Within a day of the 2016 edition – the 6th T20 World Cup – we already have our first upset. Part-timers Oman shocked “big boys” Ireland by chasing down 150+, thereby making it even easier for Bangladesh to qualify for the main group. Immediately, Oman – made up from a smattering of expats, corporate workers and almost middle-aged enthusiasts – were labeled the ‘darlings’ of the tournament. They played their “unknown” card well, and shocked Ireland – team expected to give Bangladesh stiff competition eventually.
In light of this astounding achievement – one that can only happen in this shortest format – let us take a look at three of the best matches over the 5 World Cups played so far:
INDIA v/s PAKISTAN (2007, Final, The Wanderers)
Yes, that match. This was, of course, made even more significant because of the previous match these two rivals had played in the group stages. That was a thrilling tie, and India won it in a bowl-off. Imagine that. Winning a bowl-off against Pakistan. The final straw came when Shahid Afridi missed all three stumps with his delivery; later, he was to redeem himself with a Man of The Tournament run, and rightly so. If not in T20s, where else should the grand young man of Pakistan cricket perform? As for the final, in the inaugural edition, only months after the two teams had been embarrassed and humiliated by Bangladesh and Ireland in the ODI World Cup (crashing out in the first stage in West Indies), it was a fairytale contest. Both of them came at each other with a point to prove – to show that they were still mighty forces in any format, after both had undergone a makeover after a traumatic ODI World Cup. India had their “final man” Gautam Gambhir play a sparkling innings once again – a crucial 75 that held the innings together, before a young Rohit Sharma finished things off in the end with a cameo, setting Pakistan 158 to win. This was a par score.
We all know how that went. Imran Nazir blasted off at the speed of light, murdering Sreesanth, before getting run out just as he was about to snatch it away. After that, it was all Misbah-ul-Haq – a man who craved for support, but only got some from Yasir Arafat and Sohail Tanvir before they were cleaned up by a pumped-up Irfan Pathan (the Man of the Final, with his 3-wicket burst). In the final over by Joginder Sharma (who has since never been seen again), Misbah sent the ball careening over the ropes on a full-toss, before trying the scoop with six runs to get off the final four balls. This is a shot that will haunt him forever, even if they won the next World Cup. Sreesanth pouching it, followed by Shastri’s glee on air (Sreeeeee-santhhhhh, and India have WON it), will go down in Indian folklore.
PAKISTAN v/s AUSTRALIA (Semifinal, 2010, St. Lucia)
Pakistan was on the verge of reaching their third consecutive T20 final. The Akmal brothers score half centuries, helping their team set an intimidating total of 191 on a slow St. Lucia pitch – only eight months after they had won the previous T20 World Cup. That’s right! They were champions for only eight months, due to some absurd management decision of spacing the two editions so close together. Australia got off to a horror start, with a teenaged Mohammad Amir (months before the scandal) pouching Warner and Watson in quick succession. By the time Michael Clarke, their captain, was dismissed, they were 62 in 50 balls, for the loss of four top order wickets. Surely, the game was over. But, looking back, many wondered why Michael Hussey – their most prolific batsman at the time – was batting at number 7. Their questions were answered when he walked in, in the 13th over after the fall of his brother David. With Cameron White, he staged one of the most astonishing comebacks in T20 history. With 50 runs needed of the last three overs, and Steve Smith (he was a bowler back then, batting at 8) dismissed, Hussey just didn’t give up. He slammed 25 runs of the last over by Saeed Ajmal – one he will never forget – when Australia needed 23, and they won an astonishing match with a ball to spare. Nobody can forget Hussey running to hug Johnson at the other end, looking quite shocked at how good he himself was. This was the end of Pakistan’s terrific streak and their title defense.
WEST INDIES v/s SRI LANKA (Final, 2012, Colombo)
West Indies came into the final after losing to both Australia and hosts Sri Lanka in the group stages. They tied with New Zealand and won the Super Over, and scraped through to the semis, before Chris Gayle demolished Australia to exact revenge. Now they were on the ultimate stage, facing the ultimate test – to defeat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in a World Cup final. This was Lanka’s second final in four tournaments, and one they were surely destined to win, especially after West Indies was tattering at 34/3 at the end of 10 overs. They would be lucky to reach 100. And then, Marlon Samuels happened. He flicked Lasith Malinga from yorker lengths and deposited him into the stands, taking 17 off an over and opening the floodgates. Till date, Samuels’ innings will go down as the greatest T20I innings ever, considering the state of the match, stage and pressure, and the redemption story (after being banned a few years ago). His 78 came off 56 balls, and Ajantha Mendis finished with figures of 4 for 12 (and 15 for the tournament, the highest ever).
West Indies had rallied, but 137 didn’t quite seem enough. That is, until the spin trio of Gayle, Samuels and Narine (who took three for next to nothing) began to bowl. After Kumar Sangakkara fell in the 10th over, when the score was only 48, Sri Lanka never really came back. The middle order scores read 1, 3, 3 and 4. Their innings lasted 84 minutes, and they were bowled out in the 19th over for 101. This was perhaps their most painful defeat in a final, only a year after their heartbreaking Wankhede defeat to India. They were the almost-team. And Gayle did the Gangnam well into the night – the most joyous celebrations by a team on winning a massive tournament. It wasn’t a close match, but everything from grit, skill, courage under fire, underdog abilities, crunch situations and flamboyant fielding was on show.