When all seemed lost for West Indies, they found an unlikely hero at crunch time. England literally had the 2016 ICC T-20 World Cup in their bag, when Eoin Morgan called Ben Stokes to bowl the last over. West Indies needed 19 and Morgan and his boys felt greatly relieved that Marlon Samuels was at the non-striker’s end. Carlos Brathwaite had arrived in the fateful 16th over by David Willey, who had sent back Andre Russel and Darren Sammy off his first and third balls. Until the last over, Brathwaite had played 6 balls for his 10 runs with an uncharacteristically scooped up boundary off Willey in the 18th over. He didn’t seem to inspire much confidence and West Indies supporters rued that Samuels stood at the other end. No one saw any mid-strip tête-à-tête between the two batsmen. But what happened subsequently took England’s breath away as also the World Cup trophy from them. Stokes bowled a half-volley on Brathwaite’s leg and the batsman heaved across the line to clear the rope at deep square leg. Now 13 were needed off the next 5 and England still had a chance if Brathwaite should miss. But with raw power, Brathwaite sent Stokes’ second ball over long on and everything changed in a jiffy. Scoring 7 off 4 was far easier than 19 off 6 and Brathwaite had not finished. On the third ball, he swung his bat and though it looked a mis-hit, the momentum still carried the ball over long-off. Now West Indies had drawn the score level and England and Stokes were shell-shocked. When Brathwaite repeated his 6-hitting act for the fourth time, the dancing West Indians invaded the field. They had just snatched the coveted World Cup from the England’s grasp!
West Indies cricketers of all hues are a lucky lot. In a little over 100 days of the year 2016, the Caribbean cricket has got a huge boost. They began by winning the Under-19 World Cup and on Sunday, April 03, 2016, they won two back-to-back World Cups. Before the England-West Indies final at Eden Gardens, West Indies women had defeated Australia in the final by 8 wickets to be crowned as Women’s ICC T-20 World Cup Champions. West Indies women required 149 for victory and their openers gave them a solid start with a 120-run first-wicket stand. 18-year-old Hayley Matthews was the top scorer with 66 off 45 balls including 3 towering sixes. The dancing victorious women were greeted by Sammy and Russel in the field, before the men’s final began. Later, when West Indies men beat England, the entire women’s team was still in the stadium and they came out to join the dancing men. It was a glorious night for West Indies cricket.
The ICC T-20 World Cup final between England and West Indies was a game of fluctuating fortunes. Like he did against India, Darren Sammy chose to field after winning the toss. Sammy’s decision looked justified as his bowlers creamed off the top of English batting. With his pin-point leg breaks, Samuel Badree removed opener Jason Roy in the first over and England skipper Eoin Morgan in the 5th. In between Andre Russel accounted for Alex Hales and England reeled at 23/3 in the fifth over. But Joe Root and Josh Buttler rescued England with some authentic hitting. The two of them also provided a fillip to the run-rate before Buttler fell to Brathwaite. England had reached 84/4 in the 12th over and with plenty of batting left, they looked poised for a challenging total. At this juncture, luck deserted them as they lost Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Joe root in a space of 4 balls. With England in some trouble, a cameo from David Willey and support from Chris Jordon helped them reach 155/9 in the end.
Chasing 156 for victory on Sunday was far easier than 193, a target West Indies had against India at Mumbai just a few days back. But yet again the dance of fortunes dictated the course of West Indies’ start. They lost Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle in the second over and Lendl Simmons in the third. 11/3 so early in the chase didn’t bode well for West Indies. But they progressed without losing any more wickets until the 14th over, when a struggling Dwayne Bravo departed. Fortune swung decisively in England’s favor, when Andre Russel and Darren Sammy both perished in 16th over. It was here that Carlos Brathwaite came out to join Marlon Samuels. In the last 4 over, West Indies needed 45 runs and it didn’t look all that easy in the face of some tight bowling and smart fielding by England. They mostly scored singles but West Indies required big hits. Chris Jordan and David Willey bowled with aplomb and Samuels couldn’t hit boundaries and sixes. West Indies could barely manage 7 off the 17th over, 11 of the 18th and 7 off 19th. This brought them to the last 6 balls in which 19 runs were still required with Brathwaite on strike against Ben Stokes. In his first 2 overs, Stokes had yielded 17 but the bowler and his England teammates couldn’t have conjured about what would strike them next. Playing with gay abandon, Brathwaite stunned everyone by whacking 4 sixes in a row as he led the West Indies to the T-20 World Cup victory in one of cricket’s most unprecedented last-over assaults.
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