Mumbai: The remarkable quality to perform at their absolute best on the biggest of stages has made Australia one of the most dominant sides in cricket world championships. On Sunday, they clinched their maiden T20 World Cup title in their least-mastered format till now. The Aussies beat the Kiwis comprehensively – as New Zealand maintained the dubious record of never beating their trans-Tasman rivals in the knockout stages of any tournament since 1981.
Australia’s history of triumphs in the World Cup finals is truly enviable. In the 2003 ODI World Cup final, the Aussies won by 125 runs; in the 2007 ODI final they won by 53 runs; they won the 2015 final by 7 wickets; and now in the 2021 T20 final, they have decimated New Zealand by 8 wickets! These 4 World Cup victories reflect that once the Aussie team smells blood, they simply annihilate their opponents.
The new T20 World Champions defeated New Zealand in a rather one-sided final. Chasing a target of 173, Australia won the game with 7 balls to spare, thanks to aggressive half-centuries from Mitchell Marsh and David Warner. As the Aussies celebrated, many felt a sense of empathy for Kane Williamson who played an outstanding captain’s knock and yet saw New Zealand falling short in white-ball cricket – though this was not as agonising a loss for the Kiwis as their heart-wrenching defeat in the ODI World Cup two years ago.
Australia won the toss and elected to bowl in Dubai where 11 out of 12 times the team batting second had won in this tournament. Though the Pakistan-Australia semi-final, also played in Dubai, was not impacted much by dew, statistics weighed heavily in favour of the team batting second. As a witty fan said, the ‘Toss has been the Big Boss’ in this T20 World Cup!
Put into bat, the Kiwis were pegged on the backfoot quickly as the star of their semi-final victory, Daryll Mitchell, went cheaply. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson repaired the damage but a tad too slow. Given the pressures of the final, the seniors managed to take New Zealand to just 57 for 1 in 10 overs. Martin Guptill’s laboured 28 off 35 balls reflected a pronounced struggle at the crease that was to hurt the Kiwi cause. Guptill’s scratchy form also seemed to affect the Kiwi skipper for a while.
After Guptill went, Captain Kane starred for the Kiwis with a thrilling 85 off 48 balls hitting 10 fours and three sixes. As Williamson shifted gears, it was a treat to watch him play. While he made only 15 runs in the first 16 balls that he faced, he thumped 70 off the next 31 deliveries in a knock of extraordinary brilliance. The Black Caps skipper became the captain with the highest score in a T20 World Cup final, surpassing Kumar Sangakkara.
Ultimately, in the last 10 overs, the Kiwis scored an astounding 115 runs to put up a fighting total. Despite the sluggish first 10 overs, New Zealand posted a fighting total of 172 for four.
For the Aussies, Josh Hazlewood was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 16 while Adam Zampa returned figures of 1/26 in another tight and effective spell of leg-spin. Hazlewood’s show was particularly impressive for he had even dropped Williamson – a missed chance that could well have cost the Aussies the match. But Hazelwood kept his focus in an incisive spell of line and length.
As they came out to chase, Australia was put on the defensive as Aaron Finch was dismissed cheaply by Trent Boult. But then Mitchell Marsh and David Warner stole the match from right under the nose of the Kiwis smelling victory. Marsh was promoted to number 3 by the team management for this tournament and after years of struggle with injuries he has now flowered into a consistent performer with the exceptional big-hitting ability
The whole match for many experts depended in a big way on Warner’s batting. His recent knocks seem even more significant given that he was dropped by the Hyderabad IPL team. Warner showed his class at the business end of the World Cup and made sure that this time there was no hiccup as in the 2010 final against England. The Aussies cantered to an easy win with Maxwell also hitting a few lusty blows. Marsh deservingly got the Player of the Match award and David Warner was chosen the Player of the Tournament.
After the 2 pulsating thrillers in the semis, the final was a relatively tame game and a bit of an anti-climax for many cricket lovers. In a World Cup where West Indies came as defending champions, England and India began as favourites and Pakistan was tipped to be winners as the only unbeaten side in the Super 12 stage, it is Australia that has won the title in the summit clash against the often under-rated New Zealand.
Consistent cricket, backing one’s strengths and commitment to do the best even in the most trying circumstances is the ‘Mantra’ that other teams need to learn from the two finalists as the next T20 World Cup is just a year away in Australia. England now gets ready to face this resurgent Aussie side in the Ashes with most of the playing 11 from Sunday likely to feature in the Australian team for the first test.
Team India will also be facing the Kiwis in just a few days on 17th November in Jaipur for their T20 series. India may have underperformed in the World Cup but they have the talent and flair to give the Kiwis a run for their money as the Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma era begins.
Significantly, this was a glorious World Cup, played amidst a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. The players have played their hearts out, performing to their best which is commendable given that they were living out a bubble life. Some of these players have not been home for months, yet on the ground, they gave it all for their nation and the fans!
Finally, it’s been an outstanding campaign for the Aussies as everything clicked for them at the right time and they will now go into next year’s T20 World Cup on home soil as the defending champions. Many sense that this win may inspire Australia to return to pre-eminence in cricket once again.