Australia

A look back at why the Australian cricket team has never won the men’s T20 World Cup

For a proud cricketing nation, it’s a glaring omission in the trophy cabinet. 

In six attempts, Australia has never won the men’s T20 World Cup. Aaron Finch’s men will try to make history at the tournament to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Former international T20 fast bowler and current ABC Sport analyst Dirk Nannes believes this won’t be the year Australia breaks through, with many of its players lacking match practice in the lead-up to the tournament.

“I just don’t see with the build-up that they’ve had how they can. I’d be very surprised if they got to the pointy end of the tournament,” Nannes said.

“Pakistan play in the UAE all the time, India have just come off the IPL in the UAE and a lot of the West Indian players are there and are really suited to T20 cricket.

Nannes says Australia’s lack of T20 success started when selectors didn’t pay enough attention to the format in its early days.

Nannes says the T20 cricket team was almost an afterthought in its early days.(Cricket Australia via Getty Images: Scott Barbour)

“T20 cricket was almost an afterthought, ‘oh, who’ve we got over there at the time, we’ve got a one day team, okay well just play the one day team in this T20 game’, that was kind of the attitude that you really got from selectors,” Nannes said.

“I think we’ve been a bit of a one-trick pony, it’s been pace and nothing else, we’ve had some spinners but we haven’t succeeded on varying pitches.

“Combine that with the places where the T20 tournaments have been played, it all adds up to not quite nailing it.”

Here’s how Australia has fared in men’s T20 World Cups.

South Africa 2007

  • Australia — Semi-finals
  • Winner — India
Yuvraj Singh jumps in the air as he leads India running to the middle of the cricket pitch.
Yuvraj Singh leads the celebration as India wins the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Championship match in 2007.(Getty Images: Hamish Blair)

A tournament-ending hamstring injury to captain Ricky Ponting didn’t stop Australia from surging into the semis. Australia then ran into a rampant Yuvraj Singh, who smashed 70 off 30 balls as India won by 15 runs. India went on to win the inaugural tournament, the country fell in love with T20 cricket and the Indian Premier League started the following year.

England 2009 

  • Australia — Group stage
  • Winner — Pakistan

The host nation suffered a humiliating loss to the Netherlands in the group stage. Nannes (courtesy of his Dutch-born parents) played in that game.

“It’s still the sporting highlight of my career,” Nannes said.

Dirk Nannes throws the ball in the air and catches it.
Nannes played for the Netherlands before donning the green and gold.(PA Images via Getty Images: Tony Marshall)

“The phone calls that we got after that game, everyone in the world basically saying how good it was that we beat England at Lord’s, that memory’s going to live with me for a very long time.”

In its first group game, Australia came up against a player who would torment them at T20 World Cups. Left-handed West Indian batter Chris Gayle hit six sixes on his way to 88 off 50 balls in his team’s seven-wicket win.

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Another aggressive opener, Tillakaratne Dilshan, made 53 off 32 balls as Sri Lanka beat Ponting’s men by six wickets. After only two games, Australia’s tournament was already over.

“They didn’t have their best team until they copped a flogging in the 2009 World Cup and then they started changing their selection policy,” Nannes said.

That included the selectors rewarding Nannes for several years of strong T20 form in domestic competitions. Two months after playing for The Netherlands, the left-arm speedster was wearing the Australian green and gold.

West Indies 2010

  • Australia — Runner-up
  • Winner — England
Cameron White is down on one knee after he smashes a cricket ball and it hovers in the air.
Cameron White starred with the bat for Australia in the 2010 campaign.(Getty Images: Julian Herbert)

This was Australia’s best showing at the tournament. In Australia’s opening game against Pakistan, Nannes dismissed Kamran Akmal with the first ball of the innings and against Bangladesh, he took four for 19 as Australia topped its group. The Michael Clarke-led team then won all three of its games in the Super Eights stage.

Nannes finished the tournament as the leading wicket-taker with 14. Steve Smith played as a specialist spinner batting at number eight and took 11 wickets. The Hussey brothers, Michael and David, along with Cameron White, were prolific with the bat.

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“We had a bowling attack that was straight-out raw pace and we played on wickets, particularly in Barbados that were suitable for that, we could bounce sides out or intimidate subcontinent teams.”

In the final against England, Australia scraped together six for 147. Wicket-keeper/batsman Craig Kieswetter hit a career-best 63 off 49 balls as England reached the victory target with three overs to spare.

“It was my birthday so I thought it was scripted that we were going to win that, it seemed like it was the right thing and our team was performing so well that it was just going to happen,” Nannes said.

Sri Lanka 2012

  • Australia — Semi-finals
  • Winner — West Indies
Shane Watson smiles as he is surrounded by teammates.
All-rounder Shane Watson was one of Australia’s stars of the 2012 team.(Hindustan Times via Getty Images: Ajay Aggarwal)

Despite being battered by another Gayle-force innings (54 off 33 balls), the George Bailey-led Australia won its two group games. All-rounder Shane Watson starred as Australia topped its group in the Super Eights stage.

In the semi-finals, Australia’s troubles with Gayle continued. The self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” belted an unbeaten 75 off 41 balls in a comprehensive 74-run win. West Indies beat Sri Lanka in the final.

Bangladesh 2014

  • Australia — Group stage
  • Winner — Sri Lanka
Glenn Maxwell and George Bailey tap hands while on the cricket field.
Australia lost three of their four group games in 2014.(ICC via Getty Images: Matthew Lewis)

This was a forgettable campaign for Bailey’s men, who bowed out after losing three of their four group games. Like clockwork, Gayle smashed 53 off 35 balls in the West Indies’ six-wicket win over Australia. A 42-year-old Gayle will be waiting in the group stage at the 2021 tournament, and 67 off 38 balls at Gros Islet in July was a reminder of how much he enjoys playing Australia.

“Even though he’s a big hitter and whacks ’em around and everyone thinks he smashes balls everywhere, he’s so incredibly predictable in the way he goes about accumulating his runs,” Nannes said.

India 2016 

  • Australia — Super 10 group stage
  • Winner — West Indies
David Warner walks off the cricket pitch with his head down.
Australia experimented with putting regular opener David Warner down the order a little bit, but it failed dismally.(Getty Images: Ryan Pierse)

Two wins from four matches weren’t enough for Steve Smith’s Australia, who failed to make the semi-finals again. Australia’s experiment with regular opener David Warner batting at three or four was a dismal failure with the left-hander managing 38 runs in four innings. Virat Kohli’s 82 off 51 balls in India’s six-wicket win ensured Australia would miss the semi-finals.

West Indies beat England in the most memorable final in the tournament’s history. The Calypso Kings needed 19 runs for victory from the final over from Ben Stokes. Up stepped Carlos Brathwaite, who smashed four successive sixes to win the game with two balls to spare. In commentary, former West Indies paceman Ian Bishop could hardly contain himself, shouting “CARLOS BRATHWAITE! CARLOS BRATHWAITE! REMEMBER THE NAME! HISTORY FOR THE WEST INDIES.”

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The stage is set for someone else to make a name for themselves at the 2021 T20 World Cup.

Nannes tips India to win the tournament.

“They’ve been in those conditions for so long, their lead-up could not be better with having the IPL in the UAE, all their players are in form, I just think it’s theirs to lose.”


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