A Sunday night here at the Eden Gardens turned surreal for the 49,818 fans, who embraced Darren Sammy’s men as their own and found ecstasy in a last over of pulsating thrills. The West Indies, known for its hoary past, won the ICC World Twenty20 title.
Marlon Samuels (85 n.o., 66b, 9×4, 2×6) anchored the chase and Carlos Brathwaite (34 n.o.) mocked the 19 runs required from the final six deliveries. The burly Brathwaite’s riposte — 6, 6, 6 and 6 — stunned England and forced a hapless Ben Stokes, the bowler, on to his haunches.
The West Indies won by four wickets, scoring 161 for six in 19.4 overs while in pursuit of England’s 155 for nine. In racing towards the victor’s podium, the West Indies became the only squad so far to win the World Twenty20 title twice, having secured it last in 2012.
Strangely, the initial fireworks that the West Indies witnessed were the ones engineered by the event managers as its top-three fell in quick succession. Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle could not resist their suicidal big-hits against Joe Root’s off-breaks while Lendl Simmons was trapped by seamer David Willey.
At 11 for three, the West Indies suffered the batting horrors. Samuels, however, proved to be the bulwark, and also survived a scare on 27 — being adjudged caught behind off Liam Plunkett — before the cameras pointed out a bump-catch by Jos Buttler.
A lot hinged on Samuels and when he rolled his wrist just a fraction to nail a four past backward square-leg, the West Indies may have sensed a second-wind. At its half-way mark, the Windies was 54 for three in 10 overs and staring at a required rate of 10.
Samuels’s partner Dwayne Bravo, largely sedate, suddenly exploded with a six off spinner Adil Rashid but in trying for an encore, miscued and retreated.
Samuels and Bravo added 75 runs off 69 balls, for the fourth-wicket, offering hope before the West Indies stumbled again. Samuels, with two spectacular sixes off Plunkett, continued to promise an oasis.
In 2012, when the West Indies ambushed host Sri Lanka and won its maiden World Twenty20 title, Samuels’s 78 was a key cornerstone.
History was going to be repeated, just that it came through in the last over as Brathwaite held centrestage.
Earlier, Root’s 54 (36b, 7×4) and to some extent Buttler’s 36, offered some stability in a rather lukewarm England innings. Having elected to field, the West Indies skipper Sammy found vindication within the first two overs as his counterpart Morgan had to hurriedly stride in at number four.
Morgan had to paper over the cracks suffered due to Jason Roy’s frozen feet against leg-spinner Samuel Badree and Alex Hales’s tame shot off Andre Russell, which found the short fine-leg fielder.
At eight for two, England needed its leader to prosper. With Root being fluent, as evident from fours through covers and past mid-on, Morgan had to bide his time.
Morgan struck a lofted four off left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn but his tentative approach against Badree proved fatal. Gayle caught at first slip and England slumped to 23 for three in 4.4 overs.
If the world was crumbling around him, Root did not reflect any angst.
He rocked back or pressed forward to punch or drive and along with Buttler, strung a 61-run fourth-wicket partnership off 40 deliveries.
Just as Root batted without fuss, Buttler bruised Benn with three massive sixes.
The rest of the England line-up, did not inspire similar confidence and credit is also due to the fielding skills of Sammy’s men as diving catches perhaps meant that Morgan and company suffered a poor appetite at the interval.
It was an agony that continued well into the night.