batter but calm captain, led a team that was packed with batting, experienced in key roles and offered him bowling options for all conditions at all stages of an innings. Opponents would have to play very well indeed to beat that combination – they sometimes did and still lost.
Sam Curran is often seen as a classic ‘bits-and-pieces’ man – not quite a fast bowler, not quite a middle order batter – but he can make things happen, has cricketing intelligence to burn and will follow instructions to the letter. 13 wickets at less than seven from overs largely bowled in the powerplay or at the death, is a remarkable return, especially while offering insurance against a collapse at number eight.
Harry Brook was the only weak link in the team, but he’ll learn from his first world level tournament and be back stronger.
Pakistan Grade A-
As usual, Pakistan made life difficult for themselves, but, as usual, when they needed to start winning, they did, taking the tournament to the brink of its final over.
Bowling was their strong suit, backed up by excellent fielding and calm, considered captaincy from Babar Azam, The three 90mph men (Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Khan and Haris Rauf) were backed up by Shadab Khan’s canny leg-breaks, all four going at less than seven an over. Had one batter pushed on to a 50 in the final, the bowlers might well have gotten their reward.
Shadab Khan bowled in the powerplays, took wickets in the middle overs, fielded inside the circle and played a crucial innings against South Africa, a match his team needed to win.
Babar Azam did not fail, but, as a superstar batter of the world game in all three formats, he did not bend any match to his will, despite having got himself into positions to do so in the crucial showdowns at the back end of the tournament.
New Zealand Grade B
Although we didn’t know it at the time, the absolute shellacking handed out to the hosts in the Kiwis’ first live game proved fatal to Aaron Finch’s men’s chance to progress to the semi-finals, the swing in net run rate proving impossible for Australia to claw back. The experience and craft of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner delivered eight wickets in 10.1 overs and put Kane Williamson’s men in the box seats, a position they did not relinquish until the semi-finals.
Against Pakistan in the semi-final, the captain batted 16 overs for just 46 runs at just over a run a ball – an effective anchor in an ODI, but a drag in a T20I. The NZ bowlers needed early wickets if they were to break through and the first came in the 13th over, by which time the game was up.
Feels like the end of an era for some outstanding players as far as T20Is are concerned.
At 25, Glenn Phillips is a man around whom a new generation can come together. He has the weight of a shot, temperament and indefinable presence that can intimidate opponents and bend a match to his will.
Harsh, but his team could not afford Kane Williamson squatting at three, blocking the hitters from getting at the bowling. A good man, a wonderful cricketer, but, quite literally, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
India Grade B-
Packed with IPL superstars with plenty more in the squad and at home, the only question for the legions of fans was whether the XI picked could perform under pressure – twice they failed.
In the Group match against South Africa, Suryakumar Yadav scored over half the team’s runs, but Rohit Sharma’s team hauled themselves back into the match until Aiden Markram and David Miller constructed a 76 run stand for the fourth wicket in the middle 10 overs. It was a sign of things to come.
In the semi-final, the hundreds of millions were reliant on one man’s brilliance again, as Hardik Pandya got his team to a competitive score, but it was demolished by Jos Buttler and Alex Hales, who reduced India to a rabble, long before cruising over the line with ten wickets and four overs in hand.
Virat Kohli responded to questions about his place in the XI with the hardest currency at his disposal – runs. He had the right to expect much more support from the senior players around him.
Dinesh Karthik is a wonderfully warm and witty presence in the commentary box, but, out in the middle, he barely scored a run, was fallible behind the stumps and took the place of the talismanic Rishabh Pant until he was dropped for the last group match . Karthik played in India’s first ever T20I – India’s 189th will almost certainly be his last.
Australia Grade B-
There’s a case that the hosts were unlucky in having their match against England rained off, but no team could be more aware of the jeopardy involved in playing the tournament at this time of year in Australia. It rather summed up the tournament for them that they never got close to what they needed to overhaul England’s net run rate advantage in their final match against Afghanistan and almost lost it in the face of Rashid Khan’s swinging from the hip.
That Glenn Maxwell bowled fewer than half the overs of Marcus Stoinis and scored his runs at a strike rate of 50 above either opener is indicative of his country’s inability to settle on a role for one of the most dynamic franchise cricketers in history. He’s 34 now, so it seems they never will.
It was a tournament too far for David Warner who will surely make his way at the top of the order in the T20I side.
South Africa Grade C
A defeat to the mercurial cornered tigers of Pakistan brings no shame to any team, but backing it up with a defeat to The Netherlands, a team of triers on whom they barely landed a blow? Well that’s very poor stuff indeed and enough to send the Proteas home with their tails between their legs. What is the point of winning a tight game against the Indian superstars and demolishing Bangladesh if you have a match like that in your locker?
Anrich Nortje bowled with pace and hostility, taking wickets and going at less than a run a ball. His figures of 1-10 off his four overs in the Netherlands match must have led to some hard stares at his teammates when the Dutch were celebrating a historic victory an hour or two later.
