India are the Twenty20 World Champions after defeating Pakistan with a narrow 5-run margin in the Final at Johannesburg. One can dare to say that Dhoni’s boys achieved a similar feat to what Kapil Dev’s Devils did in 1983. This inaugural Twenty20 World Championship was one heck of a tournament with so much happening in so little time. Almost all the sides were as dangerous as the other and to come out as the Champs is one great achievement from India who were never taken seriously in this tournament. Dhoni’s boys became the Champs despite going into this tournament without three of their run machines, they were without a Coach and all they had was the experience of playing just one T20 International.
When Pakistan lost Shahid Afridi playing a foolish shot, it was certain that they were losing the game and the Cup. But Misbah-ul-Haq stood there and did a ‘Javed Miandad’ and got Pakistan within striking distance. But fate had other ideas when Pak had just 6 to get in 4 balls. A threatening scoop shot from Misbah-ul-Haq off the gentle Joginder could only travel up and down into the hands of Sreesanth at short fine leg who kept his basics right in the high pressure moment. India with that pulled off a five-run victory as the match went along the strategy cooked up by their skipper. Bat first, put runs on the board and keep on taking wickets at regular intervals was the formula which was done perfectly. Pakistani batsmen didn’t apply themselves and were done in for not respecting the wicket conditions.
The pitch at Johannesburg was expected to be flat and a perfect one for a limited overs game. Although the toss went in India’s favour, Pakistan were happy to bowl first which is what they had to do. India were handicapped going into the game with Virender Sehwag not able to get himself fit after a groin strain. His place went to Yusuf Pathan, a hard striker and a useful offie. And Yusuf, the older brother of Irfan was sent in straight away to open the innings with Gautam Gambhir. After a lucky run out escape in the first ball, Yusuf decided to unleash his sword. In the fourth ball of the match, Asif’s length ball was sent screaming over his head for maximum which signaled intentions that Yusuf and the Indian team had nothing to lose and everything to gain. India got to a rocking start and even when Yusuf Pathan was out miscuing a hook, the scoreboard still looked pretty at 25 for 1 in the 3rd over. Pakistan started to tighten up after this wicket and in the 8th over got rid of Robin Uthappa through a slog. Gambhir and Yuvraj got together but today the boundaries and the sixes weren’t coming that freely.
At half way stage, India got to 69 for 2. The momentum seemed to have been coming after a four and a six were hit off Afridi’s bowling but the introduction of Umar Gul dented the Indian progress. Yuvraj Singh in his stay never looked good with the ball not coming onto the bat making it difficult to time the big shots. For once, Yuve’s magical hook shot couldn’t come off and Umar Gul took a return catch to dismiss India’s best batsman. Yuvraj fell in the 14th over after getting 14 from 19 with India at 103 for 3. A lot depended on Dhoni to take the score to 180 plus but he too was sent back early by Umar Gul after the Indian Captain failed desperately to get underneath a full length delivery to be cleaned up. Now Gambhir was forced to stay till the distance as the new batsmen have been struggling to come in terms of the slow wicket. The left hander got a six out after a long time but after a couple of balls later became Umar Gul’s third wicket having played a cute paddle sweep straight to Asif at short leg. Gambhir had done his job though with an important 75 in 54 balls that had 8 fours and 2 sixes. Most of his fours were hit all along the ground which meant that it was not easy at all in lofting the ball today. Rohit Sharma’s two fours and a six finished things well for India as they reached 157 for 5 on a track in which the ball was holding up on the surface. Umar Gul was once again the outstanding bowler with 3 for 28 in his 4.
RP Singh like has always done produced the breakthrough early on. He forced Mohammad Hafeez to nick him into the slips in the 1st over and then clean bowled Kamran Akmal in the 3rd over. Those two wickets were separated by a couple of fours and sixes coming from Imran Nazir off a wayward Sreesanth. But Sreesanth has always come back strongly after having a bad start and today was no different as he bowled a maiden to Younis Khan. However, he and RP Singh went for a couple of boundaries each in their respective third overs. In Sreesanth’s third over came the turning point with Robin Uthappa at covers firing a direct throw to find Imran Nazir struggling to get to the crease at the striker’s end because of a groin injury. India were lucky because Imran Nazir wasn’t allowed to have a runner by Umpire Mark Benson as this was a pre-match injury. Imran Nazir blasted 33 in 14 with 4 fours and 2 sixes.
After the field restrictions got over, Dhoni cleverly brought in Joginder Sharma and Irfan Pathan to bowl in tandem. Both were difficult to get away on a slow track and Younis Khan found that when his lofted shot went nowhere to be caught off the bowling of Joginder. Irfan Pathan got into the wicket taking act as well when he had Shoaib Malik to mistime his pull shot to be caught at mid wicket after a 17-ball stay that fetched only 8 runs. Pakistan at this stage where 77 for 5 in the 12th with Boom Boom Afridi joining the reliable Misbah-ul-Haq. Afridi was greeted with a first ball bouncer from Irfan Pathan and that fired up the Pakistani Pathan. In only his second ball, he went for the big six over Irfan Pathan’s head only to get caught at long off. A stupid shot it was which has cost the match and the tournament for Pakistan who slipped to 77 for 6. Misbah was the only recognized batsman left and the task was too much on one man. After all the damage was done, India were still yet to get their trump card – Harbhajan Singh.
The equation for Pak soon became 54 from 24 with just three wickets standing. Misbah-ul-Haq decided that Pakistan wouldn’t surrender and he launched Harbhajan Singh into the crowd on three occasions in the 17th over. Sohail Tanvir joined the fun too with two superbly struck sixes in the next over from Sreesanth to make it 20 from 13. But Sreesanth’s uncanny knack of coming back well after an adverse situation was witnessed again as he uprooted the off stump of Tanvir with a yorker. RP Singh was given the next over and he gave the wicket of Umar Gul but in the final ball went for a boundary off Asif. Dhoni decided to put the climax of the tournament on Joginder Sharma’s shoulder’s with 13 to get from 6. The first ball was a wide outside off to Misbah but the second one was a dot ball but the third ball from Joginder was a full toss that disappeared straight down the ground. It gave memories of Chetan Sharma bowling to Javed Miandad but history wasn’t repeated today with Misbah’s paddle falling into a pair of safe hands in the third ball of the over.
It simply was an incredible finish thanks to Misbah’s fighting 43 in 38 balls (4 sixes). The Indians held their never and got their dreams turn true. The Man of the Match was surprisingly Irfan Pathan who gave the important breakthroughs with his 3 for 16 in 4 overs. RP Singh wasn’t far away from Pathan with his 3 for 26. Gautam Gambhir was unlucky not to get rewarded for the best innings of the match but it wouldn’t matter as his team had won the World Championship. The Player of the Tournament went to Shahid Afridi, more for his bowling efforts.