Losing wickets in the middle overs cost Australia, rues captain as his side makes another early World T20 exit
28 March 2016 13:59
Australia has won pretty much everything there is to win in the cricket world, but the World T20 crown has remained elusive for six editions now. The closest Australia came to correcting that anomaly was in the 2010 edition in the Caribbean, when Kevin Pietersen played a brilliant knock in the final to help Paul Collingwood lift the trophy.
“It’s all international cricket and we are playing against the best players from around the world,” the Australian skipper said as he tried to put a finger down on why Australia hasn’t cracked the World T20 puzzle yet. “So, they all present different challenges. We haven’t done as well as we would have liked in T20Is, we are still learning but hopefully we can continue to get better. It’s very compressed isn’t it, you can see an innings like that and one guy taking the game away from the team, which you may not have the luxury of doing in the longer format. It was a pretty serious innings from Virat Kohli tonight to take the game away from us.”
Kohli went into overdrive in the last three overs of the chase with India needing 39, smashing two fours and a six from James Faulkner’s 18th over and four fours in Nathan Coulter-Nile’s 19th. “Perhaps he could have taken the pace off a bit more,” said Smith of the Coulter-Nile over. “He did it for two balls, Virat didn’t get bat on both of those. Then, he seemed to bowl more on pace and they went to the boundary. Just looked like anything Virat did at that point was going to go to the boundary. It was a serious innings, hats off. I told Nathan after the game that it’s difficult. [You've] just got to keep your head up. We always face these sort of situations in cricket. That’s the game, you don’t always come off. You just have to learn from it and try and get better.”
Smith was asked if, considering the present scenario, it was fair to compare Kohli with Sachin Tendulkar. “I think they are different players,” he replied. “Virat Kohli is an extremely talented and very good player, and has been for a long time. You have got to see the way he played tonight, timed the chase to perfection. He has done that so consistently in T20 cricket. He averages 60-odd while chasing, which I think is remarkable. Tonight was just another example of that. He played beautifully, and hats off to him.”
Australia itself got off to a blazing start – 53 without loss in four overs – but only ended up on 160 for 6. “We probably let ourselves down in the middle overs again, that’s one area we haven’t done so well at, particularly in these conditions, consistently,” conceded Smith. “That was something we have worked really hard on, we let ourselves down there, lost a few wickets in clumps. We were not able to get that partnership to get the score a bit above par to 170. It’s disappointing, but all players will learn a lot from this World Cup, playing in these conditions. It’s very valuable, and hopefully we will continue to get better.
“I thought we started off well. There was a great little partnership at the start, but, as I said, we let ourselves down in the middle overs. 160 was around par. If we would have got a few partnerships in the middle, we could have been up to 170-175, which would have been very competitive.”
He then sought to put the Indian chase in perspective. “The wicket was sort of slow and the ball got chewed up quickly, so that was quite soft although it didn’t look too soft when Virat was hitting it. It was tough to bat in those middle overs and I thought they timed their run chase pretty well in the end, running lots of twos, hitting to the fielders in the outfield and put them under pressure. I think that’s where the game turned.”
Smith himself was the recipient of a dodgy umpiring call, ruled out caught behind off Yuvraj Singh’s first ball of the tournament when he appeared not to have nicked it. “Didn’t feel like I hit that, but that’s the game of cricket. I was given out. That was the umpire’s call, that’s it. It’s a bit disappointing, but that’s the game of cricket.
“I am not sure, he may have heard something,” Smith tactfully deflected a question on whether he was therefore surprised to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni go up in appeal. “I certainly didn’t feel anything. I was disappointed to have not kicked on. I felt pretty good batting against Pakistan. In T20 you can get a bit of momentum. It’s a little bit disappointing, but that’s the game of cricket. It’s not the first time, and won’t be the last time to happen. You have to move on.”
It turned out to be the last international appearance for Shane Watson, who had a pretty decent outing – an unbeaten 16-ball 18, the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina during a spell of 2 for 23 from four overs, and an excellent catch to get rid of Yuvraj Singh, running back from cover and throwing himself at the ball. “I thought he had a pretty good last game,” concurred Smith. “Obviously, there is no fairy tale in sports. It’s a bit disappointing but Shane gave his all like he did every game for Australia. He bowled beautifully. He looked like 25 again when he took the catch.”
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