The inaugural World T20 in 2007 was more than just an ICC event. The T20 format had debuted two-and-a-half years before the tournament with Australia taking on New Zealand in the first-ever Twenty20 International and was followed by various other teams making their debut in the format, including India in their 2006-07 tour of South Africa.
The 2007 World T20 can be pointed to as the event that brought the novel 20-over format into the mainstream. This considering it was hosted at a time when the T20 leagues were yet to come into existence across the world, with the Indian Premier League (IPL) taking place the next summer.
The World T20 wasn’t the only major event to happen that year though, with the ODI World Cup having taken place earlier in March-April in the Caribbean that year. And given how disastrous that event turned out to be, the ICC needed a face-saver of sorts to retain the faith of its stakeholders, including the players and the fans.
And a raging success it did turn out to be, with the tournament being pulled off without a hitch towards the end of the English domestic season, with South Africa pulling off the task of hosting 27 matches between 13 to 24 September without so much as a hitch — the washed-out contest between India and Scotland at Durban perhaps being the only blip for the organizers.
And success was all the more guaranteed with subcontinental arch-rivals India and Pakistan locking horns in the final, after both teams had suffered first-round exits in the Caribbean earlier that year.
The tournament was divided into four groups of three teams each, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the Super Eights — which was further divided into two pools, each containing two group toppers and two second-place finishers each. The top two finishers from the two Super Eights pools would advance to the semi-finals, with the winners then meeting in the summit clash.
Chris Gayle got the tournament off to a dream start with a boundary off the very first delivery of the match bowled by Shaun Pollock. The ‘Universe Boss’ would then give a glimpse of the destruction that would go on to unleash in the 20-over format in the years to come with a blazing 117 off just 57 balls, helping the Windies finish on a commanding 205/6.
The Proteas, however, would ride in fireworks from Herschelle Gibbs (90*) and Justin Kemp (46*) to chase the stiff target with eight wickets and 14 deliveries to spare to collect the first points of the tournament.
There was more action in store in the coming days, with Zimbabwe humbling the mighty Australian side, who were exuding the kind of dominance that the West Indies had in the 1970s and the 1980s, in the fourth game of the tournament.
Wicketkeeper-batter Brendan Taylor, who recently brought down the curtains on his international career, starred in the five-wicket win with an unbeaten 60 as the Chevrons pulled off a repeat of their historic 1983 triumph over the same team, albeit in a slightly shorter format.
Two days later, Sri Lanka would lay claim to the highest T20I total in addition to the ones they held in the Test and one-day formats as Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene tore the Kenyan attack apart to post a daunting 260/6 before bowling the opposition out for a paltry 88.
India, who had rested several of their seniors after a disappointing World Cup campaign and the tour of England and had sent a young squad led by MS Dhoni to South Africa, started off with a washout against Scotland which was followed by a thrilling tied affair against Pakistan in Durban — the Men in Blue holding on to their nerves while defending a modest 141-run total.
The game was ultimately decided by a bowl out — cricket’s version of football’s penalty shoot-out, the Indians hitting the stumps thrice with the Pakistanis missing on all occasions to allow Dhoni and Co to open their account in the tournament.
India hit a roadblock with a 10-run defeat to New Zealand but bounced back admirably with a memorable outing against England on 19 September at Kingsmead, Durban, where a historic sled from Andrew Flintoff propelled Yuvraj Singh to smash six sixes in a single Stuart Broad over, the southpaw’s 16-ball 58 setting up an 18-run win over England.
The Men in Blue would then land a knockout punch to hosts South Africa the very next day with a 37-run in the final match of the Super Eights. South Africa, who were unbeaten in the tournament till then, collapsed in the face of a sensational spell from Rudra Pratap Singh (4/13) as they finished on 116/9 after being set 154 to win.
The Black Caps progressed into the semis alongside the Indians thanks to their superior net rate, while Pakistan and Australia were the other teams progressing from the other pool, the former winning all three games.
The semi-finals were a double-header on 22 September, with Pakistan facing New Zealand at the Newlands in Cape Town in an afternoon game, followed by India taking on Australia in Durban later in the evening.
Umar Gul (3/15) led the way for Pakistan in the first semi-final as the Pakistanis restricted the Black Caps to 143/8, before opener Imran Nazir’s 59, as well as finishing act from Shoaib Malik (26*) and Misbah-ul-Haq (16*) helped them enter the final with a six-wicket win.
They would be joined by their neighbors to the east as an in-form Yuvraj starred with another whirlwind innings, smashing 70 off just 30 deliveries to help India post a stiff 189 to win. Australia, in reply, were cruising at 134/2 at one stage and looked set to enter yet another ICC final and add another trophy to a cabinet that was packed to the brim.
S Sreesanth’s dismissal of Matthew Hayden, followed by the exits of Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke in a space of a few deliveries, turned the tide in India’s favor and the Aussies wouldn’t recover from the sudden collapse, eventually finishing 15 runs short of the Indian total.
India and Pakistan produced a blockbuster of a final on 24 September at the Bullring in Johannesburg, the venue where India was bulldozed by Ricky Ponting’s Australia four years earlier. Gautam Gambhir led the way with a composed 75 off 54 balls, with future batting superstar Rohit Sharma chipping in with a 16-ball unbeaten 30 as Team India finished on 157/5 after opting to bat.
Pakistan, in reply, kept losing wickets at regular intervals from the very outset and looked down and out after losing the wicket of Shahid Afridi to get reduced to 77/6. Irfan Pathan (3/16) and RP Singh (3/26) inflicted the bulk of the damage on the Pakistani top and middle order. Misbah, however, kept the Indians at bay, smashing three sixes off Harbhajan Singh in the 17th over of the innings to keep the 1992 world champions in the hunt for their second ICC trophy.
RP kept things tight for the most part in the penultimate over, dismissing Gul in the fifth ball before conceding a boundary to Mohammad Asif in the last ball.
With Pakistan needing 13 in the last over with Misbah at the crease, Dhoni turned to Joginder Sharma for the historic final over, in which the Haryana seamer started off with a wide and a dot, got smashed for a six straight down the ground in the second to leave Pakistan needing 6 off 4.
Misbah perhaps wanted to finish things off in style when he went for a scoop towards fine leg, instead of getting all the elevation in the world without the distance as Sreesanth settled under the ball at the edge of the circle to complete the catch and spark off celebrations for a billion fans back home, marking the beginning of a new chapter in Indian cricket, i.e. the Dhoni era.