Well, that was all a bit strange
The 2012 World Twenty20 final will go down in the annals of cricket as one of the oddest matches in the game's history. Glorious, but odd. A magnificent triumph for a West Indies team that had comfortably avoided magnificent triumphs for most of the last decade and a half. But still odd. Few textbooks on How To Win T20 Matches would suggest not scoring a run off the bat in the first 16 balls of the match, or advocate the tactical merits of being 14 for 2 at the end of the six-over Powerplay, or sagely stroke their chin before strongly advising hitting only one boundary in the first 11 overs whilst limiting your score to 38 for 2.
Fortunately for West Indies, they had access to the only copy of that book, and followed its masterful strategy to perfection. Even after Marlon Samuels' startlingly brilliant outbreak, during which he hit Lasith Malinga - a bowler rated by no less a source than the renowned cricket website and source of all truth and knowledge, ESPNcricinfo, as the most effective bowler over the history of the IPL ‒ for five sixes and a four in eight balls, they still posted a score of just 137.
The West Indian bowlers had been the least economical of any of the Super Eight teams until the semi-final stage (conceding almost eight runs per over), and they had never beaten Sri Lanka in a T20 international. In all T20Is between the top eight international teams, teams defending a first-innings score of between 130 and 149 had won just 12 of 41 matches, and on the ten occasions on which they had tried to defend a score of under 150 in a T20I, they had won only two, tied two, and lost six, the most recent of those defeats being when the same Sri Lanka side they now faced chased down 130 with nine wickets and almost five overs to spare just eight days earlier. And by chased down, I mean chased down in the manner that a police motorcyclist chases down an escaped tortoise on a pensioner's mobility scooter.
It was, therefore, a surprise that West Indies won. And an eyebrow-singeing surprise that they ultimately won at a canter. Having taken 19 wickets in their first five matches, in both the semi-final and final they bowled out their opposition in under 20 overs. If the success of Sunil Narine was not unexpected, the other lynchpins of the Caribbean constriction of the Sri Lankan batsmen had been keeping their economical run-saving powder drier than the Atacama Desert through the rest of the tournament.
Captain Darren Sammy, who had taken 2 for 125 in his 15 overs in the tournament, took 2 for 6 in two overs in the heart of Sri Lanka's innings in the final. Samuels had bowled eight overs in the first six games of the tournament - and taken a less than frugal 2 for 93 (2 for 110 from nine, if you include his almost-tournament-ending Super Over against New Zealand). In the final, he took 1 for 15 from 4. And conceded zero boundaries - those other nine overs had been spanked for ten fours and five sixes.
This was a match that left the cricketing world's flabber well and truly gasted. The most devastating T20 batsman in the world scored 3 off 16 balls. The format's most devastating fast bowler took 0 for 54 in 4 overs. It all ended with Caribbean cricketers doing a South Korean dance. (Until Sunday's final, the only appearance of "gangnam" on a cricket ground had been the noise Mike Gatting used to make when chomping into a particularly appetising chicken sandwich.)
One of T20's weaknesses as a format is that there can be a lack of narrative variety from one match to the next. This final had an unexpected destination, and arrived there via a completely baffling route, as if someone had spilt scalding hot chocolate over its cricketing GPS and said: "Right, fire her up and let's see where this takes us."
It was a grand climax to a tournament, which, after a week of phoney-war group matches, provided a ten-day frenzy of drama. A World Twenty20 has that rarest of all sporting commodities - rarity. It happens for two and a half weeks every two years, and is the only international T20 that anyone (a) takes any notice of, or (b) genuinely cares about, and is the only T20 cricket where the teams have any meaningful identity. Even if you are not especially enamoured of the T20 format itself, these factors, plus the unpredictability of the results T20 generates in any given match, allied to the format of the tournament, combine to create a heady cocktail that has rapidly become one of the highlights of the world cricket schedule.
● Why did West Indies triumph? Because ‒ and only because ‒ they followed the blueprint for World Twenty20 success, outlined in my podcast at the start of the tournament. They started badly. Perfectly badly. This historically flawless campaign strategy was established by India in 2007, and successfully mimicked by Pakistan two years later and by England in 2010.
This time, Sammy's men won only one of their first five matches - in their two rain-shortened group matches, they lost to Australia, and had to settle for a no-result against Ireland, then, in the Super Eight phase, beat England, were obliterated by Sri Lanka, and tied with New Zealand. It was a textbook, beautifully orchestrated campaign, involving doing as little as possible to reach the knockout stages, to the extent that they only squeaked into the semi-finals courtesy of Tim Southee's "Oh Whoops" Super Over.
The trophy was now inevitably theirs. They wrapped it up clouting the two teams who had foolishly dominated the early stages, and who had both beaten West Indies by nine wickets, stupidly rendering their own eventual demise utterly unavoidable. The group stages in Bangladesh in 2014 should be fascinating. And Southee has taken his place alongside the likes of Ambrose, Marshall, Holding and Wes Hall as one of the most important bowlers in West Indies history.
● Marlon Samuels would be a contender for the 2012 World Cricketer of The Year award, if the 2012 World Cricketer of The Year award had not already been awarded in September, with three and a half months of year 2012 still in the pipeline, including a major international tournament.
His Test performances against England and New Zealand were of classical elan, and some of the purest off-side strokeplay anyone could dream of seeing. He played with explosive power in the World Twenty20, and his innings in the final was one of the most influential in any major limited-overs match. When he was out for 78 off 56 (including 52 off the last 19 balls he faced), the rest of his team had scored 26 for 5 off 47. The next highest score in the match was Jayawardene's 33, and the 31-year-old Jamaican scored more than the other ten Sri Lankans put together, whilst sweetly clobbering six of the eight sixes in the match. It was one of the great modern innings. What was he doing in his 20s?
● A quick stat. Samuels' innings was the 58th score of 70 or more in the first innings of a T20 International. Forty-six of those scores have resulted in wins (plus one in a tie, and 11 in defeat) - an 84% win rate. Twenty of the 30 scores of 70-plus in the second innings of T20Is have ended in victory (67%). Sixty-five per cent of first-innings fifties have ended in victory in T20Is; also, 65% of first-innings 70s in ODIs since 2005 have contributed to a win. So, in summary, scoring 70 or more in the first innings of an ODI is a good idea. Especially if your team-mates are going to score only 54 other runs between them.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer