The ICC T20 World Cup has afflicted Bangladesh and Indian Sub-Continent like never before. The cricket fever has gripped everyone and nothing else is important. The extended format this year had 16 aspirants for full ICC membership and the first week was spent in numerous qualifying matches to decide the two teams, who should join the established members in Super 10. While Bangladesh emerged as one of the two teams, despite their loss to Hong Kong, the fight for the other spot ended on March 20, in an unprecedented manner. Zimbabwe was sitting pretty to join the Super 10, when the only match that remained, dashed their hopes by an out-of-the-world performance from Netherlands. We will come back to that in a while because the marvelous preparatory arrangements made by the host nation must also be talked about.
Bangladesh has really made creditable preparations for guests, who are likely to arrive in that country during the staging of the T20 World Cup. The entrance of Pan-Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka, where the teams are housed has been decorated like a bride. The Hotel authorities have done their best to replicate the purpose, for which the guests have arrived in that country. An artificial pitch, made of hockey turf material has been laid out with three stumps at each end. They are keeping that area meticulously clean and one can see a person running a vacuum cleaner every once in a while. Around this pitch, can be seen the national flags of the participating teams. One cannot miss the pillars and walls around, which are decorated with cricket gear like bats, gloves, helmets, leg guards, balls etc. The whole city gives a festive look with special lights at several places and one can sense the atmosphere en route the airport with massive posters of Bangladeshi cricketers.
The opening ceremony of the tournament on the night of March 13, 2014 was an occasion to remember. The authorities summoned the internationally known musical artistes for the grand occasion. In addition to celebrated Indian music composer A.R. Rahman, the night had a performance by Senegalese-American singer Akon. It might not have been the official opening ceremony but the Bangladeshi hosts wanted to leave the best impression to the invitees at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, where even the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was present.
This is the fifth edition of the ICC T20 World Cup, which started in 2007 in South Africa. Compared to previous tournaments, ICC has given due credence to the cricketing aspirations of nations like, Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong, Ireland, Afghanistan and Netherlands. But tournament format required these countries to qualify along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the first week’s preliminary rounds. Divided into two groups of four teams each, the aspirants played in a round-robin league and the top team from each group has joined the main tournament. While Bangladesh secured their due, the fight for second spot made history, when the last qualifier was played between Ireland and the Netherlands.
The Irish batsmen began in murderous mood, scoring 28 in 3.2 overs before losing their first wicket. But skipper Porterfield led from the front and carried on regardless. His 32-ball 47 had 5 fours and 2 sixes set the tone for something even bigger. He was the second man out at 69. Soon afterwards, another Irish wicket fell at 88 in the middle of the 13th over. In the next 7.3 overs, Andrew Poynter and Kevin O’Brien massacred the Dutch bowlers and scored 101 runs to finish with 189 in 20 overs. Poynter scored 57 in 38 balls, including 4 fours and 4 sixes, while O’Brien made 42 of just 16 balls with 2 fours and 4 sixes.
When Netherlands came on to bat, it wasn’t the usual victory target of 190, which bothered them. Their only chance of entering the Super 10 rested on making those runs in 14.2 overs. It was the only way they could deny the entry to Zimbabweans into Super 10. But what followed was nothing short of a fairy-tale story. Skipper Peter Borren and Stephen Myburgh began with a blast and piled up 91 for the first wicket in just 6 overs. When Myburgh got out after 6.3 overs, he had already scored 63 runs in 23 balls with the help of 4 fours and 7 sixes. Wesley Barresi and Tom Cooper took on from where the openers had left. While Barresi made a 22-ball 40 with 3 fours and 3 sixes, Cooper was simply superb in making 45 in mere 15 balls with 1 four and 6 towering sixes. Netherland entered the Super 10 with 3 balls to spare and their score of 193 was made at an unbelievable rate of 13.95 in just 13.5 overs, a historical T20 feat. By doing so, they pulled of the most amazing chase in the T20 history and broke the hearts of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
When the Dutch batted on Thursday evening, they treated the Irish bowlers like street kids, who also bowled for a change. 189 is not a mean score in any T20 game but it didn’t bother Netherlands. An amazing number of 30 sixes were hit in the match, 19 of which came from the Dutch.