Both West Indies teams, men and women, defied their ‘underdog’ status to reach their respective finals of the ICC World T20 tournament here at the Wankhede Stadium, India, yesterday.
The men rode on the back of some power hitting from their front line batsmen, minus Chris Gayle, to stun hosts India while the women earned the right to meet Australia in the title decider on Sunday, after eeking out a six-run win over New Zealand courtesy a solid allround performance, led by captain Stafanie Taylor.
Up until a couple days go, Lendl Simmons was in Trinidad recuperating from a back injury but yesterday, having replaced an injured Andre Fletcher on the West Indies team, he showed he was fully healed blasting a superb unbeaten 83 to silence more than 34,000 fans at the venue and millions more across India, as he guided West Indies to a seven-wicket win over the hosts with two balls to spare.
They will meet England on Sunday in search of their second title. India’s score of 192 for two, was built once again upon their ‘rock’ Virat Kohli who struck an unbeaten 89 from 47 balls, while Rohit Sharma (43) and Ajinkya Rahane (40) played supporting roles, leaving the West Indies to get a challenging 9.6 runs per over.
It became an even greater chase when their most proficient T20 batsman, Gayle (5), was bowled with the seventh ball of the innings with only six runs on the board. And the vociferous Indian fans would have been thinking it was just a matter of time when Marlon Samuels (8) followed Gayle to the dugout at 19/2 with the last ball of the third over.
But West Indies captain Darren Sammy has asserted on more than one occasion that his team was packed with 15 match winners, and although it was only his first appearance, Simmons lived up to his captain’s boast hitting seven fours and five sixes from just 51 balls.
Simmons was twice caught off no-balls on 18 and then on 50 to the disappointment of the home supporters. He shared in a 97-run partnership with Johnson Charles whose 52 came from 36 balls and included seven fours and two sixes. “Today was my day,” he said. “Every cricketer has a day, today I had luck on my side and things went the way we wanted it.”
He lost Charles when he played an innocuous shot of Kohli’s first ball and saw the ball land in the safe hands of Sharma at long on.
Any thoughts that this was a turning point in India’s favour was soon put to rest as Andre Russell (43 not out of 20 balls) with three fours and four sixes, bullied the West Indies to victory. His match winning partnership with Simmons was worth 80 runs of 40 balls.
Earlier, Sammy won the toss, his fifth of the series, and opted to field. After a slow start, Sharma exploded against Russell and cracked him for two sixes in his second over. The Mumbai Indians captain sent three balls into the stands and three rolling over the ropes, and by the time Samuel Badree sent him back leg before, his opening stand with the recalled Ajinkya Rahane was worth 62 in 7.2 overs.
Kohli’s arrival was met with deafening noise and the batting maestro seemed somewhat nervous, almost running himself out in a comedy of errors off a free-hit delivery. Two fieldsmen, one Dwayne Bravo, missed the stumps from less than three metres with Kohli well out of his ground. Needless to say, the following ball went to the boundary, and thereafter his innings flourished.
Rahane proved a perfect foil and they netted 66 runs for the second wicket. Not many balls went for boundaries but Kohli as he normally does, opened up the field with deft glances into the open spaces that turned ones into twos. He lost Rahane for 40 of 35 balls with two fours and was joined by his experienced captain MS Dhoni.
The pair added 50 runs off 21 balls with Kohli getting 27 runs from overs 18 and 19. They then clobbered another 12 from the final over bowled by Bravo. Dhoni ended on 15 from nine balls in an unfinished partnership of 64 which came of 27 balls in 25 minutes of complete mayhem.