West Indies 137 for 6 (Samuels 78, Sammy 26, Mendis 4-12) beat Sri Lanka 101 (Jayawardene 31, Kulasekara 26, Narine 3-9, Sammy 2-6) by 36 runs
Flair. Calypso. Frontrunners. Millionaires. Gold chains. Chris Gayle. No, no, no, no, no and no. West Indies’ first World Twenty20 win was more digging in, refusing to give up, running and fielding like their life depended on this match, stunning the home crowd, and pulling off one of the most amazing turnarounds in Twenty20 history, especially given the stage. Flair came from one the most eye-pleasing batsmen going around. There’s no need to add “one of the” here, because Marlon Samuels played simply the best Twenty20 international innings ever seen when West Indies were down and the count had reached about eight. A feedbacker to Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary asked if Samuels’ 78 was the 281 of Twenty20 cricket.
Samuels was not just shouting for help from the burning desk. He danced on that burning deck. He attracted people to that burning deck. And Sri Lanka were singed. So singed that arguably the best Twenty20 bowler in the world went for 0 for 54. So singed that Ajantha Mendis’ figures of 4 for 12 in the final meant noting to the result. West Indies had been 14 for after Powerplays and 32 for 2 after 10 overs, the fourth-worst scores at these points in the history of Twenty20 internationals. They even took 17 balls to score the first run off the bat. Yet so breathtaking was Samuels’ assault, never mind the wickets falling around him, that Sri Lanka were too stunned to respond.
It is also fair, in a way, that captain Darren Sammy contributed big to the win too. That the man who has led the team through times when others had deserted it, despite obvious question marks based on pure skills, played a crucial role on the big night of a tournament that had threatened to make him almost superfluous. When Samuels got out, West Indies were still 108 in the 18th over. They needed a strong finish to keep fighting. And fight Sammy did. He swung and ran like hell, turning three ones into twos in the last over, hitting two fours around those scrambles.
There was a party planned at home, the drinks and food had been procured, the playlists figured out, but on the way home West Indies saw a car coming. And apart from Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, they froze in the headlights. So fickle is the format, though, that those two did enough between them to keep the game alive.
Chris Gayle and friends might have destroyed a few attacks, but against a varied, skilful and unorthodox Sri Lanka attack they just didn’t turn up, except for the two boys on the burning deck. Take out Samuels’ 78 off 56 and Sammy’s 26 off 15, and the rest of the side, extras included, scored 33 in 8.1 overs.
Samuels’ brilliance kept it from becoming a disappointment the size of the 1999 World Cup final, but try telling Ajantha Mendis and his team-mates this was a disappointment. Coming into this match, Sri Lanka had lost three straight World Cup finals they had made. They could do with a timid opposition. And Sri Lanka contributed to the timidity in no small measure. From the first over onwards, they were all over West Indies.
West Indies persisted with Johnson Charles ahead of more free-scoring Dwayne Smith and Lendl Simmons. Angelo Mathews, no stranger to killing off big matches against West Indies in the first over, feasted on the youngster’s nerves, bowling short of a length and letting the seam deviate his deliveries a little. After four dots, Charles played a hopeless shot, getting caught at mid-off. One ball later, the World Twenty20 final had begun with a wicket-maiden. Wally Hammond might have had something to say about it.
Gayle is just another player, Mahela Jayawardene said on the eve of the final. Just another player who feels the pressure of a wicket-maiden first up. Just another player who struggles against the ball that swings away from him and swings big. Just another player who doesn’t like facing Ajantha in a format that calls for more than a run a ball.
Ajantha came on to bowl the sixth over of the innings, like he had done against West Indies in the Super Eights game. He had Gayle sweeping ungainly, had him survive a close lbw call before finally trapping him. West Indies, after having scored their first run off the bat from the 17th legal delivery, were now giving all ignominious Twenty20 records a tough fight. Their 14 for 2 was the fourth-worst Powerplay score, 32 for 2 fourth-worst after 10 overs.
They were not picking Ajantha at all. Akila Dananjaya wasn’t having a bad day either. The stage was set for a third bowler to now knock out the softened-up opposition. Lasith Malinga was the man assigned that job. Samuels, though, counterattacked sensationally. All Malinga had to do was miss his yorker by a few inches in the 13th over, and Samuels stunned him with three of the finest sixes: a flick over deep midwicket, a loft over long-on, and a beautiful drive over extra cover. Still only 69 for 2 after 13, West Indies had some semblance of fight on.
Jayawardene wanted to nip that fight in the bud. He brought back Ajantha, who responded with three wickets in his last two overs: Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard out of the way. Surely Jayawardene had snubbed it all?
Not quite. In between those two overs, Samuels continued his assault, taking apart Jeevan Mendis. Then was the turn of the man widely acknowledged as the best bowler in Twenty20 cricket. After hitting Malinga for a four and a six, Samuels got a length ball, which he sent into the roof of the stadium, the biggest six of the tournament of 108 metres. Samuels was playing a dream innings, but to his grave disappointment he hit a short ball from Dananjaya straight down deep midwicket’s throat.
Sammy, his partner at the time, ran up to him as he was walking off, and congratulated him. Something seemed to have rubbed off as he swung mightily, ran like hell, and even in the company of Denesh Ramdin, brought his side 25 in the last two overs.Comments: