Blasts from the Past – T20 World Cup Batting Thrills

On 17 October 2021, co-hosts Oman take on Papua New Guinea in the first match of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. The shortest format showpiece was due to be held in Australia last year but due to the Covid pandemic, the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to postpone the tournament.

Australia were handed the postponement for 2022 and 2021 given to India – but due to the extreme rise in cases on the sub-continent, the organisers moved the hosting of the event to the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

With the conclusion of the current Indian Premier League on show in the desert states, we can expect many boundaries and some massive sixes to be plundered by some of the best T20 batsmen of our generation. Looking back over the past six tournaments, dating back to 2007, we pick out some of the most important – and sometimes blustery – innings of years gone by.

There have been eight centuries scored in total with each tournament having at least one – except for 2009 in England when the best on offer was Tillakaratne Dilshan’s unbeaten 96 from 57 balls against the West Indies in the second semi-final at The Oval.

Deciding which individual innings would make a “Top 5” was extremely difficult across the 201 totals above 50, with some missing out like the unbeaten 116 from Alex Hales for England against Sri Lanka in Chattogram in 2014 or Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad’s 111 not out against Bangladesh in Dhaka in the same tournament.

A few players just missed out on the magical 100-run mark over the years with England’s Luke Wright finishing unbeaten on 99 against Afghanistan in Colombo during the 2012 edition or Mahela Jayawardene’s unbeaten 98 in Bridgetown against the West Indies in 2010.

I also could not just include five, so I added a sixth for good measure, but many will agree to disagree so here we go…

6 – Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) 123 (58)

The former Kiwi captain and veteran McCullum still holds the record for the highest T20 World Cup score, blasting 123 from 58 deliveries against Bangladesh in Pallekele in 2012. The right-handed wicketkeeper-batsman has also featured for the Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and was one of the most feared T20 batsmen in the world.

McCullum’s century allowed New Zealand to post 191 for three against the Tigers in a 59-run victory during the Group D opener. The New Zealander came in at No. 3 and his innings included 11 boundaries and seven maximums, taking him to his second T20 century and passing the previous highest T20 total of 117, set by Richard Levi of South Africa earlier that year – coincidentally against New Zealand.

The now 40-year old’s innings was full of energy, authority and imagination and in the end, proved to much for the Bangladesh batsmen and gave New Zealand some breathing space in the toughest group, which also included Pakistan.

5 – Chris Gayle (West Indies) 100 (48)

Mr Suave features twice on our list. The big-hitting West Indian has thrilled fans all around the world with his Calypso-style batting, featuring for sides such as the Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab in the IPL as well as the Dolphins, Lions and Jozi Stars in South Africa.

Gayle’s unbeaten 100 from 48 balls against England in Mumbai in 2016 allowed the Windies, who would be champions, to secure an important six-wicket victory as they chased down the target of 183 set by Eoin Morgan’s men with 11 balls to spare.

Gayle’s innings, at 36 years of age, was breath-taking. The Jamaican smashed 11 sixes in his innings, breaking his own record of the most sixes in an innings, adding five boundaries to boot. Such was the power of Gayle’s innings that the big man only faced six deliveries from the first 32 bowled by England on a night characterized by an excessive amount of dew – which landed up delaying play midway through the Caribbean-side’s innings.

4 – Chris Gayle (West Indies) 117 (57)

Enter Mr Boombastic. Gayle again features in the top six, this time with a blistering ton against the host nation South Africa in the inaugural T20 showpiece at the Bullring in Johannesburg in 2007. Gayle set an initial record by smashing 10 sixes in an innings, surpassing McCullum’s original record.

The century was key to the West Indies’ total of 205 for six as the left-handed master-blaster showed his power with a square-cut that burst through the hands of the fielder at backward point, followed by a whip off his pads for six. Gayle then powered two straight-drives off Makhaya Ntini for six that cleared the rope by yards. 

However, despite Gayle treating every single South African bowler with utter disdain on that fateful day in September, his innings was eclipsed by the magic of Herschelle Gibbs.

3 – Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa) 90 (55)

Herschelle Gibbs, who once smashed six sixes in one over against the Netherlands in the West Indies during a 50-over World Cup match, might not have reached the three-figure mark, or matched the same strike-rate as Gayle did, but his unbeaten 90 helped South Africa reach the target of 206 set by the Windies to seal an eight-wicket victory with 14 balls to spare.

Yes the West Indies had an extremely bad day in the field, bowling 23 wides and dropping numerous catches, but Gibbs’ innings was more class than pure bashing. The right-handed opener cracked 14 boundaries and two sixes and along with Justin Kemp (46 not out), posted an unbeaten stand of 120 to hand the Proteas victory.

Gibb’s innings had two reprieves, on 20 and again at 43 but the measure with which Gibbs – and support from Kemp – controlled the chase was the all-important factor in South Africa chasing down the highest total in T20 cricket to date. But South Africa’s loss to India by 37 runs in their final Super 8 group match meant that Graeme Smith’s men failed to qualify for the semi finals.

2 – Yuvraj Singh (India) 58 (16)

Durban played host to one of the most blistering innings in T20 cricket memory when India played against England in a Group E match in 2007. Indian openers Gautam Gambhir (58) and Virender Sehwag (68) had given the Indians a grand platform with an opening stand of 136 in 14.4 overs.

But Chris Tremlett (2-45) and Darren Maddy (1-20) saw to it that India ‘slipped’ to 155 for three with just 3.2 overs left in the innings – enter Yuvraj Singh. The 26-year old left-hander entertained the crowd with three boundaries and seven sixes to hoist India to a massive total of 218 for four, giving England a stiff target to chase.

However, Ifran Pathan (3-37) and RP Singh (2-28) saw to it that England never reached their target, being restricted to 200 for six, handing the Indians an 18-run victory. Yuvraj won the man of the match award and duly so, as India could have been found wanting had it not been for the left-hander’s pyrotechnics.

India would eventually go on to win the inaugural T20 World Cup, pipping arch-rivals Pakistan by five runs in the final at the Bullring.

1 – Michael Hussey (Australia) 60 (24)

St Lucia, West Indies – England had just beaten Sri Lanka in the first semi final by seven wickets and booked their first-ever World T20 final. The next day, Pakistan were on the verge of sealing their third consecutive T20 World Cup final having reduced Australia to 144 for seven in pursuit of 192 with only 17 balls remaining.

Enter the 35-year old Mike Hussey, batting at No. 7 and with Mitchell Johnson at the non-striker’s end. Hussey was only on 16 from 11 deliveries at this time with Australia needing 48 runs to get. Mr Cricket, as Hussey was known, worked his way to 38 from 20 balls heading into the final over with Australia needing 18 runs from the final six deliveries, but Johnson was facing.

Johnson took a single off the first ball, handing strike to the left-handed Hussey, who then clubbed Saeed Ajmal for 6, 6, 4 and 6 to be mobbed by his teammates from the dugout and send his side into the final. Although England would go on to win the final by seven wickets, the 2010 tournament will always be remembered for Mr Cricket’s semi final exploits.

And so it was

England developed the T20 game in response to their own domestic Benson & Hedges Cup coming to an end and in 2003, Hampshire and Sussex played the first T20 match. However, England were not destined to play the first ever T20 International as Australia and New Zealand contested the first match in 2005, with England playing and beating Australia later that year along with South Africa’s first match and victory over New Zealand.

Since those heady days in 2005, when even Australian captain Ricky Ponting remarked, “if it does become an international game then I’m sure the novelty won’t be there all the time,” players have entertained the most unlikely of crowds the world over.

T20 leagues have sprung up all over the world with the Pakistan Super League, Caribbean Premier League and the Indian Premier League all featuring high-profile players from all corners of the globe.

This next edition of the T20 World Cup will surely be no different with the defending champions, West Indies, always to be at the forefront of the shortest format while South Africa will look to shake off their ICC bogey and push for their first ICC trophy since their 50-over triumph in the Champions Trophy.

Bring it on gentlemen!

**As first published on

Author: Brendon

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