Six teams qualified to reach Australia 2020 but – whether with the bat, the ball or in the field – all 14 teams entertained across 51 absorbing matches in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier.
But while entertainment was plentiful, there was still room for a handful of moments that stood head and shoulders above all the rest.
Vanua hat-trick gets PNG going
The first moment of magic takes us all the way back to the opening round of fixtures – and an immediate introduction to how impressive PNG would be in the competition.
Bowling Bermuda out for 89 and chasing down the total with ten wickets still in hand was already an indicator at their play-off credentials.
But in Norman Vanua – part of the Team of the Tournament – they had an early contender for best bowling spell with a hat-trick in their opener.
The first was a fast bowler’s dream, watching Bermudan captain Dion Stovell’s off-stump cartwheel out of the ground before having Kamau Leverock edge behind first ball.
And his unforgettable treble was complete when the perfect Yorker had Deunte Darrell trapped leg before wicket without scoring – rounding off Vanua’s perfect first over of the competition.
The stage was then set for the talented 25-year-old to show what he is made of, contributing with both bat and ball to take PNG to the T20 World Cup for the first time.
Savvy Usman puts UAE into play-offs
Needing a win in their final group match against Canada, UAE’s bid for the play-offs started in disastrous fashion after losing both openers to sit at six for two.
It needed something special to get their innings back on track – and up stepped Muhammad Usman.
Coming in at No.4, his innings of 89 not out from 63 balls – the joint top score of the Qualifier alongside Ireland’s Gareth Delany – proved invaluable, with UAE holding off their opponents to reach the next stage.
The knock featured six fours and two classy sixes but it wasn’t just boundaries that this innings will be remembered for.
First steadying the ship with Rameez Shahzad (27), Usman then played a clever game full of hard running, picking up 14 twos alone in his partnership with Darius D’Silva.
That boosted the UAE to 154 for five, a total they defended by just 14 runs – making every one of the 89 scored by Usman priceless.
Spin twins send Namibia to Australia
Gerhard Erasmus feared the worst when Oman’s openers coasted to 55 for one in their chase of 162 against Namibia, with the winner automatically booking their place at Australia 2020.
But the captain needn’t have worried, with JJ Smit (59 from 25 balls) counter-attacking before Bernard Scholtz continued the stirring comeback as Namibia sealed the deal.
Erasmus and his country have known their fair share of heartbreak, suffering in five play-off matches across three previous editions of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier.
But they stood up this time – the skipper chipping in with three for 19 as Oman lost six for 32 to finish 107 all out.
Key partnership breakers made the difference, with just three Oman players reaching double figures before all were dismissed by the unerring accuracy of Scholtz.
Munsey finds his range
Few batsmen in the tournament could match the level of ability that Scotland’s George Munsey showed at the top of the order.
Opening partnerships with Kyle Coetzer proved vital to their cause but none more so than the extravagant 65 Munsey made in the victory over UAE – the win that sealed their place Down Under.
With the reverse sweep as prevalent in his armoury as a forward defensive, Munsey’s talent stole the show as Scotland put on 198 for six from their 20 overs, the third highest score of the tournament.
By the third over, UAE plans were cast aside as the 26-year-old found gaps that other batters would struggle to even see, striking two fours and five imperious sixes in his 43-ball innings.
Scotland would go on to prevail by 90 runs, a fearless attitude rewarded with an emphatic victory to reach Australia.
Shahzad pulls off the ‘Stokes’
An innings like that from Munsey needed something special to stop it – and a catch comparable to that of England’s Ben Stokes’ grab in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 was certainly the way to go.
Such was the brilliance of Rameez Shahzad’s effort at long-on that even the commentators initially thought the ball evaded him and carried into the stands.
But Shahzad had other ideas, the UAE fielder sticking out his right hand and watching the ball nestle in before tumbling to the ground and safely clinging on.
Plucked magnificently, it’s a catch that gets better with every viewing – with even the Scotland support staff applauding his effort from the sidelines.
Erasmus bags a blinder
Captains are supposed to lead from the front but Gerhard Erasmus took that very literally when pulling off a corking catch against eventual finalists PNG.
PNG and Tony Ura in particular had been firing early on in their semi-final match, with more runs looking set when the opener struck a delicate chip over the top of mid-on.
But he didn’t account for the exceptional Erasmus, running away from the ball while keeping his eyes glued on it, then throwing his right hand up and across with perfect timing to take the catch as the ball threatened to go past him.
The glue that holds Namibia together, Erasmus was named Player of the Tournament with his performances – starring with both bat and ball, as well as pulling off these moments of magic in the field.