SK Flashback: Remembering the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket
Six months after India's disastrous first round exit at the 2007 World Cup, a young Indian side led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni took part in the inaugural ICC World T20 and won their group albeit not in a very remarkable manner. Their opening match against Scotland was washed out and their following match against Pakistan was won via a tie-breaking bowl-out.
In the Super 8s, India lost their first match against New Zealand by 10 runs but defeated England and South Africa to top their group and qualify for the semi-finals. In the semis, India defeated Australia by 14 runs to set up a final every Indian cricket fan was hoping to see - against Pakistan.
The final was played on this very day a decade back at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, the same venue where India lost the World Cup final against Australia four years prior. India won the toss and opted to bat first.
Gambhir’s 75 takes India to 157/5
Yusuf Pathan made his debut in an India shirt and began aggressively with a four and a six. However, he couldn’t last long as he miscued a pull off a Mohammad Asif delivery straight to Shoaib Malik who took a routine catch at mid-on.
Following Pathan’s dismissal, Robin Uthappa also bit the dust early as he was dismissed for just 8. However, Gautam Gambhir was scoring well and kept the Indian scoreboard ticking and reaching his fifty in the process. India’s semi-final hero, Yuvraj Singh, however, was unable to replicate that knock as he hit only one boundary before being dismissed by Umar Gul for just 14.
Shortly after Yuvi’s dismissal, skipper MS Dhoni had his stumps shattered by Gul for just 6. Gambhir reached 75 before perishing in the 18th over.
Some late aggression from Rohit Sharma helped India reach 157/5 from their 20 overs. Amongst the Pakistan bowlers, Gul was the pick of them, with 3/28 from his four overs.
The Indian bowlers keep Pakistan in the passenger’s seat from the outset
Pakistan were given a target of 158 which was just under their average innings score throughout the tournament (159). The Men in Blue got off to a brilliant start thanks to RP Singh who removed Mohammad Hafeez in the opening over.
However, Imran Nazir batted aggressively and despite Kamran Akmal being bowled by RP Singh for a duck, Nazir’s presence meant India could never breathe easy. Younis Khan also added a few boundaries and Pakistan’s run-rate soared close to 10 after five overs.
However, at the end of the powerplay, Robin Uthappa’s timely throw ran out the dangerous Nazir and Pakistan were left at 53/3. The situation began to get worse for Pakistan with Younis being dismissed. Irfan Pathan then picked up the crucial wickets of Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi to leave Pakistan tottering at 77/6.
Misbah-ul-Haq and Sohail Tanvir bring Pakistan back into the game
India were just four wickets away from lifting the trophy when Pakistan gradually began to stage a comeback, with Misbah-ul-Haq showing resilience and Yasir Arafat hitting a couple of boundaries. However, Irfan brought a fitting end to his glorious spell by bowling out Arafat for 15, thus ending with 3/16 from his four overs.
Following Arafat’s dismissal, Sohail Tanvir joined Misbah at the crease. Then, during the 17th over, Misbah smashed Harbhajan Singh for three sixes and the equation went from 54 from 24 balls to 35 from 18 balls. In the following over, Sohail smashed two sixes off Sreesanth before being bowled in the final delivery, with Pakistan needing 20 to win off the last two overs.
The penultimate over was bowled by RP Singh and he brought India closer to victory by bowling out Umar Gul but Mohammad Asif managed to eke out a boundary in the final delivery with the Men in Green needing 13 to win off the final over.
The unforgettable final over
With both Harbhajan Singh and Joginder Sharma having an over left, Dhoni opted to surprisingly go with the latter. Misbah was on strike and Sharma began with a wide before bowling a dot ball. However, in the next delivery, Sharma bowled a full toss which Misbah smashed for a six, leaving Pakistan with only six to get from four deliveries.
However, in the next delivery, the future Pakistan skipper went for a scoop over short fine leg which went straight up towards Sreesanth who took the catch to end the match. “In the air…. Sreesanth takes it! India Win! Unbelievable scenes here at the Bullring. Geoff Lawson can’t believe it. The Pakistan players are stunned, and India will believe they’ve got out of a corner,” roared Ravi Shastri from the commentary box.
While Misbah fell to his knees in despair, the Indian players celebrated jubilantly. The final turned out to be one of the most exciting matches in the history of an ICC tournament, with India edging out their Asian neighbors by five runs. Irfan Pathan was adjudged the Man of the Match for his spell of 3/16 while Shahid Afridi was named Player of the Tournament.
10 years have passed but that game will undoubtedly remain as one of the most exciting matches in T20 history.