T20 World Cup review: Injuries catch up with England, Aussies crash Pakistan party, NZ fail at final hurdle again

Adam Zampa

Four weeks. Four venues. 16 teams. 45 matches. 526 wickets. 1348 boundaries and yet the one lesson above all, never – ever – write off Australia.

As the dust settles on the first ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in over five years, few would have predicted in the build-up (apart from the Australians themselves) that it would be the green and gold of Australia running around the Dubai International Stadium in jubilation.

Not least when just a fortnight before the final, they were annihilated by an England side, that for much of the tournament looked alongside Pakistan, as the teams destined to meet in the final.

But sport has this thing about peaking at the right time and that demolition job from England sparked a mentality shift within the Australians. It sparked a fuse.

They went into the tournament on the back of five successive series defeats, but they turned up when it mattered to pull off the two highest run-chases of the tournament – in the semi-final and the final. Finally, Australia had found their way to the title that had eluded them for so long.

Namibia, Scotland do associate nations a solid

It was a peculiar tournament which began in Muscat, Oman – a country which didn’t have a cricket ground until a decade ago, and finished in Dubai in front of a half-full ground, most of which weren’t even supporting the two finalists.

But in between, it gave us moments and memories to remember. The first week saw Curtis Campher take four wickets in four balls, but it was Ireland who were defeated by Namibia on a famous Friday afternoon in Sharjah.

For the Eagles, that remarkably meant a place in the Super 12s. That wasn’t the only win for an associate nation over a full ICC member nation, as Scotland defeated Bangladesh, winning all their games in the first round, but losing all their games in the Super 12s. The gulf was clear to see in the Super 12s and made for too many one-sided matches.

Perhaps, these nations should be given more of a chance to play against the big names, rather than just at tournaments. It’s not a question of making space in the calendar; rather it’s matter of using it better.

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Australia catch up with Pakistan’s dominance

Babar Azam

Pakistan were the highlight of the tournament, winning all of their matches in the group and buoyed on by thousands wherever they went. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah must have felt like Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.

As the tournament went on, it felt like destiny that the class of Babar Azam, the courage of Mohammed Rizwan, the inevitability of Shaheen Shah Afridi and the destructiveness of Asif Ali would take Pakistan all the way.

Only for Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade to silence the sea of green at the Dubai International Stadium. Australia didn’t just gatecrash the party. They ended it full stop.

Injuries ultimately break England’s stride

For a fortnight, England were nothing short of exceptional in all departments, despite missing key players. Jos Buttler was a class apart. His sensational unbeaten century in Sharjah – the only one all tournament – spoke of a man at the peak of his powers but when his opening partner, Jason Roy was ruled out of the tournament, ultimately it was one injury too many.

A spirited New Zealand, with an inspired Jimmy Neesham pulled off one of the great run chases in Abu Dhabi, in a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final.

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Formulaic flip of the coin

Ultimately, it was a tournament where the toss was undoubtedly the boss. 30 out of the 45 matches were won by the team that won the toss, with 29 games won by the side chasing. 19 of the 24 matches involving two full ICC Members were won by the chasing team.

Win the toss and chase was pretty much the formula to adopt. For a format of the game renewed for its unpredictability, maybe this was all just a tad too predictable.

It culminated with a first ever all-Antipodean affair in the Middle East, but an all too familiar outcome. Yet, courtesy of an unfamiliar name.

Marsh (really) makes amends

The unfulfilled talent of Mitchell Marsh finally having his moment. And boy, what a moment and what a stage. A man who once said that “most of Australia hates me” before adding that he hopes to “win them over one day.” That, he certainly did with a knock for the ages in the final. The sight of Marsh in all his ecstasy was quite something to see. Now, a hero in his land.

Collectively, this was a World Cup that perhaps didn’t have all the feeling of a World Cup. At times, it felt like just another part of the jam-packed calendar.

By the end of the week, six of the teams involved will be back in action whilst many of the names involved move on to the Abu Dhabi T10.

Such is the brutality of the calendar that both England and Australia shared a flight to the Gold Coast the morning after the final for the Ashes, and in just under a year’s time, we’ll do it all again. For Australia, a chance to defend their title on home soil.

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