Over 5 Tours in England: Naseem Shah really managed it. 140 flicks, over and over, top that mark, gain movement, and lose control of his streak even as the ball scrambled down the leg to gain breadth. At the other end, Joss Butler had no idea what to do. Shah moved the ball so fast, hitting it again and again, and then again.
Suddenly, Butler knew what to do. Advance forward, move across the line, and then inward, fast enough to get Shah’s incoming delivery. 140 clicks back from the pacer, only this time deposited on a slender shank for six. And then, the normal service resumed again – the bowling pace Shah, with the movement, Butler unable to get the ball, surviving, because it is too good to go out meekly.
It was a great ending, a huge competition within a huge competition, full of speed, bounce, action, and those silly six – it was a sight to behold. And it was a perfect summation of what the 2022 T20 World Cup was like. One to remember for ages!
Yes, there was rain. yes, India went out. Yes, Australia came out too. But cricket was surreal for the four weeks that it lasted. This upheaval made it what it was – a tournament that baffled the neutral, and inspired those passionate enough to support cricket for what it was.
You had Namibia pull the rug out from under Sri Lanka on opening day. You had Zimbabwe falter Pakistan. Ireland has sent a warning to England. The Netherlands has been surprising South Africa and with it the rest of the cricket world.
It was crazy from a sporting point of view when Sri Lanka had to fight to get to the main draw; When Pakistan gave up hope of qualifying; When New Zealand crushed Australia’s opening night run rate; When rain played the spoiler game in the MCG and the English took the calculators; When Bangladesh smashed the same calculators as the judges started the India game too early in Adelaide; When Butler and Alex Hales sent the ball into orbit in the later semi-finals.
Cricket is, at its core, a story about circumstances. In Test cricket you want a perfect 50-50 balance between bat and ball. In white ball cricket this balance is in favor of the hitters, even more so in T20. In the UAE last year, we saw the bat ruling the roost and each team winning the toss and chasing. There was nothing else for her. You were made for a really bad tournament.
This year the scales tilted in a different direction. From 9-10 in favor of the bat in the Dubai desert, we had the ball dominating the Australian Outback. It wasn’t exactly 9-10 in favor of bowlers, except perhaps Perth when India and South Africa met. It was more like 60-40 towards the ball, and it went down to 55-45 towards the knockout stage.
You made for an amazing and wonderful scene in it. When India and Pakistan clashed at the MCG, 90,000 people flocked to witness an epic clash. Competitors have played in ICC tournaments in the past, but that was in the memory. By those who were there, because they witnessed something magical! And also by those who were not there, they saw something magical on TV, and then heard about it again from those who were there.
From a neutral point of view, the Australians did not have a dog in the fight and were stunned by the atmosphere. Then there was work on the pitch. Excellence is the word that comes to mind when one recalls Virat Kohli’s magical blow. Little did Pakistan know it had an equal score on board. India did not know what hit them. Hardik Pandya didn’t know it would inspire the chase. Little did Kohli know he would recover in Melbourne after three long years.
It was the blow of the tournament, and probably the best blow ever in the T20 World Cup. In terms of the overall picture, the New Zealander’s victory over Australia was as dominant as it got. Zimbabwe and Pakistan went to wire, and most people were stunned by the result. However, the first round had its share of great matches. The Emirates dealt with both the Netherlands and Namibia, with the latter losing marginally. The Magic of the Irish and Disappointment of the West Indies completed the lineup for this tournament.
The final was no different. England entered the match with a strong hand. Had Butler-Hulse had taken off, Pakistan would have been run over. But not under these conditions – the bowling lineup arose again, because it was what kept Pakistan breathing during the tournament. Pessimists may argue that Shaheen Afridi’s injury cost Pakistan, but there will only be a secondary truth to that. At best, it would have given us a closer contest. However, England was miles ahead, at night, and throughout the tournament. The best team won the night, the best team won the tournament!
Thanks to the conditions, the balance between the racket and the ball was maintained throughout. The lowest ranked teams were able to challenge the top favorites thanks to this balance. When bowlers have an opinion, the best players should listen to the melody they sing.
As long as the conditions suit bowlers and do not openly favor batsmen, cricket – no matter the form – will thrive and we will celebrate it. In a way, this has provided the blueprint going forward, not just for T20 cricket, but also for ODIs, as the 50-plus format struggles to survive.
If the 1992 World Cup changed the way outdoor matches were played and consumed, thirty years later, this T20 World Cup could breathe new life into all-white ball cricket.