And so it begins. Five years on from its last iteration, the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup returns today in all its glory.
It’s a tournament we have had to wait longer than expected for, played in two countries that are surprise first-time hosts. T20 cricket has never been predictable and fittingly neither has the T20 World Cup.
Wind back the clock and this tournament has always been one for the unexpected.
In 2007, Zimbabwe beat Australia in the first match for both sides, Yuvraj Singh smacked a young Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over and Joginder Sharma bowled the deciding over of the Final, winning the T20 World Cup with his last delivery in international cricket.
In 2009, Ireland beat Bangladesh to reach the Super Eight stage but the most surprising result came in the tournament's first match when the Netherlands stunned England at the home of cricket. England went on to put the sword through defending champions India’s campaign, while also dealing a confidence denting 48-run defeat to Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan went on to win the whole thing.
In 2010, a young leggie named Steve Smith was the joint-second-highest wicket-taker and Mike Hussey single-handedly dragged Australia to the T20 World Cup decider by winning the unwinnable semi-final. There they ran into England, who were simply too good on the day.
In 2012, Shane Watson finished as the highest run-scorer and second-highest wicket-taker, but the trophy went home with the West Indies, who knocked over the Aussies in the semi-final before somehow winning a Final in which they were 87/5 in the 16th over.
Two years later, the Netherlands again stunned England and the Associate Nation’s Tom Cooper and Ahsan Malik finished second for runs scored and wickets taken respectively at the tournament. Sri Lanka’s unlucky run at ICC Finals at last came to an end as well: They beat India after finishing runners-up at the 2007 and 2011 Cricket World Cups, and 2009 and 2012 T20 World Cups.
In 2016, Afghanistan beat the West Indies, Virat Kohli reached heights in T20 cricket that seemed impossible and a young all-rounder with an average of 8.33 hit four consecutive sixes to make sure we’ll always “remember the name”.
To cut a long story short, the T20 World Cup is a tournament of the unpredictable; a tournament where hearts are broken, legends are made, and storylines that would be left on the cutting room floor as too farfetched come to fruition.
Fittingly, it will start with a taste of the unknown as tournament debutants Papua New Guinea take on first time hosts Oman.
It’s a match that pits the heroes of two cricketing fairytales against one another. On one side, we have a team forged in a coastal village, playing in an ICC World Cup for the first time after coming so close to debuting twice previously. On the other, a cricketing nation whose acceleration over the past six years is only comparable to Afghanistan’s in the six years prior.
Given the bulk of Papua New Guinea’s team hail from Hanuabada village on the outskirts of Port Moresby, the province may claim to be the most represented of any at the T20 World Cup. Not bad at all given its estimated population of 15,000.
Cricket in Oman has risen from similarly humble roots, with one family’s love of the game planting the seeds that now see the sport flourishing within their borders.
The two sides meet in Sunday’s afternoon match before Bangladesh and Scotland meet in the night-time match.
For Bangladesh, this tournament is a chance to further announce themselves as one of the sport’s genuine forces. In 2015, they reached the quarter-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup, in 2016 they reached the Super 10s of the T20 World Cup. This year they’ve enjoyed series wins over Australia and New Zealand for the first time and they go into the tournament sitting a lofty sixth on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I rankings.
Heartbroken at the qualifiers for the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Scotland scraped through to the T20 World Cup. In 2018, only one point and a five-run DLS loss separated them from making the Cricket World Cup. In 2019, they were just one loss away from missing out on the T20 World Cup as well. They only have to look back to how they got here for motivation to perform.
And that’s just the opening day of the First Round.
Four more teams join the fray on Monday – Sri Lanka, Namibia, Netherlands and Ireland – and by 22 October, four of those eight teams will bid the tournament adieu. The remaining four will join eight others in the Super 12 stage.
We’ll see the likes of India vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup champions West Indies vs 2016 runners-up England, and a tantalising stage opener between Australia and South Africa just to name a few cracking contests.
The top two teams from each Super 12 group go on to the semi-finals on 10 and 11 November before the Final on 14 November – a match that has plenty to live up to after 2016.
Whichever team comes out on top at the end of the 45 matches will have earned it and added enormously to the rich tapestry that makes up this tournament’s legacy.
In truth, all 16 teams will have. All 16 teams have stories of how they got here. All 16 teams still have stories to tell.
Come along for the ride and see the unexpected.
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