Cricket Australia celebrated its first tournament success in the shortest form of the game as the Aussies captured glory at the ICC T20 World Cup after defeating New Zealand by 8 wickets in Dubai.
This was the 7th edition of the Men's premier T20 international tournament, albeit the reformatting of the international cricketing scene by the International Cricket Council (ICC), together with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, meant the World Cup was the first T20I competition since 2016.
Five-and-a-half years after Carlos Braithwaite smacked four consecutive sixes to win the World T20 Final for West Indies versus England, did the leading cricketing nations eventually reconvene on the T20I stage.
In light of the minimal T20I action in recent years it was declared that the first two editions of the newly-formatted T20 World Cup would be staged over two consecutive years – 2021 in India and 2022 in Australia.
However, the tournament this year was relocated away from India to UAE and Oman in response to a resurgence of Covid-19 on the sub-continent.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) was also moved away from India to the UAE after the tournament was suspended due to Covid in early May.
The first round of the 2021 T20 World Cup was held in Oman as eight teams were in the mix to qualify for the Super 12.
2014 World T20 champions Sri Lanka were in Group A with Ireland, Namibia and Netherlands.
Scotland were grouped alongside Bangladesh, Oman and Papua New Guinea in Group B.
Sri Lanka and Scotland both advanced as pool winners, while Namibia and Bangladesh qualified as runners-up and the four nations joined the likes of Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and reigning T20 champions West Indies.
Three venues were used across the Super 12 and Finals – namely in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah.
Abu Dhabi hosted 11 matches, Dubai 13, and Sharjah 9.
Australia, England, SA, and West Indies were altogether in Group 1, joined by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from the qualifiers.
India, NZ, and Pakistan occupied Group 2 with Afghanistan, Namibia, and Scotland.
In the opening game of the Super 12 phase Australia took on South Africa at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Aaron Finch won the toss and sent Temba Bavuma's Proteas in to bat first.
The Aussies took 3 wickets in the opening 5 overs and the Proteas were on 83/7 after 15 overs and posted an underwhelming total of 118/9 with Aiden Markram (40) the only South African batsman to score above 20 runs.
Australia lost both opening batsmen Finch and David Warner inside 5 overs before former captain Steve Smith added 35. Despite a significantly low run target the contest went to the final over as Australia won by 5 wickets with 2 balls to spare.
England swept aside West Indies in their World Cup opener in Dubai. England restricted the Windies to 55 runs all-out as spin bowler Adil Rashid took 4 wickets for only 2 runs.
England won by 6 wickets, with 13 overs remaining.
Pakistan and India squared off in Dubai to get their World Cup campaigns underway and similarly to the three preceding matches, the toss-winning captain (in this instance Babar Azam) opted to field first.
India struggled to get going and lost 3 wickets in the Powerplay with just 36 runs on the board after 6 overs. Outgoing captain Virat Kohli steadied the ship and brought up his half-century before departing for 57 in the 19th over. Rishabh Pant made 39 as India posted 151/7.
Pakistan's opening pair of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan took India's bowling attack by storm, building an opening-wicket partnership of 152 runs from 107 deliveries. Pakistan crushed India by 10 wickets, Rizwan ending on 79* not-out and skipper Azam 68* not-out.
Two days later Pakistan met New Zealand in Sharjah as Azam once again won the toss and sent the opposition in to bat. NZ stumbled with their top 3 scorers reaping a combined 79 runs which saw the Black Caps post 134/8 in 20 overs.
Pakistan's opening pair did not carry that same momentum from 48 hours prior against India, with Azam bowled for 9 and Rizwan trapped lbw for 33 runs.
However, Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali saw out victory for their nation, beating the Kiwis by 5 wickets to put Pakistan in good stead for the latter stages of the tournament.
A grudge match in Dubai saw Australia go to battle with Ashes rivals England. Eoin Morgan won the toss and following the general trend at the showpiece in UAE, he sent Finch and Australia into the middle. Finch's 44-run knock was the Aussies' only cause for celebration as his contribution was the only >20 score for Australia who were bowled out for 125.
Jos Buttler smacked 5 sixes and 5 fours on the way to a 32-ball 71* not-out to give England an 8-wicket win with 7 overs to spare.
New Zealand later played India at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium where the crowd were overwhelmingly in support of the tournament's original hosts. Kane Williamson won the toss and, unsurprisingly, chose to field.
Only two India batsmen returned above 20 runs as Kohli's men posted a total of 110/7.
Trent Boult took 3/20 and Ish Sodhi 2/17.
Williamson and Daryl Mitchell made 33* and 49, respectively, as New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 33 balls extra – leaving India largely unlikely of advancing to the semifinals.
South Africa and England clashed in what was both teams' last match of the Super 12. England won the toss and fielded first. The Proteas posted an immaculate total of 189/2 as Rassie van der Dussen scored an unbeaten 94* including 5 fours and 6 sixes.
England had a decent start with bat in hand before SA-born Jason Roy retired hurt and England were 81/2 after 10 overs. The wickets gradually began to fall and Kagiso Rabada took a hat-trick in the final over of the innings – the pace bowler dismissing England captain Morgan, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan to end with match figures of 3/48. SA won by 10 runs.
Despite an impressive triumph over the top-ranked Twenty20 nation it was too little, too late for the Proteas who were snubbed of a place in the semifinals by virtue of net run-rate.
The trio of England, Australia and SA all recorded 4 wins from 5 but South Africa ultimately lost out by an inferior NRR.
Pakistan were the only team to advance from the Super 12 without tasting defeat, topping Group 2 with a maximum 10 points. New Zealand finished runners-up which saw India miss out on the knockouts of a major T20I tournament for first time since 2012.
Selected Super 12 results:
Australia beat SA by 5 wickets
Pakistan beat India by 10 wickets
Pakistan beat NZ by 5 wickets
England beat Australia by 8 wickets
NZ beat India by 8 wickets
Sri Lanka beat West Indies by 20 runs
SA beat England by 10 runs
SF 1: ENG vs NZ
New Zealand met England in a rematch of the 2016 World T20 semifinal in Delhi 5 years prior, where England triumphed and advanced to the Final against West Indies.
In their most recent rendezvous in Abu Dhabi, NZ won the toss and Williamson's men fielded first.
Moeen Ali top-scored for England with 51* not-out and South African-born Dawid Malan added 41 as the English posted 166/5.
New Zealand opening batsman Mitchell hit an impressive 72* not-out from 47 balls and wicketkeeper Devon Conway contributed 46 runs to the Kiwis' cause as the men in black secured a 5-wicket victory with an over left to spare.
SF 2: AUS vs PAK
In the corresponding semi in Dubai, Australia locked horns with an undefeated Pakistan outfit and when Aaron Finch won the toss he opted for his opposite number Babar Azam to open the batting.
Rizwan reverberated his recent form and top-scored with 67 runs and Fakhar Zaman made 55 as Pakistan recorded a total of 176/4 at a run-rate of 8,8 RPO.
Up until this point in the tournament no team had successfully chased down a target above 172 (Sri Lanka chased 172 against Bangladesh) and Australia needed 177 to win and reach the World Cup Final.
Captain Finch departed for a golden duck, trapped lbw by Shaheen Afridi in the opening over. Warner got the Aussies up and running as he put 49 runs on the board before he was removed after 10 overs. Marcus Stoinis and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade carried out the task at hand as Australia claimed a 5-wicket win over Pakistan with an over remaining, setting up a Championship showdown with New Zealand.
Final: AUS vs NZ
As the pinnacle of T20I loomed, tensions and hype continued to build surrounding the grand finale. Australia won the toss and it came as no surprise when Finch asked Williamson's Black Caps to bat first. Captain Williamson saved his best performance for the Final as he hit 85 runs to steer his side to a decent total of 172/4.
Finch was once more dismissed early on, in the third over for just 5 runs. Warner pushed on and brought up his third 50 at the World Cup, while batting partner Mitchell Marsh smashed 77* not-out from 50 balls which paved the way for Australia to clinch an 8-wicket win and snatch World Cup glory from under the grasp of New Zealand.
Finch led his Aussie army to a maiden T20I crown in his nation's second T20I Final after Australia lost to Ashes rivals England in the 2010 Championship match in Barbados.
Australia are five-time World Cup winners in the 50-over format but up until past Sunday were in search of a first T20I title.
Warner was named Player of the Tournament with teammate Adam Zampa also a frontrunner for the accolade. Warner bounced back from a demoralising IPL campaign where the Australian opening batsman was ostracized from the Sunrisers Hyderabad set-up and replaced as captain by Kane Williamson, whom Warner got the better of on Sunday in Dubai.
Warner scored the most boundaries of any player, with 32 fours and 10 sixes to his name, and scored 3 half-centuries to end the tournament with 289 runs from 7 outings at the crease, including a best knock of 89* not-out against West Indies.
T20 World Cup stats:
The ball cleared the boundary rope a total 1,349 times with 944 fours struck throughout the competition in addition to 405 sixes. During the Super 12 there were 269 sixes in 30 matches, averaging almost 9 sixes per match.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam notched more runs than any other batsmen, with 303 runs in 6 innings' at an average of 60. Azam became the fastest batsman to reach 2,500 runs in T20I cricket, passing the milestone in 62 innings – six fewer than outgoing India captain Virat Kohli.
Azam also scored the most half-centuries at the T20 World Cup with four.
Fellow opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan scored 281 runs in 6 matches at an average of 70. Rizwan notched three 50s and hit 12 sixes – fewer than only England's Jos Buttler (13).
Buttler accumulated 269 runs in 6 matches, an average of 89, and was the only centurion at the competition after his 67-ball knock of 101* not-out vs Sri Lanka, including 6 fours and 6 sixes in an inspired innings.
The top 10 run-scorers at the T20 World Cup featured no South Africans, with Rassie van der Dussen the highrest-ranked at T13 in the tournament.