Nobody wants to brand Temba Bavuma a failure, but, in the key roles of opener and captain, he was.
Sri Lanka Grade C
Coming into the First Round matches off the back of an Asia Cup win in September, Sri Lanka were rocked back on their heels by a heavy defeat to Namibia which put qualification for the Super 12s in significant doubt. An easy victory over the UAE set up a match against the Netherlands in which Kusal Mendis’s batting and Wanindu Hasaranga’s bowling proved the difference.
In the group stages, consecutive heavy defeats to Australia and New Zealand rendered a spirited display against England of interest only to the locals looking on more in hope than expectation.
Hasaranga came into the tournament with a big reputation as the next great white ball legspinner and largely delivered, taking wickets and arresting scoring rates. A much sought after player by franchises, Sri Lanka will have to work hard to ensure they get the most out of a gifted cricketer.
Pathum Nissanka has a tremendous future in Test cricket, but whether he has the weight of shot or invention to succeed in the white ball game is an open question (as it is for many of his team mates). What is clear is that there is no future in this format of the game for an opener who chews up powerplay deliveries at a strike rate just a few ticks above 100.
Netherlands Grade B
After putting one foot on the plane home before being dragged down the steps by the UAE’s shock win over Namibia that opened the door to the Group Stage, the Dutch went head-hunting for trophies and got a small one in Zimbabwe and a big one in South Africa. Both were the product of smart cricket, players knowing their limitations but playing to a plan that maximized their opportunity to win on the rollercoaster of a T20I.
Captaincy, both in the raw mechanics of making the right bowling changes and setting the right fields, but also in sensing the key moments in a match and communicating that to your team, is critical if nations like The Netherlands are to be competitive in tournaments at this level. Scott Edwards delivered that brief.
Roelof van der Merwe, with experience to burn, couldn’t get into his matches – but I suspect the celebrations on beating the country of his birth proved ample compensation.
Ireland Grade B
The fighting Irish dealt out a terrific beating to the West Indies, enough to send their opponents back to the Caribbean swathed in disappointment and qualifying themselves for the match they really wanted.
Although they were well beaten against other opponents, their win over England will be recounted for years to come. With rain around, Andy Balbirnie led from the front, going hard in a second wicket stand of 82 with Lorcan Tucker and, while the target of 158 was lower than they would have hoped to set, it was something to bowl at. When Josh Little shot out both openers and with Ben Stokes also gone in the powerplay, England could never get ahead on Duckworth-Lewis-Stern and lost when the match was abandoned.
Sri Lanka were the only team who had the measure of Josh Little, whose movement from his bustling left-arm seamers troubled most batters.
Harry Tector is a young player with a big future, but it didn’t happen for him this time round – expect him to come back stronger in the future.
Bangladesh Grade C+
Having been given a scare by Zimbabwe in a match in which Taksin Ahmed’s bowling proved the difference between the sides, Litton Das was chasing down India’s tough target of 185 on his own before the rain came and play was suspended. In much trickier conditions for batting after what some might claim was a rushed return to the middle, Das was run out, but Bangladesh were still within one blow of an upset victory.
To go at less than a run a ball, bowling a full complement of overs in every match, is outstanding – Mustafizur Rahman’s return reflected the control and intelligence of his left-arm medium pace.
One has the feeling that Shakib Al Hasan has never delivered the results that his talent warrants, and this tournament was no exception.
Zimbabwe Grade C
When Zimbabwe got into the Super 12s, their bowling attack made them tricky opponents for any side with its eye on a semi-final berth. A match that Pakistan must have thought they had in the bag when Zimbabwe spent six deliveries moving the scoreboard from 95-3 to 95-7 came down to the favorites needing four out of four balls for the win, three for the super over. The bowler, Brad Evans, needed to keep his head, the captain, Craig Ervine needed to have his fielders exactly where his plan required, all ten of them needed to be on their toes and the wicket-keeper, Regis Chakabva, needed to stay calm, collect the ball cleanly and set the bails alight. 1, dot, W, Run Out (not without some nerves along the way) and the win was theirs.
At 36, Sikandar Raza had waited a long time to realize his potential as a cricketer and arrived at this moment via a very circuitous route. He didn’t waste his opportunity, batting with effective aggression and taking wickets.
Aside from a vital 58 in the crucial win over Scotland in the first round, skipper, Craig Ervine, could barely get the ball off the square, although his leadership was excellent.
Afghanistan Grade C
Every tournament has a hard luck story and nobody would have wanted Afghanistan to be the victims this time, but with matches against Ireland and New Zealand washed out and defeated, despite being competitive in the other three matches, that was their lot.
Rashid Khan wasn’t at his absolute best, but the shoo-in for a T20 world XI was always a threat with the ball and gave Australia a terrible fright with his muscular biffing, all but rescuing a lost cause.
Mohammad Nabi has been a tremendous servant to his country, but bowed out of international cricket unable to effect any of the three games with bat in hand.
West Indies, Scotland, Namibia and the UAE failed to qualify for the Super 12s.
© Island Cricket