Virat's shot and knock. Weirdness. That last over. Threes. Indian bowlers. MCG pitch. Iftikhar. Spider cam. Bowled byes. Sri Lanka’s win. Ireland's spin problems. And Shan’s luck.

Day 8 from the World Cup.


That falling away hit down the ground - from a 90 mile an hour bowler - to a long boundary - when you need a six - in a slow over - with your partner hobbling - and struggling - is something else. Forget NFTs, kids should be made to paint that shot in classrooms.

I was sure he’d go over fine leg. Use the pace, help it away. For those of you who haven’t played, the degree of difficulty on that shot is so astronomical, that making that work is almost impossible at any level. If you’re playing club cricket against a guy who has just stumbled in from the pub that is hard to play.

And it was a bit against the play. He was just capitalising on Pakistani mistakes at that point, or the pace on the ball - that didn’t bother him like it did some of the others. But that shot, it was crazy. That he had to finish this game at the other end seems a crime against narrative.

Shan Masood held Pakistan’s innings, on his own, with sticky tape and spit, Virat was something completely different. He kept them just close enough, at 50 runs from 20 balls, they had enough time to score eight boundaries, or 12 threes. Even if it didn’t look that way. And because he had attacked Nawaz earlier on, Pakistan just tried to hide him until it didn’t matter.

This was a masterly knock, on a surface that really no one else looked that good other than Ifthikhar’s awesome 50. It wasn’t easy to bat, he got more behind the rate than he would have liked, and Hardik couldn’t hit. And yet he got them home.

It would be hard to say he was completely in control, because that last over is some of the weirdest shit I have ever seen with my eyes. And the last ball Virat Kohli faced in this game he was bowled, and his team got three runs. But let’s not fuck around the bush here, this was a magnificent catch up chase knock. He scored more than half India’s total. That aint no trip to Cleveland.


But it would unfair not to mention all the weird shit that happened in this game.

Shan Masood hit the Spidercam, if the ball doesn’t collide with our floaty camera enemy, Pakistan might not have made anything like that total. He might have been slow, but he held them together.

Axar Patel deserved to be run out for hitting the ball right next to a close in fielder and taking off. But what happens next is extra funny. Babar Azam fumbles an incredibly easy pick up. Then he fires the ball in on the bounce to Mohammad Rizwan. Who also fumbles the ball. And his hands hit the stumps. Babar is upset. Rizwan too. And Pakistan go back into their spots as the umpire tries to work out what happened.

It turns out that Rizwan’s second fumble actually hits the stumps. Which he didn’t seem to realise at all. Then we have the mess of replays, including a split screen at the end that seemed to be from the wrong side.

I thought the ball hit the stumps, but the break of the bails seemed to come from the gloves. I’m not sure anyone can be sure either way on that one. But I am sure they will be.

Then we have the entire end of that match. What on earth happened. We had a spinner bowling, either as an accident, or because they were hoping to be so far in front of the game that it didn’t matter. On a pitch where left arm finger spin seemed to be the only thing getting hit. Then that spinner delivered medium pace, I think so the keeper went back. But not back back, like the same distance as under 12 cricket. It was incredibly village in a World Cup match.

Then Nawaz kept bowling full tosses, like he was trying to deliver yorkers but didn’t know how. Finally one was called as a no ball. And you can see, like Axar’s run out, it easily could have gone the other way.

Then there is another three (six threes in the game, which is rare as hell, and worthy of news in another game). But that three comes off a free hit ball, after it crashes into the stumps and we see the weirdest bye call in cricket. So to recap, Virat Kohli was bowled, the ball went to third, and they ran three. Meaning Pakistan fell further behind, but also Virat lost the strike.

Now Rizwan leaves his weird mid keeping position and comes up to the stumps, and takes a stumping immediately - this standing up the stumps thing could catch on.

India now need two runs to win, oh, and they shouldn’t have. They gifted Pakistan a run off the last ball of the innings when Dinesh Karthik went for a run out, converting a potential zero into a two.

Now R Ashwin is on strike, and he leaves the ball and it is called a wide. Not even the only time that happened in this over. India won by leaving, like this was a Test match in the 1950s or some shit.

Then Ashwin wins the game with a drive over mid off’s head. All we needed was one of those run outs at the bowler’s end Ashwin likes and we would have had the complete weird arse bingo.

What the hell even was all this madness. This would have been crazy in a mid week Blast game, try stuffing all that into an India Pakistan game. That shit be crazy. If I missed anything else weird, please, don’t tell me, this match was too much.

