Twelve to watch in the World T20 Finals
T20 World Cup players to watch
This Sunday is finals day of the ICC World T20. The first match, at 10.00 BST/04.00 CDT, is the women's final and it pits the Ashes rivals against each other. England and Australia were comfortably the two best teams at the tournament this year and indeed in the world. England are probably favourites after beating Australia comfortably in the group stage and came into the tournament having lost just one T20 all year. They are a team that is firing on all cylinders and have the two best batsmen in the world. But it would be folly to write off the Southern Stars. Australia have almost matched England in recent ODIs and T20s and of course hold the Ashes after winning them at home two winters ago. Two teams as closely matched as these would always be natural rivals one feels, but add in the old Ashes rivalry and it is clear that the final will be an absolute cracker.
After that match, and possibly something of a let-down, will be the men's final featuring the West Indies and Sri Lanka. The Windies are fairly fortunate to even be where they are after failing to even complete a match due to rain in the first group stage and then needing Sri Lanka to beat England in the second group stage to advance. Sri Lanka have been a bit more assured, though they still finished as runners-up in the first group stage. They were then fortunate to get two points against New Zealand instead of just one as the tournament rules dictated that a tie in the group stage went to a super over. But from there they easily topped the group with comfortable wins over the West Indies and England. Although Sri Lanka have beat the West Indies once already, the Windies are finding momentum at the right time and this one is hard to call.
Forty-four players will compete for two trophies tomorrow. In a World Cup final, as this is in all but name; every player is important, every player has to step up. But the teams are especially going to be relying on their star performers to but on a big show. There are twelve players on whom one should keep an eye as they might be very crucial to their side's success or failure.
England captain Charlotte Edwards is currently ranked the second best T20 batsman in the world and is probably the most widely known female cricketer. She made her debut way back in 1996 and since becoming captain has led England to a triple crown of an Ashes win in 2007-08, 50-over World Cup win in 2008-09 and T20 Wold Cup win in 2009. In this tournament she is the lead run scorer with 144 runs at an average of 48 and an unbeaten fifty against India. The stability she brings to the top of the England batting order has been a huge reason for the success of the side.
Edwards is the second best T20 batsman in the world only because of her wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor. Taylor has a T20 average over thirty with a strike rate of almost 120 and in this tournament she has been dismissed only once and scored 119 runs in that time. That one dismissal came in the first match; since then she has been there at the end of the innings every time and last time she faced the Aussies she struck an unbeaten 65 off just 53 balls to see England to victory with almost two overs to spare. Added to all that is her brilliant glovework behind the stumps.
England also have a strong all-round threat in Laura Marsh. Marsh is a talented opener alongside her captain with a career strike rate of better than a run a ball. She is also an excellent 'old' ball bowler who can tie batsmen down and will usually chip in with a few wickets as well. So far in this tournament Marsh has 112 runs off 97 deliveries with the bat and has only conceded 88 runs with the ball (at under a run a ball) and taken five wickets as well. She, Edwards and Taylor form a powerful top three for England and one which has made them favourites to lift another trophy.
England have done brilliantly with the bat in the tournament and Australia will need to find a way to counter that this time. But they do have the leading wicket taker in the tournament: Julie Hunter. Hunter has taken wickets in every mach of the tournament so far and is yet to concede more than 23 runs in any single match. Most recently she took 5-22 to see off the West Indies in the semi-finals and she picked up 1-17 (in three overs) against England the last time the two sides played each other.
A talented cricket who has had a slightly average tournament, a good final by Lisa Sthalekar could tip the balance in Australia's favour. Sthalekar is an all-rounder with a good T20 record with both bat and ball over the course of fifty matches. She has managed almost a hundred runs so far in the tournament at better than a run a ball, but has only taken one wicket. That was in the opening match against India, but even without wickets she has been tidy. She shared the new ball in the semi-final against the West Indies and conceded just six runs from four overs as Australia defended a low total with plenty to spare. The English bats will be a tougher challenge, but if she can step up again it will be a close run thing.
Victorian opener Meg Lanning is another who could pick a big time to have the match of the tournament. She certainly has not been bat up to now. Far from it; she has 113 runs at a decent strike rate through the first four matches. But they have been fairly evenly distributed and she has not played a big match winning innings yet. Her 39 off 31 balls against England was a good statement, but Australia need her to build on that to put England under pressure or have a good hope of chasing a total in the final.
Chris Gayle hardly need an introduction. From his extravagant style to his well publicised preference of the IPL to his country he has made headlines with an incredibly regularity over the past year. Since deigning to return to the West Indies he has been quite successful with 150 in a Test against new Zealand in July and he has three fifties in this tournament already. His off spin has also proved surprisingly useful. His unbeaten 75 powered the West Indies past Australia and into the final and Sri Lanka will have to find a way stop him as effectively as they did in the second group stage when he made just two.
Marlon Samuels has been the other main weapon for the Windies with the bat. His 152 runs in the tournament have come at a strike rate of 130 and he has a pair of fifties. Importantly, or at least potentially importantly, one of those fifties was as against Sri Lanka in the second group stage as most of his teammates failed. He also has a couple of well-made twenties including in the semi-final against Australia. He has bowled a bit in the tournament as well, but it has been quite expensive and he has only taken two wickets.
In addition to Gayle's heroics, a big reason why the West Indies are in the final is Ravi Rampaul. He has had a good tournament overall, taking wickets in every match except the group match against Australia and he has been economical most of the time as well. He looks to be peaking at the right time as well; in the semi-final against the Aussies he ended any notion of a late resistance from them with 3-16 off 3.2 overs. Another performance like that could see the Windies lift the trophy.
Sri Lanka will look to their sometime captain Mahela Jayawardene first and foremost in their push to the trophy. Jayawardene had a slow start to the tournament in the first group stage, but led Sri Lanka to the top of the second group with three scores in the forties and 65 not out against the Windies. It was a fantastic display and the fact that he is the fourth highest run scorer of the tournament is one of the main reasons Sri Lanka are in the final. The only blot on his copybook was a disgraceful incident in the match against England where he led the side in the field, making all the bowling changes and field placements, despite not officially being captain. Kumar Sangakkara had been named captain for that one match because Jayawardene was facing a ban if the team did not improve their over-rate. It is something at which the ICC will have to look.
Jayawardene has been the star of the tournament for Sri Lanka, but Tillakaratne Dilshan is no slouch. Dilshan is known mostly as a T20 player and of course gave his name to the 'Dilscoop' shot. (Though he is far from the first to have played it.) He's only had one outstanding match in this tournament, however, scoring 76 in Sri Lanka's tie with New Zealand in the first match of the second group stage. The other five matches have yielded only 93 runs for him and 39 of those came against Zimbabwe. He was the only casualty in Sri Lanka's group stage run chase against the West Indies when he was caught behind off Rampaul for 13 off nine. Sri Lanka will be hoping for a big performance from him in the final.
Lasith Malinga is probably best known for his low, slingy action ('Slinger' Malinga) and for having prematurely retired from Test cricket to focus on the pyjama forms. But that should not overshadow the fact that he is a very good pyjama cricketer and probably Sri Lanka's best bowler in T20s. But like Dilshan he has only had one really good match in the tournament. His eight wickets in this have been fairly expensive and his five-fer in England was the high point for him. If he can peg back the West Indies big hitters, especially Gayle, then Sri Lanka will have a great chance to win.