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Watson lifts Aussies to victory


BARRY WILKINSON in Sri Lanka

Watson lifts Aussies to victory

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COLOMBO – The common denominator in Australia’s success at the ICC World Twenty20 has been Shane Watson and yet again he starred, stunning South Africa when Group 2 matches resumed at the Premadassa Stadium yesterday.
The all-rounder’s amazing form saw Australia storming to 147 for two after his two key wickets helped restrict the Proteas to 146 for five in 20 overs. But even though Australia continue to win and South Africa registered their second loss, neither team can be counted in or out of the semi-finals.
When India raced to victory against Pakistan in the following match, it left the group wide open, with Australia having two wins, Pakistan one, India one and South Africa none. But South Africa can still win their last game and end up with a situation where the net run rate would decide which teams advance.
However, Australia are virtually assured of a spot in the semis and they dominated the early headlines, winning with 14 balls to spare.
South Africa could not find an early partnership to get them going on another slow track and were struggling on 86 for five in the 15th over.
Farhaan Behardien was joined by Robin Peterson and they added 60 runs in five overs to give the total some respectability.
Neither played spectacular shots, resorting to sensible cricket, with Peterson unbeaten on 32 and Behardien 31 not out.
David Warner’s early wicket would have inspired confidence in the South African camp, but Watson exploded and counted eight fours and two sixes in 70 from 47 balls. Despite his dismissal, Mike Hussey (45 not out) and Cameron White (21 not out) put the match beyond any doubt that Australia would win.
“Things are coming together nicely,” said Watson, who claimed his fourth successive Man Of The Match Award.
“At the start of this tournament I knew how important it was for us as a Twenty20 team – and how important my role is in the team – to really try to set a platform with the bat,” he said.
India, desperate to win and stay alive, looked a different team to the one that meekly surrendered to Australia two nights earlier.
Pakistan’s run rate was terribly slow after they won the toss and batted, and they wasted at least 60 deliveries without scoring. They crawled to 128 in 19.4 overs with pacer Lakshimipathy Balaji snaring three scalps and spinners Ravi Ashwin and Yuvraj Singh each ending with two for 16 to squeeze the Pakistanis.
The 2007 World Twenty20 champions have now beaten Pakistan in every World Cup match between the teams, whether in 50-over or 20-over formats. It was also India’s first win in the Super Eight of this version since 2007.
Guatam Gambhir was an early victim, raising hopes of putting India under early pressure, but that was not to be.
The returning Virender Sehwag and the in-form Virat Kohli put the match beyond them, with elegant, pugnacious and thrilling strokeplay, much to the delight of the full house waving Indian flags throughout the match.
Kohli smashed eight fours and two sixes in compiling 78 from 61 balls to mastermind the victory, while Sehwag contributed 29.
The Indians looked menacing, but only two teams can qualify from each group and by tomorrow all the spots will have been finalized.  

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