ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021
Timeline of triumph: The road to T20 World Cup glory
From the top of the world to the bottom and back up again, take a look back at an eventful two years for Australia’s T20 side
15 November 2021, 06:30 PM AEST
Australia complete an unbeaten six-match home series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan to finish the year without a loss from eight T20 matches, their best winning streak since 2010.
Coach Justin Langer preaches the value of picking five specialist bowlers in his side ahead of a home World Cup later in the year, the same formula he used at the Perth Scorchers, and the attack of Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Kane Richardson, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are relied upon during the series.
Australia's top order of David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith are so dominant that wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey, listed to bat at No.6, is not required in any of the six games.
Ashton Turner and Ben McDermott are given a chance in the middle order, but neither can produce a score of significance.
Past 10 matches: LWLWWWWWWW (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Josh Hazlewood
February 2020: Away series win in South Africa
The Aussies complete a 2-1 series win in South Africa, including their only loss from their past 13 games, thanks to the dominance of their top three and five-man bowling attack that impressed in the home summer.
Glenn Maxwell's absence due to injury means Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh are given a chance in the middle order and while neither can produce a score of note, skipper Finch says both men will be given another chance to nail down the finisher role on the upcoming tour of New Zealand.
Gloveman Carey shows some positive signs in the No.6 position and with a home World Cup fast approaching, the No.5 berth appears to be the only selection question mark.
Past 10 matches: WWWWWWWWLW (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Josh Hazlewood
March 2020: The pandemic hits
Having returned from South Africa and just days away from a T20 tour of New Zealand, Australian cricket – and the whole world – is thrown off its axis by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New Zealand tour is subsequently scrapped and Australia's preparations for the home World Cup later in the year, which remains on the schedule, are up in the air.
May 2020: Australia claim top ranking
While cricket remains in lockdown, Australia have reason to celebrate when they move to the top of the world T20 rankings following the annual update, taking top spot for the first time.
A reward for having lost just one of their previous 13 matches, the news comes with the reality that the home World Cup is likely to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Acknowledging the uncertainty still hanging over the global game, coach Justin Langer insists his team is on the right path for World Cup glory.
"Getting to No.1 is a great thing, but when you're No.1, you're always the hunted," Langer said. "I know how hard it is to win World Cups ... everything has to go right.
"One day, I’d love to see Aaron Finch with all his mates lift that T20 World Cup above his head."
July 2020: Home World Cup postponed
The ICC officially call off the 2020 World Cup in Australia, leaving Langer's plans for the home tournament in tatters.
A month later, it's confirmed the next World Cup will be held in India in 2021 with the home event to follow 12 months later, meaning Australia's planning and strategy must be re-worked.
September 2020: Back in action
The Australians return to the park for the first time since March and lose a tight T20 series in England by a scoreline of 2-1.
The attack of Starc, Richardson, Zampa and Agar play all three games, with Cummins featuring in two and Hazlewood one. Stoinis also returns in the finisher role, but he misses his chance in the opening game of the series. Marsh then produces a match-winning innings from No.6 in the final game of the series, putting his name forward again for a middle-order role.
Stoinis, Marsh, Carey, Maxwell and Smith all bat at either No.5 or No.6 during the series, with limited success.
Having played 11 consecutive games, only two of which resulted in a defeat, Carey is axed from the side for the final game of the series and Wade returns as an opener in place of Warner, who is rested.
Hazlewood also returns for his first T20 international in four-and-a-half years.
Past 10 matches: WWWWWLWLLW (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: N/A
December 2020: Home defeat to India as injuries hit
Back on home soil for the first time since the start of the pandemic, an under-strength Australian side is beaten by a strong Indian team 2-1.
Warner, Finch, Agar, Cummins, Starc, Marsh and Stoinis are among the big names who miss at least some games, mostly through injury, which sees a host of new faces come into the side and given a chance to push their case.
Moises Henriques and Mitchell Swepson show some good signs, Daniel Sams makes his debut and pacemen Sean Abbott and AJ Tye also return to the line-up, with minimal success.
Wade and D'Arcy Short are both tried as openers with Warner absent due to injury, but the series is largely an entrée to the Tests that follow and few questions, if any, are answered ahead of the World Cup.
Past 10 matches: WWLWLLWLLW (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Pat Cummins
March 2021: Second-string team heads to New Zealand
Selectors are forced to pick a squad minus their all-format players due to a clash with the Test tour of South Africa, but those big names ultimately could have headed across the Tasman given the series against the Proteas is later called off.
The main takeout from the 3-2 series loss to the Kiwis is chief selector George Bailey unequivocally backing Finch to be captain at the World Cup later in the year and the opener responds by snapping a long form drought and leading Australia's run-scorers for the series.
In the absence of Warner and Smith, Wade and new boy Josh Philippe are given a chance at the top of the order but neither can take full advantage, throwing further mystery over the identity of Australia's World Cup gloveman and where in the order he'll bat.
