Among many things, the beauty of T20 cricket is that games can turn in a moment. A crucial wicket. One big over from the batting side. A moment of brilliance in the field. In the space of a few balls, momentum can swing wildly.
Because of this, short-form cricket is a notoriously difficult sport to predict. But with the help of Opta’s Live Win Probability model – a live model that predicts the current win/loss/draw percentages for each side – we can get closer to analysing who is on top at any given moment.
For more information on the intricacies of the model, you can check out our explainer. But now for, let’s look at the five biggest turnarounds during the group stage of the men’s T20 Cricket World Cup. Which teams looked dead and buried before turning the game around? Which teams somehow managed to clasp defeat from the jaws of victory?
We unleashed the model on all 41 of the group stage matches to find out.
5. West Indies vs. Zimbabwe
Lowest win probability for eventual winners: 12.3%
We start with West Indies, who suffered an ignominious early exit at the T20 group stages after two losses in three matches.
Even the match they did win, against Zimbabwe, was anything but convincing.
A solid platform, held together by Johnson Charles at the top of the order, saw West Indies climb to 90-2 in the twelfth over of their innings. At that point, a formidable total was expected.
But just as happened in their opening game against Scotland (and more on that later), West Indies suddenly capitulated, losing four wickets for 11 runs, as Sikandar Raza twirled away in an impressive spell of 3-19.
Contributions down the order from Rovman Powell (28) and Akeal Hosein (23*) saw West Indies wrestle back some momentum to post 153-7.
The Zimbabwe chase got off to a flying start, with Regis Chakabva flaying Kyle Mayers for three boundaries in the opening over, before another loose set from Akeal Hosein leaked a further 11 runs. After 1.4 overs, with Zimbabwe on 27-0 chasing a modest total, West Indies’ win probability was down at a lowly 12.3%.
Enter Alzarri Joseph. His second ball of the day removed Chakabva, before a 90mph yorker crushed the base of Tony Munyonga’s stumps in his second over.
Zimbabwe’s middle order then struggled to find the boundary rope as the rate slowed and wickets fell.
If the opening burst of 2-13 from Joseph halted Zimbabwe’s charge, then his return towards the end of the innings, where he picked up another two wickets with searing deliveries, was the exclamation point.
After their opening loss against Scotland in Hobart, West Indies had given themselves a chance with victory here. It left their final group game as a must-win against Ireland, but again a sub-par batting display would see them go out before making the Super 12.
4. Scotland vs. West Indies
Lowest win probability for eventual winners: 12.1%
We’re back to the West Indies again. Their opening clash against Scotland looked one-sided on paper, but just two days earlier, another Full-Member side in Sri Lanka had lost to an Associate nation (Namibia) – the warning signs of an upset were there for all to see.
Nicholas Pooran won the toss for West Indies and elected to bowl first. Opener George Munsey scored 66 off 53 to hold Scotland’s innings together to help them post 160. It was a decent score, particularly after a short shower made the outfield sluggish, but at the halfway stage it was a total that West Indies would have expected to chase down comfortably.
They started well, and two decent opening partnerships saw them reach 53-1 with one ball left in the powerplay. At that point, Scotland’s win probability was only 12.1%, with West Indies expected to cruise home. Even as Evan Lewis perished after a pull shot found a fielder on the leg-side boundary, everything seemed to be in control.
But then a massive collapse took place. From 58-2, West Indies proceeded to lose their next six wickets for just 21 runs, as Scotland’s spinners wreaked havoc. Mark Watt and Michael Leask were the danger men, combining for 5-27 off their combined set of eight, as West Indies’ chase badly faltered, eventually falling short of the total by 42 runs.
3. Zimbabwe vs. Pakistan
Lowest win probability for eventual winners: 8.6%
Batting first in Perth, Zimbabwe started off strongly. Openers Wessly Madhevere and Craig Ervine fronted up against the Pakistan pace attack and after four overs, Zimbabwe found themselves 38-0.
But things started wobbling as captain Ervine fell to Haris Rauf and Madhevere was dismissed two balls later. Pakistan turned the screw in the middle overs and Zimbabwe stumbled to 95-7 before setting a modest target of 130.
At the halfway point, Pakistan’s win % was up at close to 85%. It looked like a straightforward task from here.
But Zimbabwe’s quicks had other ideas, tearing through Pakistan’s top order to leave them crumbling at 36-3 in the eighth over. For a brief moment, Zimbabwe and Pakistan’s win probabilities flipped over.
But Shan Masood and Shadab Khan steadied things with a half-century partnership as Pakistan appeared to be cruising to victory. At 88-3 and needing 41 of 39 balls, Pakistan’s win probability was at its peak at 91.4%. Conversely, Zimbabwe’s was at an all-time low at 8.6%.
Enter Zimbabwe all-rounder Sikandar Raza. After pumping Raza back down the ground for six a ball earlier, Shadab tried to do the same on the next delivery, only to get caught on the boundary. A crack had opened for Zimbabwe. Raza then immediately trapped Haider Ali LBW, and he added a third in his next over with the crucial wicket of Masood. His spell would prove to be match-winning.
But not before there was more drama. Pakistan inched closer to the total. Their 11 needed off the last over quickly became four off four, as Brad Evans was swatted away for seven runs from his first two deliveries. That was it, surely.
But there were yet more late twists, as Nawaz miscued a shot to mid-off, leaving Pakistan needing three to win off the last ball. Shaheen Afridi drove it down to long on, as Pakistan rushed for two to force a Super Over. But Raza hurled the ball in to wicketkeeper Chakabva who, despite fumbling the ball, recovered to make the run out, sealing a famous Zimbabwe victory.
2. Ireland vs. Scotland
Lowest win probability for eventual winners: 7.1%
Ireland’s highest ever successful run chase in T20 World Cups wasn’t going to come easy. Scotland’s 176-5, led by Michael Jones’ 55-ball 86, had been the highest score of the tournament to date and Ireland’s chase had started horribly.
When Curtis Campher and George Dockrell started batting together in the chase of 177, Ireland were 61-4, with almost 10 overs gone. Six balls later, with Ireland needing 111 runs from 57 balls our live win probability model had them at just a 7.1% of winning a must-win game to keep their chances of qualifying to the Super 12 alive.
Enter Campher and Dockrell who put on an unbeaten stand of 119 to win the game with an over to spare.
Campher was the star of the show, carving his way to 72* from 32 balls, in what was his highest score in any format.
1. India vs. Pakistan
Lowest win probability for eventual winners: 3.4%
Of course, it had to be this one. In an extraordinary encounter between India and Pakistan at the MCG, one of India’s greatest batsmen played an innings that may be their greatest in T20 cricket.
In his mind, it was certainly Virat Kohli’s best ever T20 knock “because of the magnitude of the game and what the situation was”.
Chasing 160 to win, a total which had been almost entirely reached thanks to half-centuries from Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed, India had slumped to 31-4. But Kohli, together with Hardik Pandya, engineered a game-changing partnership of 113 – the fifth-highest stand for the fifth or lower wicket in men’s T20Is and the highest for India.
But despite that partnership, India’s win prediction was as low as 3.4% during Haris Rauf’s final over of the day. Just three runs came from his first four balls. The equation read: 28 runs needed from eight balls. Advantage Pakistan.
Then, bang, bang. Two absurd sixes from Virat Kohli that changed the game and catapulted their win probability up to 25%.
But Kohli wasn’t done. With 15 to win off four balls, he clubbed another six off of a Nawaz no ball that effectively won the game.
There have been 18 chases where Kohli has remained unbeaten in T20Is, and India have won all of those. At a packed MCG, that evening was no different.
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