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Our reporters look back on their favourite World Twenty20 matches
September 17, 2012
The warm-up: England-South Africa contests always come with an edge. The reasons why are well documented and the matches rarely disappoint. This was a game with huge significance: a win for either team would virtually assure a semi-final place. Neither side had started the tournament smoothly, with England edging through their group after a rained-off match against Ireland. South Africa, meanwhile, had lost to India and beaten Afghanistan, but the Associate nation had restricted them to 139 for 7. However, an efficient victory against New Zealand at the beginning of the second stage suggested their game was coming together. England, too, had won convincingly against Pakistan. Who would crack first?
The match itself: It did not take long for the game to come to life. Johan Botha removed Michael Lumb in the first over but the second-wicket pair of Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen launched into South Africa's bowling in a stand worth 94 in ten overs. Pietersen was at his imperious best, winning his head-to-head with Dale Steyn in thrilling style - taking 23 off the eight balls he faced from the fast bowler. Although wickets started to fall, England had a deep batting order and there were useful contributions from Eoin Morgan and Tim Bresnan as they reached a testing 168 for 7.
The match swung hugely in England's favour when South Africa struggled for early momentum with the bat. Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis had added 19 in four overs when Stuart Broad removed Kallis. England were operating finely-tuned tactics in the field and this was a day when they all worked perfectly. Ryan Sidebottom, who had been preferred at the last minute to James Anderson because of the value of a left-arm quick, and Tim Bresnan both conceded less than six-an-over while the spinners, Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy, combined to take five wickets. The pair took wickets in four consecutive overs as South Africa's top order subsided.
Highlight: Kevin Pietersen v Dale Steyn. International cricket at its best. When Twenty20 began there was a suspicion that it would not allow time for duels to develop like in the longer formats. This, however, though a brief contest, was as gripping as you could wish for. Pietersen was off the mark with a crunching straight drive but it was later, when Steyn was brought back for 11th over, that he played the shot of match by dispatching a slower ball onto the roof of the stand and out of ground. This was followed, two balls later, by Pietersen's 'flamingo' flick through midwicket as he reached fifty from 30 balls. Stunning.
The aftermatch: Hours after picking up the Man of the Match award, Pietersen was on a plane back to London for the birth of his first child. "It's my first child, so it's a hell of an exciting time for me," he said. "I'll be dashing across the Atlantic, and hopefully dashing back."
Meanwhile, the 'C' word was soon following South Africa around again, when they lost against Pakistan by 11 runs to go out of the tournament. England, though, had the force with them and did not look like losing as they secured their first global silverware. Pietersen, when he returned, flayed Sri Lanka in the semi-final and Australia in the final to be named Man of the Tournament.
The warm-up: The two teams could not have moved into the semi-finals in more contrasting styles: Australia were unbeaten - including an opening win against Pakistan - spearheaded by their strong pace attack and muscular batting. It had been the first time Australia had enjoyed consistent success in Twenty20 and there was a feeling that they were finally taking the format seriously. Pakistan, meanwhile, lurched into the knockouts, much like they did in 2009, squeaking in despite losing two of their Super Eight matches. Really, though, anything other than that from them would have been a surprise.
The match itself: Was this the ultimate Twenty20 match? Nearly 400 runs, a penultimate-ball result, a late dramatic swing in momentum. Gros Islet is not a big ground and it was filled with 22 sixes. Pakistan had led the charge, the Akmal's - Kamran and Umar - cracking half-centuries as Australia's much-vaunted attack was given its first real test. Then David Warner fell second ball of the chase and wickets slipped steadily against a huge asking rate. But Michael Hussey never knows when to give in and launched an amazing assault in the closing overs. When Steve Smith fell Australia needed 48 off 17 balls - Hussey got 37 himself, ending on a phenomenal 60 off 24 balls and carrying Australia across the line.
Highlight: The hitting from Hussey was breathtaking. It was the sustained quality of the striking that stood out, under pressure with a place in a final at stake. Saeed Ajmal had been entrusted with final overs during the tournament but, at the crucial time, could not spear the ball under Hussey's bat and offered hittable length. Still, if any of his shots had gone straight up in the air that would have been it for Australia but he backed himself each time. In a format where matches can quickly fade from the memory, this is one that left a lasting mark.
The aftermatch: Amazing game, nightmare to write up. Especially when your laptop picked the night before to blow up and there was a flight to catch to Barbados an hour after the game was due to finish. Hasty writing followed on a colleague's machine in the departure lounge. Hussey could barely grasp what he had achieved during the press conference while Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, just wore a blank expression. After winning a game like that there was a feeling Australia were unstoppable, but a couple of days later they had no answer to England - the other form team of the tournament - during the final in Barbados.
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