Marsh returns to the side and scores just 67 runs from five games, including scores of 0, 6no, 6 and 10 batting at No.6 or 7 in the order, while Stoinis produces a stunning innings of 78 from No.5 to send a reminder of his finisher qualities.
Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith are both given a chance and the pair show enough to also earn lucrative IPL contracts, putting them near the front of the queue for one of the spare fast bowler spots at the World Cup, along with Daniel Sams.
Past 10 matches: LWLLWLLWWL (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood
June 2021: World Cup is shifted to the UAE
The escalating COVID-19 situation in India sees the World Cup moved to the United Arab Emirates. A month later, it's also announced that the UAE will host the second half of the IPL in September, forcing another re-think of Australia's strategy and planning given pitches will have significant traffic on them before the World Cup begins.
July 2021: Stars withdraw from winter tours
Eight leading players – Warner, Smith, Maxwell, Stoinis, Cummins, Sams and both Richardsons – withdraw from the winter tours of West Indies and Bangladesh following their chaotic departure from India after the abandonment of the IPL.
The likes of Philippe, Carey, Henriques, McDermott, Turner and the recalled Dan Christian are unable to take advantage of the mass exodus during the 4-1 series loss to the West Indies in the Caribbean, with the one shining light with the bat being the form of Marsh, who is surprisingly elevated to first drop.
"We see him as a bit of an enforcer up there, he faces fast bowling as well as anyone around the place," Langer says at the start of the tour.
"He hits the ball with brutal power and we're looking forward to giving him a chance at the top of the order."
Hazlewood impresses in the four games he plays to push his name forward for a World Cup spot and while Agar and Zampa continue to lead the attack, Langer flags publicly for the first time a shift away from the five-bowler strategy at the showpiece event later in the year.
Past 10 matches: LLWWLLLLWL (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins
Aug 2021: Bangladesh bashing adds to horror tour
Having lost 4-1 in the Caribbean, the Aussies are thrashed by the same scoreline in Bangladesh to make it eight losses from 10 games and five series defeats in a row leading into the World Cup.
On diabolical pitches for batting, Marsh is once again the lone shining light with the bat in a low-scoring campaign, which is capped off by Australia's being routed for just 62 in the final game of the series.
With an injured Finch joining the IPL contingent in missing the series, Wade is installed as skipper and having batted in the top order all year, drops himself to No.5 for two games in Dhaka, flagging what's to come for him at the World Cup.
The Aussies rotate their bowlers and as flagged by Langer in the Caribbean, trial a seven-four line-up ahead of the World Cup, with new boy Nathan Ellis the standout performer on a disappointing tour.
Langer's position is then the subject of furious media speculation in the weeks following the tour amid reports of player discontent, leading Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley to publicly defend the coach and back him to continue doing an "incredible job" through to the World Cup.
Past 10 matches: LLLWLLLLWL (most recent last)
2021 World Cup winners not selected: Aaron Finch, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins
Sep 2021: Star players go missing
With no further international matches scheduled between the end of the Bangladesh tour and the start of the World Cup, Australia's players look to rely on either the IPL or domestic cricket at home to prepare for the tournament.
But the majority of the 18-player touring party is sidelined for most of September and October. Skipper Finch is recovering from knee surgery, Warner is sensationally dropped by his IPL franchise for the second time in six months, Stoinis suffers a minor hamstring injury, Smith struggles to get a game for the Delhi Capitals while Cummins and Starc both remain at home for family reasons.
The plans of those who stay in Australia are also scuppered by pandemic-related border closures, which throws the domestic schedule into chaos and means they play barely any cricket before flying to the UAE.
With just weeks to go before the tournament begins, only Hazlewood and Maxwell are able to play consistent cricket, with both players producing standout IPL campaigns.
Nov 2021: England loss sparks heavy criticism
Having won their opening two games of the tournament, Australia's World Cup hopes are left hanging by a thread following a thumping loss to England in Dubai.
Effectively needing to win five consecutive games to claim the title, the Australians are slammed by the likes of Shane Warne and Steve Waugh, with the latter calling for a complete review of Australia's approach to T20 cricket if they suffer an early exit.
The form and immediate futures of veterans Finch and Warner are also called into question, while Warne says Smith should also be dropped from the side.
Nov 2021: Australia win the men's T20 World Cup for the first time
After finishers Stoinis and Wade steal a nail-biting victory from Pakistan in the semi-final, having done so against South Africa earlier in the tournament, the Australians produce the perfect run chase to beat New Zealand in the final.
Led by a resurgent Warner and a rampant Marsh with the bat, the Aussies chase down a victory target of 173 with relevant ease, stunning most pundits around the world who predicted they would struggle to make it out of their group.
Significant tactical moves executed during the year – Marsh's elevation to first drop, the shift to a four-man bowling attack and the use of Wade and Stoinis as finishers – pay off handsomely as Australia claim their maiden title.