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Our reporters look back on their favourite World Twenty20 matches
September 15, 2012
The warm-up: It was the first match of the first World Twenty20, so for most teams - and indeed for organisers, fans and the media - it was a journey into the unknown. Going into the game, South Africa had played five such games and West Indies three. It was a World Cup match, so it should have been serious business, but the format was one that had been treated as hit-and-giggle by many till then.
The match: It was a relentless deluge of runs, and a grim warning of what the future might hold for bowlers in this format. The batsmen from both sides relished the excellent pitch and fast outfield, and the format itself: 36 fours and 18 sixes were struck in 37.4 overs of frenetic, and often mind-numbing, action. Ten of those sixes came off the meaty bat of Chris Gayle, who carted the South African bowlers to all parts in scoring the first century in a T20 international - he finished with 117 off 57.
So excited were West Indies by that batting effort that they failed to calm themselves down before taking the field to defend their score of 205. Catches were dropped and wides bowled with extreme generosity - 23 runs were conceded off wides, which remains a record, by some margin, even today. And then there was the brutal partnership of Herschelle Gibbs and Justin Kemp, who added 120 off 57 balls, which is still the fourth-fastest 100-plus stand in this format. In the end, South Africa not only chased down the target, they did so with astonishing ease, to win by eight wickets with 14 balls to spare.
For the crowd at the Wanderers, it was a memorable start to the tournament: 413 runs, a deluge of fours and sixes, and victory for the home team. Plus, there was the rock concert-like atmosphere, as the DJ and the cheerleaders did their thing after every boundary. For 100 rand, which was the price of most of the general tickets, it was a spectacular three-hour entertainment package.
Highlight: In a match in which bowlers were so thoroughly outclassed, the stand-out moment was one in which they managed a rare victory. Shaun Pollock had figures of 1 for 52 in his four overs, but he did score one tiny victory over Gayle: in the 12th over, he bowled a slow, loopy bouncer that pitched in the middle of the track and was already on a downward trajectory as it passed the batsman. So utterly confused was Gayle that he could only watch, transfixed, as the ball went by to the wicketkeeper. The crowd, who were right behind Pollock even as he was getting hammered, had a rare moment of victory.
The aftermatch: West Indies were so shell-shocked by that defeat that they lost their second match as well, to Bangladesh, and crashed out of the tournament. South Africa won their first four matches of the tournament, but then, with a semi-final spot beckoning, lost so badly to India that they failed to qualify for the last four.
The warm-up: India and Pakistan had played several times in Tests, ODIs and World Cups, but never before in a World Twenty20 tournament. In fact, coming into this match, India's entire experience in the format was one match; Pakistan had played five.
In the tournament itself, Pakistan had drubbed Scotland in their first game by 51 runs, while India's match against Scotland had been washed out. A heavy defeat against Pakistan would have thus knocked India out of the competition. Plus, there was the threat of rain, which added another dimension to the pre-match build-up.
The match: In conditions ideal for seam and swing bowling, the pace attack of both teams had a pretty good outing, as only one batsman from each side topped 50. Mohammad Asif bowled one of the spells of the tournament, taking care of the Indian top order single-handedly to reduce them to 36 for 4. From there, Robin Uthappa and MS Dhoni crafted a revival to ensure that there were some runs on the board for the bowlers to defend.
Even so, a target of 142 should have been gettable, but a combination of tight bowling and reckless strokeplay sank Pakistan's top order too, before Misbah-ul-Haq played an innings of rare composure and skill, scoring 53 from 35. He too botched up at the end, though, when Pakistan needed one run from two balls: Misbah didn't score any, which forced upon the world audience the unseemly sight of a bowl-out. Neither captain was impressed by this method of breaking a tie, but for the record, India won a cricket match by a 3-0 margin. A largely Indian crowd cheered madly, and went away happy that their team had taken full points from a match in which they might have got none.
Highlight: Asif's spell was a delight to watch, as he moved the ball this way and that, at a brisk pace, while maintaining McGrath-like control over line and length. Virender Sehwag had carved the first ball he faced, from Umar Gul, over square leg for four, but had no answer to his first ball from Asif, which seamed in at pace, beat the attempted drive, took the inside edge, and crashed into the stumps.
Lowlight: After a compelling game, it was sad to see the last few minutes, in which player after player ambled in trying to knock over the stumps without a batsman guarding them. If that wasn't farcical enough, it was even more bizarre to see all three Pakistan bowlers - Yasir Arafat, Gul, and Shahid Afridi - miss the mark by quite a distance, even as the Indians - Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Uthappa - all hit. Fortunately the ICC had the good sense to do away with the farce and introduce the Super Over.
The aftermatch: Both India and Pakistan qualified for the Super Eights, the semi-finals, and the final, which was another nailbiter. India won that one too, by five runs, to become the first titleholders of the World Twenty20.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on TwitterFeeds: S Rajesh
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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