The year 2007 wasn't proving to be a good one for cricket, financially that is. The ODI World Cup in the West Indies turned out to be a drab affair. The tournament went on for far too long, its format deemed unacceptable. The final between Australia and Sri Lanka ended in a farce, and early favourites India were knocked out in the nascent stages. Pakistan’s off-field troubles didn’t help either.
You can see why the ICC decided to move forth with a tournament of this stature for its shortest format. 2005 was when a Twenty20 International had first been played, yet the number of matches on the calendar was limited to one-off affairs. When India departed for South Africa to take part in the first ICC World T20, they had played just one T20 International.
The 2007 ICC World T20 proved to be an immensely successful affair. Of course the game - replete with its most attractive stars - was very appealing in this slam-bang avatar. As much as cricket is loved in the Caribbean, there was a distinct difference in the atmosphere in South Africa. No, it wasn’t about the song and dance routine on the sidelines. Just that cricket as a whole seemed more electric.
Apart from the ten Test playing nations, Kenya and Scotland were invited to participate in the inaugural edition. Along with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, they formed a bunch of minnows who punched way above their weight, almost as an offshoot of the ODI World Cup where too, there were some shockers in the group stages.
Bangladesh beat West Indies by six wickets knocking them out. Australia lost to Zimbabwe by five wickets, but managed to survive after winning their group game against England. Scotland’s match against India was washed out and the Men in Blue stayed alive through a tied match with Pakistan, beating them on bowl-out.
That Bowl-Out was the first ever instance in international cricket. India’s bowlers hit the stumps thrice as against zero by Pakistan, and won. Since then, this has been replaced by the Super Over, allowing the batsmen to participate as well, more in line with how cricket works.
The top two teams from each group advanced to the Super Eights stage. In Group E were India, New Zealand, South Africa and England. In Group F were Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The latter was pretty straightforward with Australia regaining form and winning all their matches to progress to the semis. Pakistan won two out of three matches and became the second team to qualify from this group.
However, Group E was more complicated. England were beaten in their first two matches and met India in a must-win game at Durban. The Indians too had lost to the Kiwis and needed to win to keep their hopes alive. Yuvraj Singh smacked Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over, on his way to a 12-ball fifty, as India won in a high-scoring game. England were eliminated and the other three sides were left on equal points.
In the final match between South Africa and India, the hosts were chasing 154 for clear victory, but needed only 120-odd to qualify for the semis. A mix of good bowling plus the Proteas' habitual choke meant that they finished at 116 for nine, getting knocked out.
The two semi-finals were intriguing affairs as well. In the first one at Cape Town, New Zealand couldn’t live with Umar Gul's swing. The pace bowler finished with three for 15 from his four overs, restricting the Kiwis to 143 for eight in their 20 overs. Pakistan then chased it down with relative ease, winning by six wickets. At Durban, in the second semi, India rode again on Yuvraj Singh's blistering form as they scored 188 for five. Singh got 70 off only 30 balls and took the match away despite Mathew Hayden trying his best with 62 runs off only 47 balls.
The inaugural ICC WT20 couldn’t have asked for a better final than the two arch-rivals meeting in battle at Johannesburg. It was expected to be a high-scoring game at the Bullring, but India did not make a good start. Only Gautam Gambhir played a good knock, scoring 75 from 54 balls. Pakistan were set a target of 158 and they were helped by a 21-run over by Sreesanth.
But then Mahendra Singh Dhoni came to the fore with his clever captaincy, changing his bowlers around with regularity and slowing the innings down.
Pakistan went into the last over needing 13 runs and Misbah-ul-Haq took seven off the first two balls, including a six. But with the same number needed off four balls, he was out paddle sweeping Joginder Sharma, as Sreesanth completed a high catch at fine leg.
India won, heralding a new era in cricket, one which brought about the T20 leagues we see round the year in every part of the globe today.
© Cricket World 2012
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