Cricket balls are being smashed into orbit, stumps are being splayed by express bowling and we’re witnessing some edge-of-your-seat contests.
It can only mean the World T20 championship is getting into full swing.
And, my word, have we seen some full swings. Even at this early juncture, we’re seeing players laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament and setting a positive precedent for their teams. All of the big guns have played at least once, and we’ve been able to run the rule over some of the star performers so far.
So let’s take a look at who has performed well and which players have the capabilities to be picking up the star-player gong come the climax of this enthralling tournament.
Pakistan tucked into some questionable Australian bowling in their most recent match, batting first and posting a score of 191-5 from their 20 overs. Just shy of half of those runs came courtesy of Umar Akmal, who smashed 95 from just 54 deliveries.
Akmal’s knock was a genuine match-winning effort. Striding to the crease with his team toiling on 25-2, he went on the counter-attack. He put on a 96-run partnership with his brother Kamran to set an excellent platform, allowing himself some more freedom at the end of the innings and giving the Pakistani big hitters an opportunity to take the game away from the Australians.
Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle was seriously impressed with Akmal's efforts:
umar akmal is as classy as anyone in international cricket; when he wants to! this is batting of the highest order.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 23, 2014
Shahid Afridi made a quickfire 20 from just 11 balls, but it was Umar who continued to do most of the damage. He struck nine fours and four sixes in his knock, putting him second in the top run-scorers stakes for the tournament behind the Netherlands' Tom Cooper, per ESPN Cricinfo.
After losing to India in their opening group game, this was the perfect response from Akmal and Co. If the 23-year-old can continue producing knocks like this and drag Pakistan to the final, he’ll definitely be in with a shout for player of the competition.
The Indian all-rounder impressed with the ball in his team’s opening-game win over Pakistan, and he will be looking to replicate that performance with tough games to come.
Jadeja is a player who has improved a lot over the past 12 months, establishing himself as one of the top all-rounders in the game. In the limited-over format, he is especially dangerous with both bat and ball.
We’ve already seen in this tournament the impact he can have with the ball. Whilst he only took one wicket in his team’s win over Pakistan, his economy rate of just 4.50 runs per over is excellent for a T20 international game, per ESPN Cricinfo.
He is superb at varying his pace and has many subtle variations that make it very difficult to score off his bowling.
He’s more than capable with the bat, too, and his ability to hit the ball a long way is something that we’ll surely see more of as the tournament progresses. Jadeja excels at finishing off an innings, and that know-how will be vital in high-pressure situations, as New Zealand recently found out to their peril:
India looked a strong outfit heading into this tournament, and Jadeja could well emerge as the crown jewel of this T20 side.
England’s wicketkeeper-batsman has been on an upward curve over the past 12 months. The 23-year-old has proved himself to be a real threat down the order, as he has shown an ability not only to smash the ball out of the ground but also play in a sensible, collected manner when the situation demands.
England lost their opening game on the Duckworth-Lewis ruling, but Buttler impressed as England constructed an innings of 172-6 from their 20 overs. The England 'keeper made 32 from just 23 balls; half of the runs came in boundaries whilst the rest came courtesy of some good running between the wickets.
The Sunday People's Aaron Sharp thinks Buttler is a class act at this level:
England need to bounce back in their next game against Sri Lanka, and given the recent woes experienced by the top-order batsmen, you suspect Buttler will have a key role to play once again.