West Indies Win World T20
Everybody had expected Chris Gayle or Joe Root, Marlon Samuels or Jos Buttler, Andre Russell or Ben Stokes to be the pivotal performer in the World T20 final on Sunday.
Yet, while some of these players demonstrated their class when it mattered, nobody could have foreseen that the contest would be decided by an explosive dose of belligerence from Carlos Brathwaite.
That, in a nutshell, is one of the beauties of the short-form game. It makes fools of forecasters, produces instant heroes and serves up battles which twist and turn like the darkest film noir.
At the death last night, the bare statistic that West Indies had beaten England by four wickets with two deliveries to spare told you nothing about the manner in which the drama unfolded.
First, it was the English who collapsed in a heap at the start of their innings, losing three early wickets, and looking vulnerable to the wily spin of Samuel Badree. But Root and Buttler fought back, showing signs of their obvious class and uninhibited approach to their task.
There ensured another tumble of wickets as fortune fluctuated one way, then the other, with Root’s half-century the only major contribution. Yet an eventual tally of 155 was better than had seemed likely an hour earlier.
And it appeared better still when Gayle fell amidst a cacophony of cheers from the Barmy Army and the sound of silence from the Caribbean contingent. They were 11 for 3 quick enough and it might have been four – and game over – if Buttler hadn’t grassed the ball in the process of attempting to catch Samuels.
But rightly, the powerful West Indian talisman was allowed to remain at the crease and he made England pay with a wonderful bombardment of boundaries, en route to his eventual unbeaten 85.
It was a superb knock, but even his heroics would not have been enough without the emergence into the limelight of Brathwaite, after the West Indies were left needing 19 from the final over.
We had previously witnessed a few indications that the 27-year-old bowler could use his power to mighty effect, but few would have envisaged the fashion in which he transformed the whole match during a thrilling denouement.
Stokes was the unlucky recipient of Brathwaite’s brutality, but he hardly helped his cause by starting the over with a leg-stump half-volley which was pummelled into the stand.
Then the following delivery received the same treatment. And the third which brought the scores level.
England were crestfallen and the Windies aficionados jubilant and why not? With the very next ball, Brathwaite completed the rout with a fourth consecutive maximum which sailed into the crowd in the stand behind deep midwicket.
Perhaps, we should be aware by now that Twenty20 has unique qualities. For any sceptics, this was a fresh reminder that the sport has evolved and these rapid tussles possess their own unpredictable rhythm and momentum.
It’s also something to celebrate that West Indies won both men’s and women’s tournaments. Now, hopefully, they will start to get their mojo back in the Test arena.
Indeed, in the heady aftermath, it was easy to forget that the only opponents who beat Gayle & Co in the competition were the Associate side Afghanistan. That’s another point to ponder.
But, for the moment, let’s simply revel in a fantastic conclusion to an event which captured the world’s imagination.