Despite the field being dwindled down to the final four teams, the World T20 has not been without its highlight performances. Here are five that stood out from the Super 10 stage of the tournament:
New Zealand’s spinners – 9/44 against India
As the hosts, and coming into the tournament in great form, India were expected to open their World T20 campaign in style against New Zealand, who turned a few heads with their team selection for the game. In an unexpected move, the Black Caps left out their main fast bowlers, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan, naming two spinners instead – leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and off-spinner Mitchell Santner – anticipating favourable spin conditions.
Having won the toss, New Zealand didn’t make a great start being reduced to 35 for 3. Corey Anderson’s 34 and Luke Rochi’s late cameo of 21 took them to 126, a total well within reach for a team of India’s caliber. But what followed proved to be one of the best performances by New Zealand spinners, as the selection decision – playing ‘horses for courses’ as it is called – proved worth the gamble with Santner and Nathan McCullum having India on their knees at 35 for 4. Sodhi and Santner then went on to share the next five wickets between them, before Adam Milne bowled Ashish Nehra in the beginning of the 18th over to bowl out India for 79, and give New Zealand an unexpected 47-run win.
Chris Gayle – 100 not out against England
The self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ had nothing but disdain for the English in the third match of the Super 10 round, as West Indies cantered to a six-wicket win thanks to Chris Gayle’s monster century. There is always a sense of uncertainty when England take the field in a T20 – as there was with West Indies whose preparations for the tournament were hampered by disagreements with their cricket board – but thanks to Joe Root’s 48, they looked to have scored a challenging score.
Enter Gayle who, as only he can, epitomized the big-hitting excitement of T20 cricket with a scorching innings needing just 27 balls to get to 50, and only another 20 to get to his century, as he single-handedly picked apart the English bowlers with a total of 11 sixes and five boundaries in his knock.
Joe Root – 83 against South Africa
After losing to West Indies, England were feeling the pressure facing South Africa in their second game of the tournament. Their bowlers were not particularly inspiring as Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla raced the Proteas to 96 in the eight over of the innings – even a huge total of 229 seemed like a blessing for the English, compared to what South Africa were projected to score.
The English themselves got off to a rollicking start having reached 71, in the fifth over, when their second of the openers were dismissed. They needed someone to carry them on from there, and Joe Root stepped up to the plate with a fantastic innings of 83 off just 44 balls. Every time the Proteas pegged the English back with a wicket Root responded with runs, stroking six boundaries to go with four sixes. He was dismissed with England needing 11 off 10 balls, but by then he had shifted the momentum so overwhelmingly in his team’s favour that the victory seemed more comfortable than the eventual two-wicket margin.
Virat Kohli – 82 against Australia
As if the cricketing world needed a reminder for how good he really was, Virat Kohli played an absolute blinder – and thus far the best innings of the tournament – when the pressure on hosts India was at its peak. A virtual quarter-final with the winner taking the final berth in the semi-finals, Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, and got off to a flying start thanks to openers Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch. But once both of them were dismissed, Australia’s innings stuttered, before eventually reaching what seemed to be a still-competitive score of 160.
Shikhar Dhawan’s wicket in the fourth over brought Kohli to the crease, and the Indian vice-captain was measured through the early and middle part of his innings, despite wickets falling at the other end. With India needing 59 from 36 balls, Kohli switched gears and took on the Australian bowlers who had simply no response to a man who seemed to have no faults on the night. In an absolute master-class Kohli spread his runs on either side of the field, expertly picking gaps and timing the ball so well that even when he hit it towards fielders there was not enough time to stop it – proving his pedigree as a batsman who thrives when the pressure is at its highest.
Angelo Mathews – 73 not out against England
There were very few positive performances in Sri Lanka’s World T20 campaign, but skipper Angelo Mathews’ fighting half-century in the do-or-die game against England was the best of them. Sri Lanka went on to lose the game, chasing an imposing 172, but Mathews played a memorable innings, coming in when Sri Lanka were 15 for 3 – they lost another wicket on the same score – and then taking to within 10 runs of the target.
Hampered by an injury towards the latter part of the innings, Mathews struck five sixes and three boundaries, as he gathered momentum and looked like he could lead Sri Lanka to an unlikely win. But two good overs by Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes at the end of the innings snuffed out the threat, as the defending champions were eliminated from the tournament.