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T20 World Cup 2021

David Warner was back to his best at the T20 World Cup, but Adam Zampa should have been Player of the Tournament

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read

There is arguably no better story at this T20 World Cup than that of David Warner.

The Australian’s overall class and pedigree is in no doubt. He has the second-most international tons of any Australian, with his pugnacious opening style making Australia a Test team to be feared, especially at home. It can often feel as if a Warner assault has won a game inside the first session.

It’s in T20 cricket where his impact has been greatest. Warner can legitimately claim to being among the top five T20 batters of all time, maintaining his consistency and strike-rate across his 15-year career.


However, he came into the tournament in one of the lowest ebbs of his career. He had been dropped partway through the IPL by Sunrisers Hyderabad, winning the hearts of fans for his support of the team even after his axing. “I can’t believe people wrote him off a couple of weeks ago. It was almost like poking the bear,” captain Aaron Finch said at the post-match press conference.

Warner began slowly at the T20 World Cup, with a half-century against Sri Lanka his only score of note in the first four games of Australia’s campaign, but he came to life towards the back end, with two fifties and a 49 in his last three knocks. His 89 not out against West Indies gave Australia enough of a net run rate boost to secure a semi-final spot, with his quick near-half-century against Pakistan laying the platform for Matthew Wade’s heroics at the death.

In the final, he helped ace another big chase, with the semi-final and the final seeing the two highest pursuits of the 2021 T20 World Cup. Warner was exceptional, and a worthy contender for the Player of the Tournament crown. But it’s another player, who started well and continued to excel throughout who deserved to get the overall gong.

Adam Zampa was broadly untouchable, with barely a foot put wrong across seven games. The legspinner kept his economy rate under six an over but despite the respect that going at under a run a ball reflects, he was still an incisive wicket-taker, with his 13 scalps the joint fourth-most at any T20 World Cup. While Wanindu Hasaranga claimed 16 wickets in this edition, he played one more game due to Sri Lanka starting their campaign in the first round, and took six of those wickets against Ireland, Namibia, and the Netherlands.

Zampa, by contrast, faced top-tier nations throughout. Only twice did he concede more than a run a ball. Against England he began well, taking 1-2 in the first over after the powerplay when England were 66-0, before an expensive Mitchell Starc over left him on a hiding to nothing, England needing 44 from 72 and Jos Buttler allowing himself to take some net run rate-boosting risks. The other game in which Zampa went at more than six an over was the final, the fifth-highest scoring match of the competition. He claimed 1-26 from four overs, with the wicket of Martin Guptill temporarily halting a belated charge from New Zealand.

Zampa claimed at least one wicket in every game, with the standout performance his 5-19 against Bangladesh, the fourth-best figures in T20 World Cup history. In a team banking on a four bowler strategy, with part-timers making up the other four overs, it was vital that Australia’s attack leaders stood up, and Zampa did that brilliantly.

Zampa’s story isn’t bad either. He had played just two T20Is before the last World T20, and was one of the bright spots in a tough campaign for Australia then. Since then he has gone on to establish himself as one of Australia’s greatest limited-overs spinners – no player has taken more wickets for the country without playing a Test match. But a landmark campaign had eluded him, with five wickets at the 2019 World Cup coming at 47.20 apiece and with an economy rate above seven. Now he has a defining tournament to call his own.

It’s a batter’s game – a specialist bowler has never won the Player of the Tournament award at a T20 World Cup – and on this occasion, the player most were claiming had been robbed by Warner was another batter, Babar Azam. But it’s Zampa, named by Finch in the post-match presentation as his pick for Player of the Tournament, who has been most hard done by.

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