Just like yesterday's semifinal, I would like to do a preview for today's semifinal between Australia and Pakistan. Australia have clearly looked the best team of the tournament as their batting is strong, bowlers have always looked for wickets and of course, I don't have to say much about their fielding as they are always outstanding in the field. Pakistan on the other hand, are a mercurial side, who looked dead buried in the super eights, but just like a typical Pakistan side they did well when it mattered as they defeated South Africa to reach the semifinals.
Anyway, let us look at both the teams
The Australian team have looked good in every department. Batsmen have always looked to attack and have succeeded. The openers, Warner and Watson have been outstanding for Australia as they have invariably given them quick starts. Both of them can also get good scores which, makes them even more dangerous.
Australia's middle order is also very strong and it can be seen by the fact that White, Hussey brothers, Haddin and even Smith can bat at any slot in the middle order. All of the above mentioned players are proper batsmen and can do the job of rotating the strike as well as getting the big hits. The one weak-link can be their captain himself Clarke as he has played like a tortoise. I'm not sure that he should come in at three.
The bowling too is strong as they have Nannes, Tait, Johnson, Smith and Watson. All their bowlers look to take wickets and that is why Australia have been successful as in the end, it is the bowlers who win matches. I have already said before in my blog that Nannes is one of the best T/20 bowlers and if he wasn't a late developer, would have also played test cricket. He easily has the best bouncer going around. I have been a bit surprised by Tait as he has been reasonably accurate, but no batsmen would like to face bouncers or yorkers bowled at 150+ kph. He is a key bowler in the end overs as his yorkers would likely be to good for the lower order batsmen. Johnson seems to like bowling as the first change bowler and has been a consistent performer for Australia in this tournament. Smith seems to be getting better as a bowler and I was impressed by his ability to get sharp turn against the Caribbean team. I won't forget Watson either as he is a key member of the side because he opens the innings and can bowl his full quota of overs and that helps the balance of the side. He is no doubt slightly underrated as a bowler.
Pakistan haven't been at their best in this tournament, but they are a mercurial side, so no one can take them lightly.
Pakistan's top order has been suspect in recent times, but Butt and Akmal have made a few useful scores in this tournament. Both have to be at their best as the Australian bowlers would come hard at them. The number three position has been a problem area for them as both Hafeez and Latif have been tried but have failed. I have never been impressed by either of them. It would be better if Afridi just like he did in the last world cup comes up the order and bats at 3. He gets more overs to bat and if he gets going can cause mayhem in the oppoiton ranks. It is a huge gamble, but I think the gamble can work. Umar Akmal is a vital cog in the side as he can play proper cricketing shots and get quick runs. Occasionally he tries to slog too many, but make no mistake, they need him to fire against Australia. Razzaq can hit a few lusty blows by clearing his front leg and smashing it for sixes, but Australia would look to come hard at him with pace.
Among the bowlers, they would no doubt rely on their spinners. Ajmal has played lots of domestic cricket and is a very good T/20 bowler. He just doesn't give any pace to work with and has that doosra. Abdul Rehman has been impressive and again shows the value of having a decent left arm spinner in the side. Afridi hasn't been at his best, but make no mistake, he is a big match player. Amer is a exciting prospect, who gets nice shape with the new ball and bowls yorkers in the end overs. I'm a bit surprised that no one has gone after Razzaq upfront, but if Australia can target him, Razzaq can be a bit of weak-link as he has lost a yard of pace and can be predictable. I think Pakistan can also look at the promising all rounder Azam as Hafeez isn't just not doing well as a batsman, but his bowling can be predictable.
One area in which Pakistan just can't compete would be the fielding department as Pakistan are no good in the field. Having said that, Pakistan fielded better in their match against South Africa. So, there is perhaps some hope about their fielding!
Australia are the favorites to win the match, but they would be wary about facing the mercurial Pakistan side. The pitch at St. Lucia could help spinners, but yesterday it did help England's quicker bowlers as there was a bit of moisture in the wicket. So, if Pakistan win the toss would they go for first bowling? I still think they should back their strength and that is their spinners and bat first with spinners getting the chance to bowl on a wicket that would have slowed down a bit.In the end, I just hope that the match would be an exciting contest.