INDIA VS PAKISTAN ICC WORLD T20 FINAL 2007
Background- This was the first time that a World Cup was being held in Cricket for a format other than ODIs. It was for the latest format- the T20s and it was held in South Africa. India had just finished an ODI series in England and they did not even have warm up matches for T20s. India was without the three greats- Sachin, Sourav and Rahul for the T20s but was led by the young, long-haired man – Dhoni.
There was a lot of excitement about the new format which took almost the same time as a movie. There was also interest about rules like Powerplay and field restrictions for T20, free-hit and bowl-out. In fact India and Pakistan had met before the finals in a game which ended with a spectacular bowl-out with India winning it.
India lost Virender Sehwag to a groin injury and replacing him was a young man called Yusuf Pathan who was making his international debut. International debuts cannot get tougher than this: a World Cup final, opening the innings and that too against arch rivals Pakistan.
He went in with Gambhir and almost got run-out on the very first ball after a bit of confusion between them. He flung himself as if his life depended on it and just about made it. On the second ball that he faced, he smacked a length ball into the crowd and the bowler was none less than Asif. Call it overconfidence or inexperience but in Asif’s next over, immediately after a boundary, he tried to smash a shortish ball over midwicket but ended up spooning a simple catch.
Uthappa, the only one to make a good score (50) in their previous game against Pakistan, gave away a simple catch to extra cover trying to hit over the infield. Gambhir however took on the attack, reaching his 50 with six boundaries and a six. Umar Gul soon took out both Yuvraj and Dhoni in a space of two overs, Yuvraj to a short ball and Dhoni to a full one honing in on to the stumps. In the 18th over Gambhir broke the shackles with a six off Gul but got out on the last ball of that over to a paddle sweep that went to short fine leg. It is funny how that mode of dismissal had a bigger role to play in the match.
Rohit Sharma however made a cameo, scoring 30* off 16 deliveries which was the impetus India needed and that innings was the difference between a score of 130 and 157, which was what India ended up with. It wasn’t too bad for a big game. Dhoni had said at the start that they were looking for a score of around 180.
Pakistan started their innings poorly with R.P.Singh getting Hafeez out cheaply for just one. Imran Nazir went after Sreesanth in the second over scoring 21. R.P. Singh continued being tidy at the other end, cleaning up Kamran Akmal. Sreesanth thankfully had Younis facing his second over and he bowled a maiden. Talk of extremes!
Imran Nazir was finally run-out thanks to a brilliant piece of fielding from Uthappa but he had already dented India with 14 ball 33. Irfan took two wickets in one over to dismiss the captain Shoaib Malik and the dangerous Afridi who could have swung the match back in Pakistan’s favor.
By the time Irfan finished up his four overs with 3 wickets and just 16 runs, Pakistan still needed 54 runs from 4 overs with only 3 wickets left. It was as good as over but Misbah was not done yet. He started with 3 sixes from a Harbhajan over. Even Sohail Tanveer hit Sreesanth for 2 sixes before he was finally cleaned up with a good yorker. R. P. Singh bowled the penultimate over giving away only 7 and taking another wicket.
It was down to the last over with 13 runs required and only 1 wicket left. For the young captain Dhoni, the choices were either Harbhajan or Joginder. Since Harbhajan had already gone for 12 an over, Dhoni decided to gamble with Joginder Sharma and this was a man who was playing his first T20 tournament! Dhoni went with his gut feeling. He selected the inexperienced bowler, but backed him and showed faith in him.
The first ball he bowled was a big wide. He was clearly nervous. Next, in trying to bowl a yorker, he ended up with a full toss which Misbah hit for a straight six! Now only 6 were needed from 4 balls. Dhoni’s advice to Joginder was to just do what he had done so far in his domestic cricket career.
Maybe it was the pressure of playing in a T20 tournament, but Misbah tried to be too cute. He decided to play a scoop shot over fine leg. Joginder had bowled a slower ball and it ended up as a simple catch to none other than Sreesanth!
Misbah could not believe it. In trying to be a hero who won the first T20 final against arch rivals India with a clever shot, he ended up losing the match that was his for the taking. India maintained their record of not losing to Pakistan ever in a World Cup match. Dhoni and his young team had done it. The image of the long haired Dhoni with the Cup is still embedded in people’s mind. I remember the celebrations that took place on the streets and through the night. It was a glorious day.
This match is still one of the best T20 games ever seen.