The fifth edition of the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh saw a fifth different winner, thus underlining the undeniable characteristic of unpredictability of the shortest format. However, the best team deservedly won the tournament, with Sri Lanka finally going one step further from being runners-up with a complete performance in the final against hitherto-unbeaten India, led by M.S Dhoni. Let us look at the highlights and moments that shaped up the tournament:-
Sri Lanka – a true team performance
The fact that there were no Sri Lankan batsmen in the top ten run-getters and no bowler in the top eight wicket-takers underlined the complete team performance of the champions. All the players chipped in with effective contributions at some point, and it eventually paid off as the Lions finally won the World T20 after finishin runners up in 2009 and 2012. Lasith Malinga, who led the team to victory, was in fact the captain for only the last three games after original captain Dinesh Chandimal, who was not in the best of form, sportingly stayed out of the eleven. But experienced names like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in the side, there was no dearth of leadership.
The final was the last T20I for both Sangakkara and Jayawardene, and the team gave a fitting farewell to them. The bowling, especially at the death, was excellent as the normally free-flowing Indians were stifled and restricted to a below-par 130/4, which was overhauled after a bit of a wobble with six wickets and 13 balls to spare. Rangana Herath’s 5/3 against New Zealand, Angelo Mathews’ quick 40* in the semi-final against the West Indies and Malinga’s effective yorker-length death bowling in the final were all important pieces which made Sri Lanka’s success story. Runners-up India’s good run was based on Virat Kohli’s rich form and the guile of their spin armoury. As for the other semi-finalists, South Africa squeezed through three narrow wins to make the grade while holders West Indies were looking good until the Lankans saw them off.
Associates add early spice into the mix
Although a format of sixteen teams divided into four groups of four each would have been a much fairer option, the ICC’s decision of including as many as six Associate teams meant that the ‘qualifying round’ of the tournament provided some interesting games itself. Nepal gave a highly-spirited display, first by bundling out Hong Kong for 69 and then by upsetting the much more established Afghans. Their young pace bowlers Jitendra Mukhiya and Sompal Kami and their talented spinner Shakti Gauchan seized the opportunity to play on the world stage for the first time with both hands. Though they missed out on a dream spot in the Super 10 round, the commitment of the Paras Khadka-led outfit won them many admirers.
Hong Kong then created the first upset of the tournament by beating Bangladesh by wickets in front of their own fans. The overconfidence of the hosts led to their undoing and the spunky Hong Kong team took full advantage of that with a polished bowling performance. But the biggest shocker, not just of the tournament, but possibly in the history of international T20, came in the last game of the first round. Top seeds Ireland expectedly looked to be breezing into the Super 10 after posting 189 against the Netherlands, but the Oranje, spurred by the buccaneering opener Stephan Myburgh, went on to put their everlasting impact on the tournament by gunning down the target in a scarcely-believable 13.5 overs and leapfrogged both Ireland and Zimbabwe into the main round.
Spinners thrive in friendly conditions
The teams which were ultimately successful in the tournament banked hugely on their spin bowlers. The Indian spinners exploited the conditions to the fullest, as they swept past their group opposition without as much as breaking into a sweat. Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra were the most potent bowling duo in the league stage, as they took 21 wickets between them. Overall, there were four spinners in the top five wicket-takers, with three of them being leg-spinners. Two other semi-finalists, South Africa and the West Indies reaped from the performances of their respective leg-spinners Imran Tahir and Samuel Badree, while Sri Lanka turned a tricky semi-final against New Zealand into a non-contest thanks to left-armer Rangana Herath, who recorded the most sensational figures of 5/3.
Dutchmen carry the Associate flag
The Netherlands were unexpected candidates to be the only Associate in the Super 10, and hence had quite a bit of expectation from the non-Test camp. In their first game they appeared to be cannon fodder, as they were routed by Sri Lanka for an all-time T20I low of 39 all out. But they recovered from this disaster fantastically – in the next match they were well on course to beat South Africa, but due to their inexperience somehow snatched a six-run defeat. They held their own against New Zealand before reserving the best for the last.
In their final game, the Netherlands recorded their most convincing international win over a full member as they trounced England by 45 runs, bowling them out for just 88. Save for the forgettable outing against Sri Lanka, the Dutch gave an encouraging performance which may have made up a little for losing their ODI status earlier this year. The stars for the Oranje were Tom Cooper, Myburgh (second and third highest run getters) and Ahsan Jamil (joint highest wicket-taker).