And if you think, well, it was just a T20 match. Let me add this. In that last over India needed 16 from six. They scored six of those from extras. Not even one kind. Three wides, two wides and a no ball. This was a hat-trick of madness. This game should be tattooed on Mike Tyson’s face.

India Bowlers

Remember when Arshdeep Singh was told he was Pakistani and everything else, because he dropped a catch. Well today he took Babar Azam with his first ball in a World Cup. Took the other opener guy who is pretty snazzy as well, and came back on to clean up Pakistan’s power man later on. I have always found him a fascinating bowler, I kind of expected him to have one good IPL season and float away. But he was excellent again today in swinging the ball and reading the pitch and game conditions.

Worth a shout out to Hardik Pandya, who bowled fast and took wickets. I think this was a good pitch for him, Stoinis bowls well here for Melbourne Stars, and Pandya is a much better version of that kind of bowler. The wide boundary allowed him to go short, as did the pitch today. As much as anything it’s just to see him bowl after all those times he couldn’t.

And finally Bhuvi. I thought he was the best of the bowlers today. It was a pitch made for him. I mean at one stage he almost took Rizwan’s thumb off.


Considering the start Pakistan had, a lot of credit has to go to Iftikhar Ahmed for getting them back into the game. Pakistan were 15/2 when he came to the crease, when he departed they were 91/3.

He picked a fairly handy time to score a second international T20 50, and almost equally importantly he did it at speed, taking just 34 balls to do so. Australia has been something of a happy hunting ground for Iftikhar, his T20I batting average there is now 79.5 and his strike-rate 150.

Where he really plundered was taking on India’s spinners, he took Axar over the rope three times and Ashwin once, 4 sixes in 14 balls – fairly impressive for a man who has just 3 of them in 149 balls in the PSL. That was not a typo. What a time to step up.

In fact General Manager of Islamabad United Rehan Ulhaq, who has worked with Iftikhar in the PSL, voiced his frustration that he hadn’t done more of this sort of thing before. He believes that the power Iftikhar has means even if he doesn’t middle it – as he didn’t with a couple of the sixes today – he still has the ability to clear the ropes. I worked his an agent who repped him a few years back, and I got to know his game really well. What I saw today is what he should do more often. A case of a different, less conservative, mindset needed when facing spin. After today’s performance you imagine he might try this new approach more often.

Pakistan openers

The Pakistan openers are like death, taxes and the morning session being called crucial in Test Cricket. You can set your clock by them. Until today, when Arshdeep Singh destroyed that clock like he hated the concept of time.

In the last two years their openers have made 50% of their runs, no other teams in this tournament is over 40%.

The average in T20 cricket usually hovers around 35 or 36%.

So losing them for basically no runs is the worst nightmare for Pakistan. Having great openers in T20 can cause a problem when they bat this well for so long, because of course they are going to fail at least one time in a tournament of this length.

Think of it like a town planner might for a freeway. You want to build a road through the centre of town to help traffic flow. But if everyone travels on that, it will also cause problems. You want enough people to continue to use the old roads. The same thing happens in basketball if one person uses the ball too much.

It’s a weird problem to have, because what do you do, tell Babar and Rizwan to fail more. Rest them? Run them out or retire them tactically for well made 30s. In this case, Pakistan had already prepared and brought in a back up anchor for just such an occasion.


Coming in after just seven balls of the innings, Shan Masood batted the rest of the way through the innings to make 52 from 42 balls. Hearing just those details it would sound like this was simply a fairly standard rebuilding anchor job after Pakistan’s nightmare start. This was quite a long way from the truth.

As it was Shan had so many lives that even cats probably thought he was taking the piss. The full list is so long it’s almost hard to know where to start.

How about with the run outs? Three times in the first seven overs he almost managed to run himself out. Including as early as the 11th ball of the match when Kohli really should have had him.

Then he was inches away from being caught by Ashwin, who slightly misjudged his route to the high catch, it still took a check from the third umpire to reprieve Shan as well, with a soft signal of out. Ashwin dropped a tricky caught and bowled chance too, but not before perhaps the biggest slice of luck, as we said before – saved by the wire of Spidercam when spooning the ball up in the air.

And even those were just the actual clear cut chances – he also wasn’t far from being caught by Rohit at mid on. Not to mention backing away to Shami and edging a four between the keeper and short third.

Shan certainly made the most of his luck, and his runs helped Pakistan post what was ultimately a good total. Although that was boosted greatly by some timely late hitting from Shaheen and Haris at the death.

This was not a normal game.


