Spin it to win it
With seven required off six balls and five wickets in hand, most teams would back themselves to achieve it. Dale Steyn not only stretched New Zealand but bowled one of the finest final overs in a Twenty20 match to snatch the game from New Zealand's grasp. Steyn had parsimonious figures of 3-0-13-2 when he ran in for that final over. Luke Ronchi backed away to launch the first ball over the off side but only got a thick outside edge, taken by the diving wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. With seven required off five, it would have been more than acceptable had Nathan McCullum settled for a single to give the well-set Ross Taylor the strike. But McCullum too looked to clear the rope and was beaten. He failed to get bat on ball yet again as Steyn fired a 148 kph thunderbolt. Following three scoreless deliveries, a desperate McCullum finally connected the fourth and sent it to the extra cover boundary. That boundary proved to be the only aberration in the over for Steyn as he nailed McCullum the following ball, getting him caught at extra cover. Taylor darted across to take the strike off the final ball, with three needed. With Steyn breathing fire, there was little the batsman could do. The final ball was fast and full and Taylor could only squirt it back to the bowler, who jogged towards the stumps and knocked off the bails as the batsmen looked for a desperate single. Steyn punched the air towards the ground in characteristic fashion, having bowled five dot balls. That one over gave South Africa the match.
A total of 119 looked woefully inadequate for Sri Lanka to defend, but Herath , who was benched until this match, had other ideas. An underrated bowler at T20 level, Herath foxed New Zealand's top order with his mastery over flight, dip and spin. Brought on in the fourth over, Herath ran out Martin Guptill off his first ball and the pressure began to tell on New Zealand and Brendon McCullum, who played out four dot balls. McCullum succumbed to impatience off the final ball when he danced down the track, only to be beaten by flight and lack of pace. Ross Taylor too was kept on a leash for four straight dot balls in Herath's following over, surviving a close shout for lbw. However, he wasn't so lucky the following ball as Herath got one to skid and strike his pad in front of the stump. The next ball, Jimmy Neesham was beaten for turn as he played down the wrong line and was bowled. Incredibly, Herath had picked up three wickets and not conceded a single run. Though he failed to get a hat-trick, he managed a wicket each in his next two overs - Luke Ronchi was trapped lbw by one that turned and in what turned out to be the final over, Trent Boult edged to slip. As he ran through the top order, the target of 120 was made to look distant. New Zealand were sent crashing to 60 and Herath walked back with astonishing figures of 5 for 3.
India's unbeaten run until the final was made possible thanks to their spinners Amit Mishra and R Ashwin. In the semi-final, South Africa's chances of posting a competitive total hinged on their ability to take runs off the spinners. Ashwin's variations, though, were a handful. It began with what Adam Gilchrist had tweeted as the "T20 ball of the century". Bowling round the wicket to Hashim Amla, he pitched the carrom ball well outside leg stump and Amla went back at the crease, presumably playing for the off break, but the ball spun away sharply and took the off stump. Despite conceding just a run off the over, to go with the wicket, he was surprisingly taken off the attack. He was brought back in the 14th over when the other two spinners were taken apart by JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis. Two balls after du Plessis struck him for a six, Ashwin hit back by bowling the batsman off a freak dismissal which also involved the carrom ball. He then claimed the important wicket of AB de Villiers in his following over, but it wasn't his best ball - a long hop went down fine leg's throat. He finished with impressive figures of 3 for 22 and crucially, he stopped de Villiers and du Plessis in their tracks when South Africa were looking dangerous.
One of the biggest takeaways from the 2014 World T20 was the revival of legspin bowling. Imran Tahir finished as the joint leading wicket-taker with 12 and his spell of 4 for 21 saved South Africa from embarrassment against Netherlands. The batsmen had earlier stuttered to 145 and the game was slipping away from South Africa after Stephan Myburgh fell with the score at a healthy 80 for 2 after eight overs. Then the slide began. Bowling his second over, Tahir removed Wesley Barresi and Peter Borren lbw off successive overs, although he was lucky to get Barresi, with replays suggesting the ball may have missed the stumps. When Tahir returned for a new spell, Netherlands still held the edge, only needing 30 off 42 balls with five wickets. He struck off his first ball, bowling the dangerous Tom Cooper between his legs and four balls later he had Pieter Seelaar caught at long-on. The pressure had got to Netherlands as they looked to hit out and it was Tahir who stood in their way as they looked to upset a major side.
Legspin again. This time it was Samuel Badree, who sent Pakistan limping out of the tournament. After West Indies had rocketed to 166, a shocked Pakistan batted like they had never recovered from the scars of the late onslaught. Badree bowled the second over and struck off his third ball as Kamran Akmal flat-batted one straight to extra cover. The loss of early wickets and a series of dot balls began to tell on Pakistan, who looked to hit their way out of trouble. It reflected in the pattern of their dismissals. Umar Akmal charged Badree, missed a googly and was stumped. Shoaib Malik tried the same, but made the mistake of giving himself too much room and nearly lost his balance as the legbreak spun past him. At 13 for 4, it was West Indies' game. Badree finished with 3 for 10 off four overs and his spell set it up for Sunil Narine to cut through the middle order.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo