What’s the common connection between South Africa and Australia? The obvious one is that they both are out of the tournament. Both of them were firm favourites prior to the tournament. And, lastly both the pace attacks were deemed deadly dangerous.
Only two pacers who have bowled a minimum of ten overs have a poorer record than Kagiso Rabada. An average of 75.5 with just two wickets in the tournament, conceding runs at an economy rate of 9.4 and a strike-rate of 48. Enough said. It could be a very good pub-quiz question, who are Rabada’s scalps in this tournament?
Afif Hossain and Iftikhar Ahmed. Without context, it might really look like important wickets. Rabada picked up Afif’s wicket in the sixth over of the innings after Bangladesh were already stuttering at 39/3. In Iftikhar’s case, his wicket came late in the innings - the 20th over. As vanilla as it is, the Protea pacer had a stinker of a tournament.
But it wasn’t always the case, was it? That’s where it gets intriguing. Earlier this year, the South African pacer picked up 23 wickets, representing Punjab Kings, with an average of 17.65, his second-best in any IPL year. That’s where things got a bit exciting for the Proteas, leading into the tournament here in Australia.
Having said that, Rabada has been blowing hot and cold for some time now. It was first noticed in last year’s IPL, where he averaged 30 in the powerplay. Since last year’s T20 World Cup, South Africa’s talisman pacer has been in dismal form across phases, and some of the numbers from there are beyond explanation.
42.3 in the powerplay, 117 in the middle-overs and 56.5 at the death, it is beyond repair, isn’t it? In a team that is the fourth-best in the Super 12 stage, these numbers are nowhere close to elite-worthy. It isn’t nit-picking anymore with the right-arm pacer. Going all the way back to 2019 and comparing all the numbers since then, Rabada has been a shadow.
Since 2019, the right-arm pacer averages 36.5 in the powerplay, 53.8 in the middle-overs and 26.8 at the death, with just 32 wickets. It wasn’t just him, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi too have had moments of terrible display, which ultimately led the Proteas in such disarray.
In the clash against Pakistan, Nortje conceded 31 runs in his last spell, the two-over one, which ultimately changed everything, with an economy rate of 15.5. If Nortje did the unthinkable against Pakistan, Ngidi was a massive failure in the do-or-die clash against the Netherlands. When needed, the right-arm pacer disappeared, conceding 35 runs in three overs, with just three dots across the 18-ball spell.
There is more similarity than what meets the eye. Kagiso Rabada, South Africa’s front-line pacer, was as bad as the collective Australian pace unit. Mitchell Starc and the possible reincarnation of his old self was a hoax, and so was Pat Cummins, who hasn’t quite lit up the world in that format.
Australia had the worst pace unit in this year’s T20 World Cup. By worst, we rest assure it is the worst, with an average of 40. There is a sea of difference between them and the second worst pace-unit – Ireland – who have an average of 30.9.
It is the hosts, the ones who had a pace unit that was going to take the tournament by storm. Neither was their average impressive nor was their strike-rate – 27.2, which again was the worst record in the tournament. There were teams, bad teams, worse teams and then Australia.
Hazlewood has two wickets in the powerplay phase, one against New Zealand and the other against Afghanistan in their final game. The right-arm pacer blanked Ireland and Sri Lanka, showing how vulnerable Australia are without him in the powerplay. Not just that, it killed one more bird.
Coming into the tournament, the right-arm seamer had an economy rate of 6 in the year during the powerplay, averaging 16.6 with nine wickets. From there to picking up just two wickets in the entirety of the tournament during the powerplay is what ultimately led to their early crash.
While Starc and Cummins obviously weren’t the most threatening of bowlers leading into this year’s tournament, their extremely underwhelming display in the Super 12 stage left the Australians reeling. Cummins’ numbers have been quite confusing in the lead-up to the tournament, but it amplified during the premier competition, where he picked up just three wickets.
In fact, he averaged 44 in the global event, with no wickets in the middle overs, a phase where he bowled three overs. At the death, too, the right-arm seamer was extremely unimpressive, with just one wicket, conceding runs at 10 RPO.
Ultimately, both South Africa and Australia have had their flaws, but not a lot of those flaws were arrowed in on their bowling units.
Especially pace units. In the most anti-climactic of fashions, both the Proteas and the Kangaroos are knocked out. Their underwhelming pace units definitely had a major say in that.