The stage is set for an epic T20 World Cup 2021 final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, come 14 November. The ‘regular suspects’, which may consist the likes of India and England, eliminated, while Pakistan bow out of the tournament, being victims of a 19th over demolition by Matthew Wade.
And on Sunday, there will be a new T20 World Cup champion, with Australia and first-time finalists New Zealand facing off in the title-decider.
Australia’s road was never easy. Their qualification was not confirmed up until the last match of their Group (England-South Africa), and a defeat to England, in fact, had hindered their chances of making it to the knockouts.
Then, there was drama all around in the semi-final against Pakistan, who ended the group stage unbeaten, with a perfect 100 percent win record.
As we count down to the T20 World Cup final, let’s take a look at Australia’s road to the summit clash.
Australia vs South Africa, Super 12s
The first match that kicked off the Super 12 stage at the T20 World Cup 2021 on 23 October, and Aaron Finch’s Australia couldn’t have asked for a better start than this.
Yes, for the Aussies who would have expected a slightly comfortable contest, it was a challenging start with a few minor hiccups during the chase, but it was a late resistance from Marcus Stoinis (24*) and Matthew Wade (15*) that eventually gifted them two points right away in the tournament.
As was the trend largely throughout the tournament, Australia won the toss and opted to field first, meaning South Africa were on the backseat having been asked to bat.
Wickets at regular intervals from the Aussies troubled the Proteas, who were in a spot of bother at 46/4 in the eighth over after Heinrich Klaasen’s (13) dismissal, but a 34-run stand between David Miller and Aiden Markram – South Africa’s highest in the match, gave the Proteas just a glimpse of hope, but that momentum was halted when Miller (16), going down on his knee and attempting a sweep shot, was struck LBW by Adam Zampa.
Markram, meanwhile, would go onto score a gritty 40 off 36 balls to carry the Proteas to 118/9. Lack of support did hurt Markram it wasn’t without a 23-ball cameo of 19 runs from Kagiso Rabada that South Africa would post at least this much of a total.
In reply, Australia were in a spot of bother with Finch (0), David Warner (14) and Mitchell Marsh (11) disappointing with the bat, but then came Steve Smith (35) to the rescue, who put up a substantial 4-run partnership with Glenn Maxwell (18).
However, Smith made the long way back in the 15th over, and it wasn’t long until Maxwell followed suit.
Following Maxwell’s dismissal, Australia were 81-5 in 15.2 overs, needing another 38 runs off 28 balls to seal the match but Marcus Stoinis (24*) and Matthew Wade (15*) made it look easy as Australia romped home with five wickets and four balls to spare.
Australia vs Sri Lanka, Super 12s
Another match, another Australia victory as Aaron Finch and Co made it two wins in two matches in the T20 World Cup.
Sri Lanka were coming off a five-wicket win over Bangladesh in their first Super 12 contest, having qualified through the preliminary round, and were bracing themselves for tougher challenges in the Group of Death.
Once again, Australia won the toss and asked Sri Lanka to bat. Pat Cummins got rid of Pathum Nissanka in the third over, but the Lankans found themselves in recovery mode, at least momentarily. Kusal Perera (35) and Charitha Asalanka (35) forged a 63-run stand but the Lankans lost the latter to an in-form Zampa. Sri Lanka were further dealt with blows with wickets with Kusal Perera, Avishka Fernando and Wanindu Hasaranga, but Bhanuka Rajapaksa (33 not out) played a pivotal role in guiding the Lankans to 154/6. He was involved in a 40-run stand with skipper Dasun Shanaka.
In reply, it was largely a walk in the park for the Aussies. They lost Aaron Finch after steadying the innings with a 70-run opening stand with David Warner, and lost Glenn Maxwell (5) as well for a low score.
However, the wickets did not dampen David Warner, who roared back to form with a 42-ball knock of 65, before he was finally dismissed by Shanaka in the 15th over. Despite Warner’s dismissal, things were looking pretty comfortable for Australia at 130/3, and once again, it was Steve Smith (28*) and Marcus Stoinis (16*) who raced them past the finish line with three overs to spare.
England vs Australia, Super 12s
The only defeat Australia have endured so far in the T20 World Cup, came in their marquee clash against arch-rivals England. Australia were on the receiving end, in terms of the toss, as Eoin Morgan won the toss and asked the Aussies to bat first. In a change that Finch termed as a ‘restructure’, Ashton Agar replaced Mitchell Marsh in this fixture.
Australia’s top-order, barring skipper Finch, tumbled , with Warner (1), Smith (1) and Maxwell (6) collapsing to single figures.
Finch (44), however, stood there at the crease like a wall, and it wasn’t until he first ball of the 19th over when Chris Jordan got rid of the big fish Finch. Finch showcased resilience at a time when he lacked support from the other end, and he was involved in a 30-run stand with Matthew Wade, while forging a 47-run partnership with Ashton Agar.
