England and New Zealand storm Twenty20 in shock victories

We are only a short way into this year’s World Twenty20 competition and already the tournament looks set to justify its billing as the most thrilling and explosive cricketing event of the year. With this year’s tournament hosted by cricketing behemoth India, there was always going to be a massive amount of hype involved but perhaps even the most enthusiastic commentators might have erred on the side of caution in regard to the incredible amount of interest that has already been generated among both the Indian public and the global cricketing fanbase.

Besides the pantheon of global stars appearing this year, perhaps the biggest draw of all is the wholly unpredictable nature of this year’s tournament and indeed the Twenty20 format in general. The opening match saw a contender for the shock result of the tournament as a desperately poor India side were overturned by an unfancied New Zealand, not a nation particularly well known for their love of subcontinental conditions and the tournament has continued on in this vain.

Friday saw England spring another, albeit slightly different style of surprise. Despite a shambolic bowling performance and their recent defeats against the same opposition, England managed to chase down a mammoth 229 run total to defeat South Africa in what was the second highest run chase in T20 international history.
For those fortunate enough to catch this game, it was symbolic of all that makes T20 cricket so vastly entertaining and so gloriously captivating. England had no right to chase down such a massive total, especially after their extremely demoralising performance with the ball and in the field, but somehow an inspired Joe Root innings (a phrase cricket writers must surely have on permanent copy/paste standby) carried England to the unlikeliest of victories.

This was shocking not only because of England’s less than stellar record in the T20s, but also because the game stood in such stark contrast to the India – New Zealand game. Not only were there runs in plentiful supply but the pitch provided exactly the right conditions for the kind of free-scoring game that T20 has built its’ reputation on. With such a wide variance in the conditions and the type of games they encourage, there has already been something for every type of cricket fan so far at this World T20.

There is also the potential for a good old fashioned giant-killing, given the presence of cricketing upstarts Afghanistan. Admittedly, they were soundly beaten by Sri Lanka, but this is no disgrace for a team playing with minimal resources against one of the world’s premier limited overs cricket teams. Afghanistan have some incredibly canny players and many would not look out of place in more established teams. That being said, it would be a surprise if the Afghans were to pick up any victories this tournament – though it should not be ruled out – but this tournament will be a vital learning experience for one of the most promising emerging nations in world cricket. It is also worth noting the presence of so many players who can provide moments of genuine cricketing magic at this year’s edition of the World T20. West Indian megastar Chris Gayle has already highlighted his peerless T20 ability with a majestic yet brutal century against England while the likes of England’s Alex Hales and Australia’s Aaron Finch have previously shown they can hit the same kind of dizzy heights.

All in all, it looks to be one of the most compellingly unpredictable cricketing tournaments in recent memory and serves as a reminder of just why it is that T20 cricket has captured the imagination of sports fans the world over.

Image courtesy of Nic Redhead

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