Aus v WI, 2nd semi-final, World Twenty20, Colombo

The perfect storm

If there is a template of how to build a Twenty20 innings then West Indies produced it against Australia, but there is still one more match to go

Sambit Bal in Colombo

October 5, 2012

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Kieron Pollard plays an unorthodox shot, Australia v West Indies, 2nd semi-final, World Twenty20 2012, Colombo, October 5, 2012
Kieron Pollard's explosive display added to a stunning innings from West Indies © ICC/Getty
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Johnson Charles shouldered arms to the first ball of the West Indian innings and Kieron Pollard holed out to the last ball. In between those two balls, West Indies mounted the most sensational assault that defied prediction and logic. You couldn't say it was without precedence though, because it was on this ground that the West Indians had pulverised the Australia bowlers for 191 runs in their league encounter but were beaten by the rain rule.

But the pitch then was young and fresh, the bounce was even and the ball carried, and the outcome of the match was largely inconsequential. To better that performance in the semi-final on a tiring pitch, though a far smoother one than for the first semi-final, West Indies needed at least one extraordinary performance. They got one better: they got the perfect Twenty20 innings.

When it is commonplace, bowlers being thrashed out of wits can be a tiresome sight. But tonight it came against the tide, or the run of play, as it is said in sports. The average score at this ground in this tournament had been 150, and in the Super Eights 148. West Indies were expected to play a few big shots: but what they managed to pull off was almost beyond belief. From the start to the finish, it was the purest and the cleanest, and the most flawless exhibition of power-hitting.

Chris Gayle hit one to the second tier, Pollard jammed his bat on a yorker and it sped to the ropes and a mis-hit from Dwayne Bravo cleared long-off. It was breathtaking, and if you were an Australia bowler, frightening.

In seven matches since the Super Eights started, 48 sixes had been hit at Premadasa. That made it a rate of 3.42 per innings. Sri Lanka hit none in the first semi-final and Pakistan managed, just barely, one. West Indies produced three in the first six overs, and they kept coming, and getting bigger.

It would be reasonable to assume that Chris Gayle would be the propeller-in-chief of any West Indies charge. Remarkably on this occasion he was the fulcrum. You could hardly call a man who savaged 75 runs off 41 balls the anchor, but he allowed the West Indies innings to surge around him.

West Indies went into this tournament as one the favourites primarily because they carried the world's most adept and explosive Twenty20 batsmen. In reality they had only won one match in normal time until today, against England, alongside beating New Zealand in a Super Over. But astonishingly each of their big guns fired today. Even the best writer in the business couldn't have scripted it better.

Every batsman got going. Wickets fell periodically, but never together. And instead of halting the innings temporarily it gathered momentum with each new batsman. Marlon Samuels hit two sixes in his 26; Dwayne Bravo hit three in his 37 and Pollard three in the final over. It would have always seemed inconceivable that Gayle would bat through an innings in a high-scoring game and not score a hundred. But he faced only 41 balls, and was happy to do so. A lot has been spoken about his lack of commitment to the West Indies cause; he couldn't have played a more committed innings than this.

Things also turned to gold in the field. Opening with a spinner is commonplace in Twenty20 and it has been the norm in this tournament, but Darren Sammy chose the unconventional option of opening with a legspinner, although one that has done it regularly at domestic level, and Samuel Badree rewarded him with a wicket in the first over. He chose Samuels, who has been used exclusively as the death-over bowler, for the second over, and suckered Michael Hussey into spooned sweep.

Ravi Rampaul came on first change and claimed two wickets in three balls. It nearly sealed the match. Badree looked poised to finish his spell in the eighth over when Sammy changed his mind and introduced Sunil Narine who had troubled Mathew Wade on Australia's tour of West Indies, and Wade duly top-edged the second to backward square.

The local fans cheered lustily from the stands today. The animosity towards Australia still runs deep in this part of the world. West Indies wouldn't worry about those same fans turning against them on Sunday.

What they might be worry about is that the perfection they achieved bordered on the freakish. Have they peaked 48-hours too early? But it is unlikely that will keep them awake tonight. The partying surely will. When the West Indians waltz, cricket feels so much more fun.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by ygkd on (October 6, 2012, 21:35 GMT)

I must be slow on the uptake because find it difficult to reconcile two conflicting opinions commonly held by my fellow Australians - namely that T20 is just a lottery so one loss (actually there were two) means nothing, whilst the other wins are indicative of a superior team and not the product of a lottery-like game. One can't have it both ways - either every game against top eight opposition is a lottery or Australia got about as far as they could in the circumstances. I tend towards the latter viewpoint. They may have made the semi-finals but when it came to the pointy end of the tournament they were found wanting. Of course its not all negatives. Making the semi was an achievement in itself, but to have won the tournament? Expecting a bit much really.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 14:25 GMT)

Dear Marcio, glad you got that out of your system. Now breathe deeply and relax. Now just imagine what the annihilation of Aus would have been if WI had brought their "A" game and not this "imperfect" one. Well done WI now Go for glory.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 14:01 GMT)

"The animosity towards Australia still runs deep in this part of the world." So very true.. And it is because we in the subcontinent believe in fairplay, and expect you to beat us in a game of cricket and not by shooting abuses. Even the current generation has grown up watching Ponting's team. I don't see the "animosity" subsiding in the near future.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 13:15 GMT)

loved the last line 'When the West Indians waltz, cricket feels so much more fun'... it's true

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

Australia never had a plan should Shane Watson get out for less then 50. In all 4 games australia won, Watson was MOM, obvious to me if he got out cheaply, australia would have trouble. Still australia did alright, and did better then most, myself included, thought. What i would love to see is the windies carry this sort of form over to the 50 over game

Posted by baranasai on (October 6, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

Inthe semi finals between WI and aussies we have watched one of the Best Batsman of short form of cricket.His name is Chris and he is a true legendary figure.we can tell our younger ones that we watched a live match wherein this man scored 75 in such a way.It is true he has many more good innings to come/I only wish him all the very Best/well done the rest of the WI team About Final I still feel it will go in favour of lankns 52/48.

Posted by rkannancrown on (October 6, 2012, 8:43 GMT)

Australia have been incredibly lucky in this tournament They played 6 games, won 4 and lost 2. One of their victories was against Ireland. Two of their victories were scripted by rain. Only one match was won on pure cricketing ability.

Posted by gtzshotta on (October 6, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

Wasn't the perfect game (West Indies are capable of doing better which is scary), but it was the perfect plan on part of the Windies.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

Bal and Rubbish! It actually rhymes.

Posted by   on (October 6, 2012, 6:15 GMT)

Entertainment of the highest order. Toss plays a crucial role in these knockout games.The team batting first has a huge advantage. They have the liberty to play at their own pace and according to the merit of the ball.It was great to see Chris Gayle coming good on this vital day.It was a great occasion for West Indies to settle scores with Australia. It was a huge embarrassment for Australia and Australian cricket. West Indies put an emphatic full stop on Australia's journey towards the T20 glory towards the end of their goal. Pakistan can learn a few lessons from the way West Indies batted. They possess the most number of big hitters in their battling line up, but none of them actually went after Sri Lanka's bowling. West Indies has reached the peak at the right time, and they are good enough a team to retain it for another game. If that happens, fans will be treated to another exhilarating batting display from Chris Gayle and company.

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.
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