Unbeaten South Africa, spectacular deaths, all the hat tricks, Gulbadin gusto + more in our latest T20 World Cup round-up

4 minute read

It feels somewhat bizarre that South Africa have only just made it through to the semi-finals, unbeaten, when England – with two defeats and a no result to their name – had basically already qualified from the same group. The week’s biggest highlight came elsewhere however.

Spectacular deaths

Jos Buttler hit so many sixes off the second over bowled by the USA’s Harmeet Singh that three of them didn’t make the ICC’s five-minute highlights package. Even in a video form as constricted as this, you’d think a guy wellying five sixes in an over would qualify as a highlight. But no, only 40 per cent of them made the cut.

The last couple of overs of an innings don’t really qualify as ‘the death’ when they arrive not even halfway through the full allocation of 20. Buttler’s match-securing efforts therefore denied England the opportunity to claim two spectacular deaths in the same match, Chris Jordan having claimed England’s first men’s T20 hat-trick earlier in the day.

While it’s a little damning that it has taken England this long to notch a T20 hat trick (Pat Cummins alone has claimed two inside a week), Jordan did at least deliver the third wicket in textbook fashion.

That is how hat trick balls and ends of innings should both look.

Short of adding Arnie-style quips to the mix, it’s hard to know how England improve on these deaths exclusively comprising wickets or sixes. Stick around to find out whether they take that option.

Gulbadin Naib! Remember the person!

Cummins’ second hat trick was somehow not the most significant bowling performance in Australia’s match against Afghanistan.

Afghanistan bowlers increasingly eat Aussie batters for breakfast and Gulbadin Naib was very hungry, taking 4-20 as his team partly-avenged that Glenn-Maxwell-fuelled 50-over World Cup nonsense.

Gulbadin has been around a while. He is, in fact, one of those who appeared in Out of the Ashes, the 2010 documentary that begins with Afghanistan playing in front of a dozen people in Jersey, back when they were so unworldly they were yet to deduce the purpose of the green man at zebra crossings.

> Can we pause for a moment and try and take stock of Mohammad Nabi’s ridiculous career?

His appearances in that film mostly centre on his bodybuilding-centric training regime. He didn’t actually make his debut until a year after it came out. On the field, we remember him best from his willing but also slightly pitiable stint as captain at the 2019 World Cup.

Gulbadin replaced Asghar Afghan (a guy so committed to the captaincy, he literally changed his name to Afghan) at pretty late notice and didn’t really look qualified for the job. Our memory is of a captain who led by trying to take responsibility; a man who was always willing to bowl the difficult overs, despite obviously insuffient ability to do so. He came across as a brave, dutiful and also faintly pitiable cricketer and we assumed he would drift out of the side afterwards.


If there’s one thing you can say about Afghanistan cricketers, it is that they are not massively fazed by setbacks. A lot of cricketers feel like they’ve reached their limit when they come up against superior opposition, whereas Afghanistan players tend to conclude, “Oh, okay, guess we just have to become better still,” and then they somehow go away and do that. (We’d love to see how the women’s team would respond to being exiled, denied matches and shorn of all support from the ICC).

Gulbadin was always one of those bats-a-bit, bowls-a-bit, gives-it-his-all, bits-and-pieces all-rounders whose chief attribute was sheer gusto. To see him bounce back from that admirable-yet-sad captaincy stint to become player of the match in a win over Australia was rather heart-warming – not least because he really, really seems to enjoy this stuff.

We all experience setbacks, but Gulbadin’s gusto remains impressively undimmed. He did for Marcus Stoinis with a 75mph bouncer.

Later on, his fourth wicket saw Pat Cummins waft his bat way over the top of an absolute bitch of a slower ball, almost audibly groaning even as he played the shot. Gulbadin celebrated that wicket with a spot of cramp.

After that, he took a screaming catch to secure the ninth wicket, before Mohammad Nabi – who else – took the catch that secured the win.

Gulbadin’s journey to being seemingly the happiest man on Earth was then complete.

Even the obligatory post-match interview didn’t seem to take the shine off.

South Africa + knock-out cricket

Despite having won every game, England’s and West Indies’ monster victories over the USA meant that South Africa still needed to beat the latter to reach the semi-finals or they were out.

That they did so means they’re now into the real knock-outs. The usual headlines are already primed for deployment…

What’s next?

We’ll be back with another T20 World Cup round-up later in the week – sign up to get it by email here. Australia play India today (Monday) and Afghanistan face Bangladesh tomorrow. We’ll then know who’ll face whom in the semi-finals on Thursday.

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