Yet another India-Sri Lanka match, but this one of great importance to India, who were looking to bounce back after their surprise defeat to Zimbabwe in the first game of the Micromax Cup. For Sri Lanka, this would be a chance for Tillekeratne Dilshan to rediscover some form after an indifferent few months, but with the added pressure of captaining his team. With such names as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan being rested, the future of India and Sri Lanka decked it out in Bulawayo.
International cricket visited Zimbabwe for the first time in two years, as Sri Lanka, India and the home team play for the 2010 Micromax Cup. Zimbabwe are out to (re-)establish themselves as a world class team, and with Sri Lanka and India resting experienced players to breed a new crop for the 2011 World Cup, they have a great chance of improving and impressing after a decade in the wilderness. Suresh Raina assumed the controls for India as his team faced the home side in the first fixture of the tournament.
Good friends (and better enemies) Australia and New Zealand met in the final of the women's edition of the 2010 World Twenty20. After their male counterparts failed to topple the auld enemy England, it fell to Alex Blackwell and her team to ensure that the green and gold would take home some gold on the day. In her way was Aimee Watkins and her White Ferns, who had enjoyed a good run up to the tournament and were in their third consecutive World Cup final. They were 0-2 going into this one, and would have hoped that the third time was their charm.
Group D of the 2010 World Twenty20 was full of the underachievers, the "if onlies" - or so we thought. The West Indies and England were both in gradual states of decline, neither team being able to replicate the successes of their respective outfits of the 1970s and 1980. Both had world class players, and while each team would occasionally shine, neither were what we would call "world cup material" - or so we thought. In the meantime, Ireland, one of the brightest success stories of international cricket, looked to improve on their impressive showing in the 2009 World Cup, and establish themselves as a serious contender for Test cricket.
Group C of the 2010 World Twenty20 was an interesting one. You had two of the best teams (India and South Africa) against a brand new team that we all heard a lot about, as Afghanistan stepped out from the shadow of their turbulent past and into the world of international sporting competitions. Even thought Twenty20 cricket is notable for evening out the playing field between strong and weak teams, only India and South Africa were really expected to qualify for the Super Eights. If only it was that easy for them. Ironically, given how they performed in the Super 8s, it is Afghanistan who can hold their heads up higher.
Group B of the 2010 World Twenty20 in the Caribbean was a tricky one - you had last year's finalists Sri Lanka, you had New Zealand, one of the most experienced teams in Twenty20 cricket, and the wild card team, Zimbabwe, who have made significant strides towards re-establishing themselves as a world-class cricket team. Adding to the mix was that in the warm-up games, Zimbabwe had defeated last year's winners Pakistan and the best team in the world, Australia. With all bets taken off the table, this group had the potential to be the trickiest.
The third Twenty20 World Cup came to its feel-good conclusion on Sunday, with England comfortably felling their arch nemesis Australia in the final. In the sixteen days that preceded that game, we were treated to some spectacular cricket, some ordinary cricket, good atmosphere, and, miraculously, none of the administrative blunders that made the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean such a disaster. In this summary, I'll be looking at the twelve teams that competed in the tournament, analyzing their performances, key players, weaknesses and problems.
At last year's Twenty20 World Cup, England suffered a chastening defeat to the unseeded Netherlands team in the opening game of the tournament, and Australia failed to qualify for the second round, losing both games of their first stage. A year later, in 2010, it was England and Australia in the finals - the two oldest rivals in cricket, and maybe even international sport - facing each other for world Twenty20 glory. Of the three formats in cricket, Twenty20 world trophy is the only one that has eluded Australia's grasp, and England were desperate to win their first global cricket title in 30 years of trying. And it was England who triumphed, cantering to victory by seven wickets in Barbados.
Not too many people would have put money on an England/Australia Twenty20 final, but there you have it - England and Australia will play the last game of the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 Championship. At stake is not only the coveted World Cup, but eternal bragging rights. Even the most diehard of Twenty20 critics will undoubtedly turn an eye to the action in Barbados, as the best teams over the last two weeks face each other for the first time in the tournament.
Michael Hussey pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in living memory, as Australia chased down a mammoth Pakistan total by the skin of their teeth to qualify for their first Twenty20 World Cup final. Pakistan were left wondering how they could have lost a game that they were in control of until the very end, but the same Australian tenacity that dominated world cricket from 1999 reared its head in the most timeliest - and unbelievable - of fashions.
It's been an interesting time for New Zealand Cricket. Despite a brave showing in the 2010 World Twenty20 Championship, they failed to qualify for the semi-finals; however, their next assignment is a groundbreaking series in the United States, the first time that an international cricket match will be held on American soil. Unfortunately, New Zealand will have to embark on this pioneering venture without the services of their main strike bowler Shane Bond, who announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.
For the first time since 1992, England have qualified for the final of a World Cup, easily beating last year's semi-finalists Sri Lanka by seven wickets. It's a result few would have predicted, but England have been the surprise team of the tournament; their consistency and form came up against a shaky Sri Lankan team that fell short on the day. England now wait for tomorrow's game to find out who their opponents for Sunday's World Cup final will be.