Australia and England fail to cope up
Australia were regarded by many as pre-tournament favourites but crashed out of the tournament after their first two games. They buckled under pressure against Pakistan, lost a close contest to a super-charged West Indies and were thrashed by 73 runs by India. On the other hand, England were expected to be ordinary after a tumultuous winter, but they gave a good account of themselves – they were the only side to beat Sri Lanka, when they chased down 189 courtesy a brilliant 116* from Alex Hales – until they ran into the Netherlands, who ensured a 45-run drubbing and justifying that the win over Sri Lanka was all but a flash in the pan. New Zealand were patchy throughout, culminating in 60 all out against Sri Lanka, while Pakistan were their typical mercurial selves – they saw off Australia but were tamed by both India and the West Indies.
Hosts go down without a fight
Having been asked to undergo qualification into a tournament hosted by themselves, Bangladesh started the first round with a ten-wicket rout of Afghanistan. But the defeat to Hong Kong sent them on a downward spiral, and they ended the tournament with five defeats in a row. In this format and on conducive pitches, Bangladeshi fans and players alike would have expected an upset or two, but as often has been the case, the Tigers failed to cope up with the pressure and scrutiny and suffered comprehensive defeats in all their group matches, with the lowest point being a 73-run thrashing by the West Indies. Though their team disappointed the home crowds, Bangladesh deserves to be commended for hosting a well-organised tournament despite political turmoil a few weeks before the World T20 began.
Women’s world Twenty20 – Southern Stars make it three in a row
The women’s game gets much-needed exposure as the women’s World T20 is played simultaneously with the men’s edition. There was some good quality cricket from the ladies, none more than Meg Lanning’s Australians, who defeated England by 6 wickets in a one-sided final to win their third title in a row. They earlier defeated the West Indies in the semi-final. Lanning herself was the leading run scorer of the tournament (257), the highlight being a new record score of 126 against Ireland. South Africa impressed by beating fancied New Zealand before going down to England in the other semi-final. Other notable performances included Dane van Niekerk’s 90* and her unbroken opening stand of 163 with Lizelle Lee for South Africa against Pakistan, hosts Bangladesh delighting their supporters by defeating Sri Lanka and English pacewoman Anya Shrubsole’s consistency (she picked up 13 wickets, the most).
Performers and Performances
The best batsman of the tournament was by far India’s Virat Kohli, who led the run charts with a tally of 319 runs in six innings at 106.33 with four fifties and was named as player of the tournament. His two best performances came in the semi-final and final. In the semi-final, he guided a potentially difficult chase against South Africa with remarkable ease, scoring 72*, while in the final he was the only Indian batsman to flourish, scoring 77. Stephan Myburgh of the Netherlands caught the eye of many with his attacking strokeplay at the top – he dashed Irish hopes with a 29-ball 63 before giving South Africa a massive scare with a free-flowing 51.
The Australia-Pakistan game saw two of the best innings – Umar Akmal’s 94 and Glenn Maxwell’s counter-attacking 74. There were two centuries made – Alex Hales’ 116* gave England the satisfaction of beating the eventual champions while Ahmed Shahzad’s 111* ensured an easy win for Pakistan over Bangladesh. The best slog overs performances were by the West Indians, as captain Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo twice – against Australia and Pakistan – overturned their team’s fortunes in a matter of a few overs with their sudden but calculated hitting. Kumar Sangakkara, who had an ordinary tournament so far, scored a crucial 52* in the final when it mattered the most.
The leading wicket-takers were Imran Tahir and Ahsan Jamil with 12 wickets apiece. Tahir looked a much improved limited-overs bowler, collecting wickets at important times, especially his 4/21 which helped South Africa avoid a major loss to the Netherlands. Jamil, in the same match, took 5/19 for the Dutch, one of the two five-wicket hauls. The other fifer was by Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath, who ripped through New Zealand with 5/3 in a must-win match. Ravi Ashwin’s 4/11 against Australia was of the best spin bowling displays, but the best individual showing based on the match situation came from a fast bowler, the great Dale Steyn. Steyn took 4/17, taking two wickets and giving away just four runs in the last over against New Zealand as South Africa eked out a two-run win.