Man of the match in all four of Australia's games so far, Shane Watson showed more of his incandescent form with both bat and ball in yesterday's comprehensive Super Eights victory over South Africa in Colombo.
The 31-year-old Queensland-born all-rounder has just about been a one-man team for Australia so far in this tournament, for which they were not initially fancied despite reaching the final against England two years ago.
The pre-tournament criticism of George Bailey's team suggested that the bowling lacked guile and the batting was too reliant on the openers, Watson and Dave Warner. After finishing this match as the tournament's leading wicket-taker (10) and leading run-scorer (234), Watson has ensured that neither of these is a problem.
On a slow track against South Africa, Watson took two wickets for 29 and then cracked 70 off just 47 balls. Chasing 147 for victory, Australia lost Warner early but Watson was joined by the left-hander Mike Hussey (45 not out) for a 99-run stand that set up victory in 17.4 overs. Watson hit eight fours and two massive sixes before he was caught by Wayne Parnell off the left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, who had been top-scorer in the South Africa innings with 32 not out.
"It's nice to be able to continue to play well. I know how important my role is. There's still a hell of a long way to go," Watson said.
"Facing [the opening bowlers] Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel was always going to be a big challenge. I knew we had to get through it without getting out, scoring as many runs as we can.
"The top four batsmen are the ones who win you games consistently. Hussey took the pressure off me to score."
The South Africa captain, AB de Villiers, admitted that his side had failed to take the early wickets – especially Watson's – that they needed to defend their 145-6 total. "You have got to get wickets if you want to win Twenty20 games – like they [Australia] did early on. They got wickets and put pressure on a regular basis, but we couldn't do that," De Villiers said.
"If you don't get Watson early on, he is going to take away the game, and that's exactly what happened."
Australia, who play Pakistan in their final Super Eight game tomorrow, have now won both their games at this stage while South Africa are on the brink of elimination having lost both their matches and must hope for a huge win over India on the same day.
Results and fixtures
Yesterday : Group F (both Colombo)
Pakistan 128 all out lost to India 129-2 by eight wickets with three overs to spare.
South Africa 146-5 lost to Australia 147-2 by eight wickets with three overs to spare.
Today: Group E (both Pallekele)
N Zealand v West Indies (11am BST)
Sri Lanka v England (3pm)Reuse content