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Former greats Australia and West Indies will face-off in the second semi final of the T20 World Cup 2012, with each country looking to recapture past glory and pave the way for a new era in world cricket.
Australia v West Indies
R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo
The Australians, who were ranked a lowly tenth in the ICC T20I rankings at the start of the tournament, have brushed aside those implications to produce some wonderful performances, with both bat and ball. At the forefront of George Bailey's resurgent team is all-rounder Shane Watson who, on his day, is unplayable... and it seems most days are his anyway. The only blip in an otherwise flawless T20 World Cup so far is that defeat to Pakistan - in their last match. However, they may be forgiven the defeat, considering wins against India and South Africa (arguably two of the biggest pre-tournament favourites) had already secured a place in the semi final.
Against Pakistan, the bowlers did well to restrict a potentially explosive top order from running riot. In fact, apart from Nasir Jamshed (55) and Kamran Akmal (32), the Pakistani batsmen were dismissed very cheaply - 149/6 off 20 - with Mitchell Starc (3/20 off four) leading the Australian attack. Watson was once again brilliant as well, conceding only 23 off his four overs and picking up the vital wicket of Imran Nazir (14).
With the bat, Watson (8) failed for the first time since the opening game of the series against Pakistan, in early September. However, that can only mean he will be pumped up for the West Indies and considering he hit an unbeaten 41 off 24 the last time these sides met (a group match), the Caribbean team's captain, Darren Sammy, may be a little worried.
The good news for the Australians, though, is that the failure of Watson did not affect the team. The West Indian batting order, for example, relies heavily on Chris Gayle at the top to fire. If he does not (as he did against Sri Lanka in a Super Eight match), the rest of the team tends to lose confidence. Watson's dismissal against Pakistan allowed Michael Hussey to contribute and the veteran scored an unbeaten 54 to win the game.
The West Indies' last game was a thrilling win (after an eliminator over) against New Zealand... a game they should perhaps have won in less trying conditions. Sammy's team were asked to bat and Gayle gave them a typically whirlwind start, scoring 30 off 14 balls. However, his departure - to Tim Southee's bowling - came perhaps a tad too early for a really challenging score and the team lost regular wickets to finish at 139 after 19.3 overs. Doug Bracewell and Southee did all the damage, picking up three wickets each and finishing with 6/52 from their eight overs.
The chase started poorly for the Kiwis, with Ravi Rampaul, Samuel Badree and Sunil Naraine keeping a tight hold on proceedings. The trio finished with 5/61 from 12 overs but Sammy, Gayle and Marlon Samuels conceded 61 from their six to undo all the good work. Captain Ross Taylor's unbeaten 62 gave the Kiwis some hope going into the eliminator over but West Indies held their nerve to win the match.
These two sides have already played each other in this tournament, in a group stage match interrupted by rain. Gayle and Dwayne Bravo hit quick-fire fifties to pile on 191 in the first innings... an example of how destructive the batting can be and one Bailey will no doubt remember.
However, that match was also a reminder of how poor the West Indies' bowling can be. Watson pounded 41 off 24 balls and Warner's 28 (off 14) and Hussey's 28 (off 19) meant the Australians were well ahead of the required curve when the Duckworth /Lewis sheet was pulled out - 100/1 from 9.1 overs. They won the game by 17 runs.
West Indies are something of an unpredictable quantity. Australia will be wary of conceding too many easy opportunities to score... whether it is Gayle, Bravo, Samuels, Kieron Pollard or any of their other big hitters but they will be equally confident in both their own ability to hit the big shots and to put better pressure, as a fielding and bowling side, on the batsmen, than the Windies. This match will probably be won and lost with the ball and in the field. The West Indies will need to produce a far better bowling performance, this time around.
Australia (from): GJ Bailey, SR Watson, DT Christian, PJ Cummings, XJ Doherty, BW Hilfenhaus, GB Hogg, DJ Hussey, MEK Hussey, CJ McKay, GJ Maxwell, MA Starc, MS Wade, DA Warner, CL White
West Indies (from): DJG Sammy, DJ Bravo, S Badree, DM Bravo, J Charles, FH Edwards, CH Gayle, SP Narine, KA Polalrd, D Ramdin, R Rampaul, AD Russell, MN Samuels, LMP Simmons, DR Smith