It hasn't been a good couple of years for Pakistan: following the terrorist attacks in March of last year, teams didn't dare tour their country anymore; this year, the team was dramatically purged following a winless tour of Australia. But it's in moments of such adversity that Pakistan have shone the brightest: after their international isolation, they rose like a phoenix (or a cornered tiger) to win the 2009 World Cup, and after poor preparation and a rough start to the tournament, they're in the semi-finals of the 2010 tournament. The only problem is their opponent - not only have Australia already beaten them once in this World Cup, but Australia have easily beaten every other team they've faced.
Australia might feel relatively confident with their semi-final spot, having comfortably won every game they played. However, Twenty20 is an unpredictable format, and Pakistan are an unpredictable team. Australia will be only too aware that they were pipped at the post by India in the 2007 World Twenty20, and that Pakistan overcame a poor start in the 2009 World Cup to defeat both the unbeaten teams of the tournament in the semi-finals and the finals. Restricting David Warner and Shane Watson will take a lot of work, and the Hussey brothers, Cameron White, Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke make up the strongest middle order of the tournament. Dirk Nannes, Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait might trouble the Pakistanis with their pace and bouncers, but the slow St. Lucia pitch might - just might - negate them. In that case, Steve Smith, Man of the Match against the West Indies, will be in business.
With the league stages of the ICC World Twenty20 completed, and after some surprise eliminations, attention now turns to the final four teams left in the competition - last year's finalists Sri Lanka face a charged-up England side on Thursday, and last year's champions Pakistan take on the dominating Australian team on Friday.
Sri Lanka are no strangers to semi-finals - World Cup champions in 1996, semi-finalists in 2003, finalists in 2007 and in 2009. However, while they were the form team in 2009, they have been patchy this time around: Mahela Jayawardene is the only batsman who has looked comfortable at the crease, but even he failed to establish himself in his team's last two games. Sanath Jayasuria has had a miserable time, unable to make an impact any of the times he batted. Fortunately for them, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekeratne Dilshan seem to have found their form after indifferent starts to the tournament, and Angelo Mathews and Chamara Kapugedera have stood up for their team when it mattered, creating an invaluable partnership in a tight, crucial game against India. Lasith Malinga has led the bowling, supported well by Mathews, Thissara Perera and Suraj Randiv, while Sri Lanka have to do without Muttiah Muralitharan. Ajantha Mendis has been decoded by most of his opponents, but England haven't seen too much of him. On a slow and turning St. Lucia pitch, he might be key in restricting England's batsmen.
Barring the upcoming semi-finals and the final, this was probably the singular most important game of the 2010 World Twenty20. India were desperate for a win, if they entertained even a hope of qualifying for the semi-finals. Sri Lanka were forced into a must-win scenario because of their heavy defeat to Australia. The West Indies were hoping for an Indian win, as that result would have eased their own path to the semi-finals; a Sri Lankan win would have put pressure on the West Indies to beat Australia by 24 runs or greater in their game.
Knowing that India needed to win by 20 or more runs, Mahendra Singh Dhoni batted first after winning the toss. Dinesh Karthik got things off to a positive start by cutting Angelo Mathews' first ball for 4, but was caught and bowled by Lasith Malinga for 13 in the fifth over. Malinga also accounted for Gautam Gambhir for 41 (who was dropped by Kumar Sangakkara when he scored just 5), but by that point India were already 90/1 in the 10th over. With Dhoni at the crease, and Suresh Raina bringing his 50 up in 37 balls, India were set for an onslaught that would have compensated for their 20-run handicap, but tight death bowling from the Sri Lankans (led by Thissara Perera, 3-0-15-1) meant India scored only 73 runs for the loss of four wickets in the last 10 overs. India finished on 163/5, leaving Sri Lanka with a total of 164 to win the game, and at least 144 to eliminate India from the tournament.
Despite a good start to the tournament, India's Super Eights stage has gone from bad to worse. First there was the collapse to Australia which left the Indians requiring two wins from their next two games to stay in the competition. In the first of those two games, against the West Indies in Barbados, they ran into the blade of Chris Gayle and some hostile, if inaccurate, bowling from Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy and Jerome Taylor. It all combined to give the home team a win by 14 runs, and leave India with a complicated series of results necessary for them to remain in the Caribbean.
New Zealand are always an entertaining team in the limited-overs format, and Pakistan's sheer unpredictability - brilliant one moment, atrocious another - meant that the 2010 World Twenty20 got only its second nail-biting match in 17 games. Chasing a very par score, Pakistan's attack waxed and waned, eventually letting New Zealand sneak home with a 1 run victory.
The last time these two teams met, Tillekeratne Dilshan smashed 96* and Angelo Mathews took three wickets in the opening over of the semi-finals of the 2009 World Twenty20. A year later, and with the erstwhile-formidable batting lineup of the Sri Lankans looking shaky, the West Indies sought to turn the tables as the two teams met in Barbados. Unfortunately for them, not much had changed - Mahela Jayawardene stroked an unbeaten 98, falling two runs short of becoming the first player to score two hundreds in international Twenty20 cricket, Kumar Sangakkara found his form again, and the West Indian fielding and batting gave way like a house of cards.