Australia were bundled out for just 125, and in the chase, Jos Buttler made light work with an unbeaten 71, as England chased down the target with 50 balls and eight wickets to spare.
Agar, for his part, returned with figures of 1/15.
For England, it was a third win for them in as many games as they remained unbeaten in the tournament.
Australia vs Bangladesh, Super 12
Less than a week since their forgettable defeat to England, Australia bounced back strong, and how!
Aaron Finch won the toss against a depleted Bangladesh who were missing Shakib Al Hasan due to injury, and star man Adam Zampa spun magic yet again.
In an innings where Shamim Hossain’s 19 was the highest individual score by a Bangladesh batter in the match, there was hardly any positive takeaway that Bangladesh could return with.
In a span of six overs, Bangladesh were already four down, and it was only after this when Zampa joined the party. The next three wickets, that of Afif Hossain, Shamim Hossain and Mahedi Hasan, belonged to Zampa, before Starc returned to get rid of Mahmudullah.
Zampa came to bowl the 15th over of the innings, and within a gap of just three balls, Zampa saw off Mustafizur Rahman and Shoriful Islam as Bangladesh collapsed for just 73.
In reply, Finch (40) once again led from the front as Australia easily chased down the total in 6.2 overs, with eight wickets to spare.
Australia vs West Indies, Super 12
Australia’s last Super 12 game before their semi-final fate was decided, West Indies were out of contention after just that one win over Bangladesh.
Australia and South Africa were tied with six points coming into this match, while Sri Lanka, having played all of their five games by now, only had four points to their name, that left them out of the reckoning as well.
Australia won the toss and opted to field, and Chris Gayle, in what would possibly be his last innings for West Indies, smacked two sixes before being dismissed for 15 in the third over. Evin Lewis (29) and Shimron Hetmyer (27) looked promising, but could not convert starts into big knocks.
Kieron Pollard, however, slammed four fours and one six in his knock of 44 off 31 balls to take Windies to 157/7.
Albeit going for an expensive spell, Josh Hazlewood still managed to claim four wickets (4/39).
In Aussies chase, Windies got a glimmer of hope when Akeal Hosein got rid of Finch in the fourth over.
However, David Warner (89*) and Mitchell Marsh (53) forged a 124-run stand for the second wicket, but with Australia on the verge of victory, they lost Marsh in the 16th over.
In the second ball of the 16th, Warner slammed a boundary for the winning runs. Australia, with eight points now, received a huge NRR boost, and their qualification to the semi-finals were later confirmed when South Africa failed to restrict England to a total below 130, where they were chasing 190.
Pakistan vs Australia, semi-final
The one which had all the drama. Pakistan have unarguably been the most resurgent side in the T20 World Cup. Right from ending their World Cup winless jinx against India in their campaign opener to thumping Scotland, Pakistan remained the only team in this edition of the T20 World Cup with a 100 percent win record.
And for once, they started favourites against Australia. Aaron Finch won the toss and asked Pakistan to bat first. Pakistan started off aggressively, with Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan forging a 71-run stand for the opening wicket, before the skipper fell to Adam Zampa’s trap for 39 in the 10th over.
However, that did not stop the Men in Green from producing breathtaking cricket as Fakhar Zaman’s 32-ball masterclass of 55*, which consisted of three fours and four sixes, eventually led them to 176/4.
In reply, Shaheen Afridi provided Pakistan with a dream start, a perfect start any side could ask for against Australia-Afridi struck Aaron Finch LBW with his inswinging delivery in just the third ball of the chase. Finch was in dismay as he had to make a long way back for a golden duck.
Mitchell Marsh (28) and David Warner (49) forged a 51-run stand for the second wicket, and Marsh’s dismissal was timely, just when the Aussies were looking to surge forward in the chase, Marsh’s slog sweep proved costly, eventually finding Asif Ali at long leg. Shadab Khan celebrated a wicket.
Wickets at regular intervals kept hurting Australia, and it wasn’t until when Matthew Wade walked in at number seven following Maxwell’s wicket, when the tables turned.
Wade survived a run-out in the first ball of the 13th over, but he and Marcus Stoinis kept disturbing the bowlers till the very end.
The 19th over was when everything changed. Australia were 155-5, and after a failed review from Pakistan against a Stoinis LBW in the second ball, Wade was lucky to collect a couple off the third, as a drop from the deep mid-wicket fielder served Wade as a blessing in disguise.
Then, Wade did his magic. Shaheen Afridi, who took the wicket of Aaron Finch very early in the match, was a victim of a forgettable over at the global stage. Shaheen tried to decimate Wade with his yorkers, but the Aussie went for the maximum in each of the deliveries from thereon, as Australia completed a massive heist by the end of the 19th.
Pakistan’s dream run was over, while for Australia, that win setup a renewal of the Trans-Tasman rivalry against New Zealand, in the final at Dubai on 14 November. This time, there will be a brand new T20 World Cup champion.