Finally, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, the classy fulcrum of Sri Lanka’s batting over the last fifteen years, were rewarded for their continued and electric brilliance in their last game in the T20 format. As fireworks exploded and Sri Lankan supporters danced and screamed to their hearts’ content in the stands, Lasith Malinga raised the trophy and this team which had formerly made a habit of being on the losing side in semi-finals and finals, at last ended their hoodoo.
It was in many ways a typical T20 World Cup; it was completely unpredictable, with upsets which no one could have predicted, and the most consistent team losing in the final. India, for five matches, played excellently. The spinners tore through every hapless batting line-up they were presented with, the top order fired like only an Indian top-order can, and their captain MS Dhoni oversaw everything while missing nothing.
However, before the final there were concerns about their middle-order, and especially the out-of-form Yuvraj Singh who was suffering from a lack of match time allied to poor form. These concerns were given credence by his innings against Sri Lanka, a scratchy 11 from 21 balls that contributed to the below-par nature of India’s first innings score. 130 was not nearly enough on a surface that despite taking spin was still good and true, and the Sri Lankan batsman were never posed any serious problems knocking off the runs.
While there was no dream finish for the two retiring batsmen finishing the tournament with some hefty blows, Sangakkara displayed his usual timing and elegance with a composed 52 and was a calm presence during the nervy last few overs as the weight of their prospective achievement started to cause foolhardy shots amongst the other batsmen.
Indeed, the only time Sri Lanka’s marauding batsmen and fabled bowling attack were kept in check was in their group stage game against England. A brilliant 116 from Alex Hales took Stuart Broad’s team to their highest ever chase in the T20 format, as they successfully chased an imposing 189.
However, this was not the result from the tournament that the English public will remember. A truly humiliating defeat in the last game against The Netherlands put the seal on a shocking winter for English cricket. Set 133 to win, England poked and prodded their way to a miserable total of 88 all out. Their batting had been the redeeming feature of the tournament up until then; no longer. Where this leaves the position of Ashley Giles is unclear, but it is doubtful defeat to the Dutch will do much to strengthen it.
Away from the implosions of the English, the tournament produced similar batting collapses for Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand, as second innings became tricky on a turning pitch. Australia in particular will be disappointed by their efforts, a solitary victory against Bangladesh (who as hosts had a tournament to forget) was a poor return from a campaign expected to produce far greater rewards.
South Africa somehow moved away from their tag as regular tournament chokers while still managing to choke at the vital points of their semi-final against India, while in the other semi the West Indies will feel hard done by that Sri Lanka won by virtue of Duckworth-Lewis.
It was a gripping tournament capped by impudent strokes, canny bowling and gravity-defying fielding; the sort of event that makes you long for the English cricket season to finally shake off the winter and arrive.
Image courtesy of International Buisness Times