Talking after winning the toss, Rohit was hopeful, if not certain, from the look of the pitch that it would prove helpful to his bowlers. As it was, the MCG pitch proved to play a major role in things.

India’s fast bowlers jumped all over Pakistan early on, Bhuvi bowled an absolute cracker of a first over. Extra bounce surprising Rizwan who was hit on the glove.

This was a pitch that was rewarding pace and bounce, CricViz’s data ranked it as one of the bounciest ever MCG pitches since they started calculating. Being that there never used to be much bounce in Melbourne, so this was probably up there. There were also almost no slower balls from India.

First ten overs of Pakistan’s innings.

Rizwan fell trying to hook, skying a well bowled Arshdeep bouncer straight down fine leg’s throat. Later both Mohammad Nawaz and Asif Ali fell to catches behind the wicket, neither dealing with the bounce of the ball effectively. Masood was almost caught hooking as well. Runs too were coming for Pakistan behind the wicket as you can see from their wagon wheel in the first 10 overs.

It was perhaps less of a surprise, particularly given how India went, that Pakistan’s bowlers also got a lot from this surface. Their pace did for KL Rahul and Rohit and the bounce for SKY, India were in serious trouble at 26/3 still inside the powerplay – had Pakistan bowled first on this pitch the game could have been anything ,

This probably was to be expected to some extent given the hiring of curator Matthew Page from the WACA in 2017. Even so this pitch was perhaps a little spicier than they planned.

Recent heavy rainfall in Melbourne might have played a part in that, with 115mm falling so far this month – that’s almost double the average October rainfall of 65.2mm (measured since 1855!) – and there are still eight days left in the month. These are the kind of stats you only get here.

Sri Lanka

Shall we take a breath from the last game. This was Sri Lanka’s best performance in the tournament. Their most complete, polished and in the end easiest. Before this we had seen the team struggle with messy batting displays that didn’t make much sense. And while their bowlers have been better, this was the first time that they were that dominant with a batting line up backing them up.

They did get Ireland on a used wicket, but they’d had some better matchups earlier in the tournament and done far less with them.

If nothing else, this is the first time I think we have seen the Asian Cup winners. They still have no fit bowlers.

Kusal and DDS

The openers iced the game. And Kusal Mendis has for the second time batted superbly. His horrendous T20I record is largely down to playing out of position so much. For Sri Lanka he has opened a bit, but also be thrown right through the order.

Kusal Mendis by batting position in all T20.

If you look at him in his entire T20 career, domestic as well, there is no doubt, he is a quality opener, and pretty ordinary, actually, really terrible, at everything else. The problem of T20 cricket is that the vast majority of batters look better at the top, and so at international level it can be hard to to slip them into the top order.

To prove that, my man DDS, who I once tried to hire at a franchise and turn into an opener, also has a much better record when opening.

Dhananjaya de Silva in T20 games.

It is worth beating a team mate up to get a spot at the top of the order is what I am saying. Especially on low chase days like today.

Spin and Irelaland/Sri Lanka

After dispatching the West Indies from the tournament on Friday, Ireland were brought crashing back to reality today by Sri Lanka. Defeat by 9 wickets with 5 overs to spare is a thrashing however you look at it – at its root though is Ireland’s continuing struggles against spin.

Ireland have not fared well against spin recently – in the last two years they average under 20 against it – interestingly also about where Australia sit.

It was no different today. Five of the eight Irish wickets to fall were to spin. Including their batting hero from the last match Paul Stirling. After the match Balbirnie even said that this was an older surface and it spun more than they thought

Ultimately this was where the game was lost, Ireland simply had nowhere near enough runs. It is pretty difficult to win games with just 128 on the board.

Most of the damage was done by Maheesh Theekshana, who picked up two wickets and went at just 4.8 an over. He struck crucially inside the powerplay to get Tucker and then later to get Dockrell to crush any hope of a late unlikely Ireland revival.

George Dockrell incidentally had a somewhat disturbed build up to the game, after being identified as "potentially positive” for covid. His symptoms were very mild according to a Cricket Ireland release and being "managed in line with current local, national and ICC guidelines.” The positive test doesn’t stop Dockrell from playing or training, but he will travel separately from the squad on match and training days. To ensure others get sick.

Considering Ireland’s weakness against spin this match was probably always going to be a difficult match up for them. Sri Lanka’s spinners have one of the lowest collective T20 bowling averages in the last two years, just a shade over 20.

They also have one of the biggest discrepancies between the average of their spinners and seamers, the latter have the second highest average. And that was before almost their entire frontline seam attack got injured in this tournament.