Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Glory for the West Indies

It was an historic day for West Indies cricket as the Caribbean side, thanks largely to an astonishing lone hand by Marlon Samuels, overcame the home team Sri Lanka by 36 runs to win the ICC World Twenty20 at the R Premadasa International Stadium in Colombo yesterday.
The final was billed as the battle between West Indies’ flair and Sri Lanka’s discipline, but when it came to their on-field displays it was the men from the Caribbean who displayed the stronger discipline, as they wore down Sri Lanka’s formidable batting line-up with sharp fielding and incisive bowling, particularly by mystery spinner Sunil Narine.
Chasing a challenging 138 to win on a sluggish turning wicket, Sri Lanka’s batsmen were put under pressure from the start as Tillakaratne Dilshan was bowled by a peach of a delivery from Ravi Rampaul in the first ball of the second over.
It was always going to come down to a battle between the Sri Lankan big three — Dilshan, skipper Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara — and the West Indian bowling. Jayawardene and Sangakkara, after Dilshan’s departure, consolidated well by putting on 42 runs for the second wicket, albeit at a slow pace. But Sangakkara’s dismissal in the tenth over, caught at deep square leg off Samuel Badree, opened the floodgates. Angelo Mathews went three runs later, bowled by West Indies skipper Darren Sammy, and then in the thirteenth over Sri Lanka’s last hope, Jayawardene, fell trying to reverse sweep Narine.
Then Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera were run out in the space of four balls, as the pressure of the climbing run rate became too hot to handle for the home team. At 64 for six, the game was as good as won, although Nuwan Kulasekara briefly threatened a coup with a 16-ball 26. But it was to be West Indies’ day as Malinga became Narine’s third wicket, and the one that sealed West Indies first ICC multinational tournament triumph since the 2004 Champions’ Trophy.
Earlier, the West Indies batsmen faced similar problems when at the start of the innings. Johnson Charles was out in the first over trying to clear the infield against Angelo Mathews, and Chris Gayle’s innings could not have been in sharper contrast to what fans have come to expect of the big-hitting Jamaican. Gayle played and missed for 15 balls for only three runs before being trapped in front by Ajantha Mendis in the sixth over, by which time West Indies had crawled to just 14.
Samuels was watching from the other end as his side’s ambitions of lifting the treasured title seemed to have vanished with Gayle’s departure. At the end of ten overs West Indies had reached 32 for two and Samuels on 20 off 32 balls, a competitive score a distant dream. Nuwan Kulasekara then dropped Samuels on the boundary, and then the match turned, mostly through some astonishing strokeplay by Samuels.
He picked the opposition’s best bowler, Lasith Malinga, for particularly harsh punishment. Malinga’s second over, the thirteenth of the innings, was hammered for 21 runs, with Samuels clobbering three sixes.
Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka’s other danger man in the bowling department in the bowling department, was having a much better day. He trapped Dwayne Bravo leg-before — an erroneous decision as Bravo had inside-edged the ball on to his pad — in the next over with the score on 73, but Samuels went on his way hitting a six and a four in the next over by Jeevan Mendis. Ajantha then put Sri Lanka on top again, picking up two in two balls — that of Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell — leaving West Indies at 89 for five at the end of the sixteenth.
But it was Samuel’s day and he again reserved his best for the best as 19 came off Malinga’s last over, which saw a boundary and two sixes off Samuel’s bat. The second of the two maximums, an almighty crack over the long on boundary, was recorded as the biggest six of the tournament at 108 metres. In all, Samuel’s had plundered 39 runs off the 11 balls he faced from Malinga.
He was finally dismissed in the next over, attempting his seventh six off Akila Dananjaya to be caught at midwicket for 78 off 56 balls, including 52 off his last 19 deliveries. It was then left to captain Darren Sammy, who scored 26 off 15 deliveries to take West Indies to 137, a total scarcely imaginable ten overs previously.

-With The Daily Star input

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