Three New Zealanders placed in the top 10 with Williamson (216) and the duo of Martin Guptill & Daryl Mitchell (both 208) spearheading the Kiwis' batting unit.
Sri Lanka (Asalanka 231 & Nissanka 221) and Pakistan each had two representatives while Australia, England and Namibia all had a solitary batsman amongst the the top 10 run-scorers.
van der Dussen was South Africa's top run-scorer in the UAE with 177 runs in 5 games and the 32-year-old starred in the Proteas' victory over England with 94* not-out and a commendable 103*-run partnership with Aiden Markram.
Azam & Rizwan's opening-wicket partnership versus India of 152* runs was the highest partnership at the tournament.
Warner and Mitchell Marsh shared a 124-run 2nd wicket partnership against the West Indies before the pair put up a 92-run stand in the Championship decider vs New Zealand.
Sri Lankan spin bowler Wanindu Hasaranga's 16 wickets was the most of any bowler, coming at a cost of 156 runs in 30 overs across 8 matches including qualifiers.
Adam Zampa ended with tournament figures of 13/157 in 27 overs across 7 matches, and NZ pace bowler Trent Boult claimed 13 wickets for 173 runs in 27.4 overs in 7 matches.
Zampa kept an economy of 5.81 and the 29-year-old spin bowler claimed at least one scalp in each of Australia's 7 games at the tournament, including a five-wicket haul (5/19) against Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi spinner Shakib Al-Hasan took 11 wickets in 22 overs at a cost of 123 runs (economy 5.59). Josh Hazlewood took 11 wickets in 24 overs, costing 175 runs (economy 7.29).
South Africa's Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje claimed 9 wickets apiece in 5 matches. Nortje was the Proteas' most economic bowler (5.37) after the fast bowler conceded 104 runs from 19.2 overs.
Tabraiz Shamsi and Kagiso Rabada each picked up 8 wickets for their country.
Steve Smith took 8 catches for Australia and no other player took more during the competition.
One factor which evidently was influential in winning or losing matches was the coin toss. Of the 30 matches during the Super 12 phase and the three matches in the semis & Final, 26 toss-winning captains chose to field first (79 per cent) and 23/33 captains who won the toss went on to win the match (70 per cent).
Aaron Finch only lost the toss once in 7 games – in Australia's one and only loss at the tournament versus England.
There were just seven total scores above 180 runs – all of which came in the first innings'.
The tournament saw only 3 successful run chases above 170 runs, two of them by the Aussies in the semis and the Final both in Dubai.
World Cup winners Warner, Zampa and Hazlewood were all named in the Most Valuable Team of the Tournament, as was runner-up Boult. South African Aiden Markram made the best team at the event, as did English pair Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam was included along with Sri Lanka's Hasaranga and Charith Asalanka.
There were a significant amount of players from South Africa at the World Cup, with a few playing for other nations involved in the event.
England usually have at least one squad member of South African descent in their national set-up and at this past World Cup the English boasted three SA-born players in Dawid Malan, Jason Roy, and Tom Curran.
Namibia also have a significant South African contingent in and around the national team, with Pierre de Bruyn and ex-Protea Albie Morkel amongst Namibia's coaching and backroom staff.
Most pertinently, however, is former Protea David Wiese who was Namibia's shining light as the all-rounder placed in the top 10 run scorers at the World Cup.
Wiese was born in Roodepoort, Gauteng and made his T20I debut for South Africa in 2013 against Sri Lanka. Wiese played in 20 T20Is but last appeared in green and gold in March 2016 at the ICC World T20 thereafter he was omitted from the national team and sent to play domestic cricket before moving to England where he represented Sussex.
Wiese's father was born in Namibia and the 36-year-old was named in Namibia's World Cup squad in September, joining a handful of other players also with South African heritage.
Namibia fast bowler Ruben Trumpelmann hails from Durban, while all-rounder Jan Frylinck was born in the Western Cape.
Namibia wicketkeeper Michau du Preez and batsman Karl Birkenstock also originated from SA.
Netherlands did not qualify for the core phase of the tournament but the Dutch yet contained several players with South African connections.
Roelof van der Merwe, born in Johannesburg, represented South Africa in 13 T20Is but has been a member of the Netherlands national team since 2015.
Dutch vice-captain Colin Ackermann was born in George in the Western Cape, and opening batsman Stephan Myburgh came from Pretoria.
With the next T20 World Cup scheduled to commence in October 2022, Australia will be playing hosts as well as defending champions.
Before then, however, is the upcoming Ashes tour which starts next month and wraps up in mid-January. Australia host England in the traditional 5-match Test series, starting on 8 December in Brisbane.
Other forthcoming international cricket sees New Zealand's tour of India beginning this week and consisting of 3 T20Is and 2 Test matches. India later prepare to tour South Africa in mid-December as the sides will contest 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 4 T20Is concluding at the end of January.
West Indies are currently touring Sri Lanka where the nations are set to play 2 Test matches, thereafter the Windies will travel to Pakistan for a white-ball tour of 3 T20Is and 3 ODIs.