Australia beat New Zealand in final win their maiden T20 and 06th overall world title.
Two different nights, two different parts of the planet, two sides producing totally contrasting emotions but essentially a solid message has been sent to the rest of the world since the sandpaper saga of 2018.
As soon as the ball touched the boundary on the night of November 14 in the World T20 Final between Australia and New Zealand, the irrepressible Glenn Maxwell had reached to the other end to hug probably the match-winner of the night, Mitchell Marsh. It was a sigh of relief especially for coach, Justin Langer.
The low – Sandpaper Saga at Cape Town, 2018
Such a tough time it was for the players and the fans since the brutal incident that took place in March 2018 when Australia player Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras trying to rough up one side of the cricket ball with sandpaper to make it swing in the third Test against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town.
This was not the end of the story as skipper Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were found to be in collusion with this devious plan and all three players received hefty sanctions from an outraged Cricket Australia and were subjected to one of the biggest dressing downs by the cricket-loving public and media of Australia.
Justin Langer appointed Head Coach after Darren Lehmann stepped down but the downslide continued
Just think about Langer: a champ from the golden era of Australian Cricket who was appointed as Head Coach of the side and straightaway they were whitewashed by mighty England (5-0) in an ODI series in the old country.
They lost another Test series in Pakistan by 0-1 in United Arab Emirates (UAE) later that year. India then went on to win two Test series on Australian soil. Australia were disqualified from the semis of the 2019 World Cup; in between those, they won against a weak Sri-Lankan side, earned victory in an ODI series in India and retained the Ashes 2019 (2-2). The Kangaroos were getting punches back and forth across the cricketing spectrum.
So, where did the World T20 2021 win come from?
Coming into this edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, one was rest assured that no one in their waking senses gave Australia a chance to be in the top four, leave aside clinching the title, especially after being placed in the group of death.
Why should the world pay money to watch Australia play knowing that they were winless in their last five T20I series? England, India, New Zealand, West Indies and even Bangladesh, all appeared stronger than them.
Well, they say you always want to be in form or probably in your rhythm going into a short tournament like the T20 World Cup where the table could turn overnight. But to be brutally honest, apart from Maxwell and Josh Hazlewood, no Australia player was doing their job properly on the cricket field.
After an unexpected omission from Sunrisers Hyderabad, David Warner was mostly found on Instagram, Aaron Finch was coming after a surgery. Marcus Stoinis and Steven Smith were not playing for their franchise too whereas rest of the squad were spending time in the home winter.
So, the practice games were going to be really crucial for the side; they won their first warm-up game against New Zealand by an inch and went on to lose their second game against India comprehensively.
Notwithstanding that, the tournament got kicked off with their game against South Africa. After restricting them to a low score, it appeared like the Aussies would have a cake walk which wasn’t the case. Another win against Sri-Lanka meant they were on track but the brightest news was David Warner’s getting back into form. The team was in good vibe as we saw the left-handed opener doing a bit of Ronaldo, removing the drinks bottle during the press conference.
Probably, when they lost to arch-rivals England and the way Buttler smashed them all over Dubai somehow shocked the team management and woke them up from their slumber.
Finch and his lads left the field being so demoralized and now the equation of net run rate came into play. That was where Langer and those people behind the scenes came into play just to remind how to fight back when the backs are firmly against the wall.
Remember they are Australia; they have a huge proud history to take inspiration from.
Turnaround kicks off after game against England to reach the climax on November 14 with title win
They came all guns blazing in their last two group matches. They played some excellent cricket against both Bangladesh and West Indies, the defending champions. What stood out throughout the tournament was how Adam Zampa played his role to perfection; his job was to go for a few but pick essential wickets in the middle overs.
There was so much talk before the competition about UAE and spin; it didn’t spin that much and that was why the way Zampa bowled - changing lines, lengths, speeds with various field placements - was fantastic. Fortunes favoured the brave and South Africa’s exit took them to the semis against undefeated Pakistan.
Australia halt Pakistan’s unbeaten run in SF 2
Finch won an important toss in the second semi-final. After Pakistan posted 176 on the big night, the opening spell of Shaheen Shah Afridi was a treat to watch getting Finch for a duck. Although Mitchell Marsh got some runs, he had no clue too on the ground.
Warner made some crucial runs but he required support from the other end. When it came to the fag end of the game, Matthew Wade was batting with Stoinis and with 18 balls in hand, the Kangaroos needed 37 with both the players struggling to up the ante. One could already gauge the dropping shoulders in the balcony caught by an eerie silence.
The 19th over arrived and Afridi was promptly put into the attack and even after the dropped catch, there were still 18 runs required and the way Mathew Wade, who was doing a carpenter’s job couple of years back, hit those 3 sixes to take them over the line provided them enough confidence going into the Trans-Tasman rivalry on the last evening.
Redemption complete for Australia in the final
New Zealand, till the 10th over of the game, were riding on a rickshaw and the main reasons were Zampa and Hazlewood, who even after being marvelous throughout the tournament remained unnoticed. The experience playing with Bravo in the IPL taught Hazlewood several lessons. Bowling hard lengths and varying pace, using those cutters hitting the deck hard was something to be noticed. An innings of pure class by NZ skipper Kane Williamson (85) took Blackcaps to a safe 173.
Again, Finch got out cheaply in the beginning itself but the approach was clear: Australia were not going to sit back.
Warner and Mitchell Marsh partnership made sure Australia won’t be behind the eight-ball. It was another fairy tale and when they got crowned, the emotions of Marsh of what he had gone through was painted out. “Yeah, most Australia hate me.”
His comments during the 2019 Ashes could come from a smiley face but there was so much weight behind the words. “Just wanted to go out there and register presence.” He told after being adjusted as the player of the match in the finals.
Australia are still not the best T20 side in the world right now to be honest. They are yet to crack the T20 code but the collective job at the right time has taken them to new glory. A side, that was limping couple of months ago, has matched Usain Bolt. They have been successful to erase the past pain and set a new standard to look forward. Still, one wonders what will happen if they somehow go on to lose the Ashes; will the ghosts make a return?