The West Indies became the fourth Twenty20 World Cup champions after defeating hosts Sri Lanka by 36 runs at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday evening.
Victory for the Caribbean side will not be unpopular within the world of cricket. The side has gone through some very tough times over the last two decades after years of world domination, but the cool, calm and enjoyable approach that many of the players take to the game has left many cricket fans with a soft spot for the side.
Tournament success for the WIndies was thoroughly deserved, too, and they are worthy winners of the championships. They have every component needed to make a successful Twenty20 side and once they got going in the Super 8s, they were very difficult to stop, picking up confidence with each victory (and turning each victory into a huge party).
At the top of the order, the explosive hitting of Gayle and Samuels fired throughout, well capable of exploiting the powerplays and tearing the opening bowlers apart. In the middle order, Dwayne Bravo adds stability and often unbelievable shot making, whilst Kieron Pollard then has the sheer brute force to add 20 or 30 runs in next to no time at the back end of an innings.
In the field, the WIndies are brilliant. The likes of Pollard, Bravo and Russell are quick and agile around the boundary, capable of saving upwards of 20 runs a match, whilst they caught the ball well throughout the tournament.
Then, with the ball, Darren Sammy has plenty of options to call upon, including his own medium pace. Ravi Rampaul regularly picked up early wickets, whilst Narine spun his way to figures of 2-17, 3-20 and 3-9 in the West Indies’ last three matches of the tournament. On top of this, Badree, Samuels and Gayle offered further useful spin options.
One of the WIndies’ most forceful weapons, however, is their team spirit. Darren Sammy has achieved a real sense of togetherness and self belief in the team, a spirit rarely matched throughout sport, let alone cricket, and that alone can help them through tight matches.
Success in the final didn’t come easy for Darren Sammy’s side, however, as they limped to 22/2 from eight overs after winning the toss and electing to bat. Openers Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles both fell cheaply, making just three between them after eating up 21 balls, with Angelo Mathews bowling a tight line outside off stump.
The slow start to the match mirrored the West Indies’ entire tournament. They stumbled into the Super 8 stage without victory, losing to Australia before their final group match against Ireland was rained off.
The WIndies didn’t look back upon reaching the Super 8s however, defeating England and New Zealand (via a “Super Over”) to qualify for the semi-finals, where they turned the tables on Australia, winning by 74 runs to set up their final with Sri Lanka.
And so, like the tournament as a whole, after taking a while to get going, an explosive innings from Marlon Samuels changed the shape of the game and put the WIndies in a commanding position. The all-rounder, who played a key role for Darren Sammy’s side throughout the competition, smashed 78 off just 56 balls, dispatching six sixes in the process, as the West Indies posted 137 from their 20 overs.
Samuels’ innings, and an excellent 26 not out from Darren Sammy, gave the West Indies the momentum in the match and that carried forward as Sri Lanka batted, with Ravi Rampaul getting the crucial early wicket of Dilshan.
The real star with the ball for the WIndies though was spinner Sunil Narine, who finished with the stunning figures of 3 for 9 from 3.4 overs, including the wicket of Jayawardene, whilst captain Sammy completed his wonderful match with 2 for 6 as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 101, allowing the West Indies to start celebrations that are sure to last for quite some time back home in the Caribbean.
The title is the West Indies’ first since their 2004 Champions Trophy success in England and congratulations must go to Darren Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson for the fantastic work they’ve done in getting the side to where they are now.
Darren Sammy’s side emulate Pakistan, India and England as world champions since the inaugural competition T20 World Cup in 2007.