If one didn’t know that this was a group stage match, it would have felt like the West Indies had won the World Twenty20 title on Friday. The disc jockey at the stadium played his part, switching to ‘Gangnam Style’ and turning up the volume immediately after West Indian skipper Darren Sammy sent the white ball into the sightscreen to win a tight grudge match against Australia with two balls to spare.
The tune, to which the West Indians danced all night in Colombo when they won the title they are defending here, was music to the ears of everyone, except the 11 Australians in the middle and a few more in the dug-out. For a couple of minutes they were like uninvited guests looking to make a hasty exit from a party.
Chris Gayle and his teammates danced their way towards the sheepish Aussies, with the entire stadium on its feet. He was celebrating, yet Gayle wore the expression of a man who had been spited and had just had tasted revenge.
Darren Sammy was as animated as Gayle in his celebrations. After hitting the winning runs, he flung the bat in the air and ran towards his onrushing teammates. He arrived at the post-match briefing with his pads still on — like Billy the Kid walking into the sheriff’s office with his gun still smoking after a Mexican standoff. In a side full of stars, Sammy’s skill with the bat doesn’t get the respect it deserves but that will change after Friday.
War of words
After all, the skipper Sammy had pulled off a great escape. West Indies needed 72 off 36 and later 31 off 12. Sammy did not need as many balls, scoring the 31 required off just 10 balls to lead his side to a win in a contest that was preceded by an exchange of words with James Faulkner.
What was to be the final few minutes of this Super 10 game had the makings of a thriller. Faulkner was the big-talker. He had made no bones about his dislike for the West Indians. He was assigned to bowl the final over off which the rivals needed 12 runs.
Faulkner was asked to bowl the last over because he was Australia’s best bowler on the day — he bowled three overs for 15 runs until then. And his ability to bowl yorkers made him the ideal choice.
The first delivery of the final over was a full ball that Sammy didn’t offer a shot to. The ball rolled off his pads and the West Indians didn’t take a single. At the non-striker’s end Bravo was batting on 27 off 12, but Sammy had decided to land the final blows in this duel.
The second ball from Faulkner was in the block hole and Sammy could only hit it back. With 12 needed off four now, the Australians were in the game. Faulkner though got the attempted yorker wrong and it ended up as a full toss that Sammy smashed over long-on. The next ball was hit by Sammy back over the bowlers head and into over the ropes.
Sammy had turned the game around in the penultimate over when he carted around left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc for 19 runs. Bravo’s two sixes and two fours had given West Indies an outside chance after Gayle and Lendl Simmons were dismissed off successive overs.
Gayle had begun aggressively in chase of Australia’s 178. He did the bulk of the scoring as he and Dwaye Smith had to run just two singles in the first fifty. However, the Australians fought back with some tight bowling. The defending champions looked like heading towards the exit door, till Sammy struck telling blows.