v India, 19 September)
Mohammad Shahzad made only 18, batted for less than 20
minutes and faced just 16 deliveries. But in that short span, he made quite a
statement, showcasing Afghanistan’s spirit and the fearless brand of cricket
that made it such a popular team. Complete disregard for reputation was never
better illustrated as Shahzad lashed out at Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan. His
‘helicopter’ shot off Zaheer, executed with a flourish that would have done
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man who patented it, proud, was quite the highlight
of the match, exemplifying the potential lurking within the Afghan ranks.
(99*, England v Afghanistan, 21
England had lost Craig Kieswetter in the first over, without a run
on the board, when Luke Wright strode out to face an Afghanistan attack that
had troubled India, and was enjoying the pace and bounce on offer at the R
Premadasa Stadium. Wright began positively, eased off a little towards the
middle and exploded towards the end. His last 49 runs came off just 21
deliveries with three fours and four sixes. He narrowly missed out on becoming
the first England batsman to register a Twenty20 International century.
Zealand v Bangladesh, 21 September)
By the time Brendon McCullum was done with
Bangladesh’s attack, he owned almost all Twenty20 batting records: highest
individual score, most career runs, most sixes, most fours. When McCullum gets
going, there are few bowlers who can contain him, but simply because he pushes
the envelope so much, you often get the feeling he won’t last long. On the day,
he went the distance, crashing 123 off only 58 balls, with 11 fours and seven
sixes. Bangladesh simply had no chance.
AB de Villiers
Africa v Sri Lanka, 22 September)
When it rained in Hambantota, for the first
time in eight months, it poured. Despite the best efforts of an army of ground
staff, not least because a massive crowd that had travelled a long way, all that
was possible was a seven-over game. In such a bash, it’s important to connect
with almost everything, and AB de Villiers did that magnificently. His fierce
pull off a Lasith Malinga slower ball comfortably travelled at least 100
metres, and typified South Africa’s dominance over Sri Lanka on the day. Given
that Sri Lanka lost by 32 runs, de Villiers’ 30 was particularly special.
(54, West Indies v Australia, 22
The prospect of seeing Chris Gayle set about the Australia bowling
had brought the fans flooding into the venue, and he didn’t disappoint. He was
lucky to be dropped by Shane Watson at third man on four, but luck had no
subsequent part to play as he pulverised the Australian attack with typical
nonchalance. After a circumspect start, he tested the length of the boundaries
with one massive hit after another, kick-starting the West Indies’ campaign for
the ICC World Twenty20 2012 title in some style.
(41 not out, Australia v West
Indies, 22 September)
In terms of entertainment, it might have been hard to
match Gayle, but for sheer impact, Shane Watson was in a league of his own.
Watson hadn’t faced a ball when David Warner was dismissed for a 14-ball 28
with Australia needing 192 for victory, but when he finally did get strike, he
tore the West Indies bowling apart. He only got to double figures off the tenth
delivery he faced, but by the time the rains arrived, he had powered to 41 not
out off 24, including two fours and two sixes from one Marlon Samuels over. It
ensured that Australia stayed ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis method and fashioned
a 17-run victory.
(40, India v England, 23
Perhaps the innings of the tournament to date, full of exceptional
class and strokes of the highest quality. Kohli didn’t hit a shot in anger, yet
he left England clutching at straws with great timing and faultless placement.
Batting with the confidence of someone who came into the game with five
consecutive international half-centuries, he treated a massive crowd to
extraordinary shot-making, driving beautifully with minimum of effort and
feeding off the pace of the England bowlers.
(56, Pakistan v
New Zealand, 23 September)
The quality of the bowling attack he faced may not
have been the highest, but the manner in which Jamshed scored his runs showed
there was place for authentic cricket strokes even in the shortest format. The
best shots of the innings were two near-identical inside-out sixes over the
off-side, against the off-spin of Nathan McCullum. With minimum fuss and
maximum polish, Jamshed led the way as New Zealand was set a total that it was
not be able to better.
Shakib Al Hasan
v Pakistan, 25 September)
Against a bowling attack that has as much variety as
any in the competition, in a crunch game, Shakib Al Hasan delivered the goods.
Pakistan’s ploy of attacking with the short ball failed miserably as he cut and
pulled with ferocity and precision. When the bowlers overcompensated and bowled
full tosses, Shakib was ready and waiting to launch the ball into the stands
from deep within the crease.
(72, Pakistan v Bangladesh, 25
Pakistan was left in a tricky situation at the halfway mark of its
match against Bangladesh. It needed 176 for victory, but 140 would’ve been
enough to ensure it proceeded to the Super Eights. Imran Nazir, opening the
batting with panache and verve, made certain that there was no need to be in
two minds. He helped take 64 off the Power Play overs and then reached the
fastest half-century of the tournament, off only 25 balls. Though he fell
before the chase ended, he had done enough to take his team home.
(Performances listed in chronological order)