Simmons' four innings silence the Mumbai madness
There was silence and smoke. Actually, silence isn't the right word. Emptiness. It was as if the entire ground left, it was 3am on a Thursday in June, and Mumbai was empty due to renovations. Yet everyone was here, thousands of them.
They had chanted for Virat Kohli when his face was part of a scrolling big screen display for a second or two. They had screamed when Sachin was on the screen as well. They cheered every well-run two, even well-placed singles, even bad shots that deserved no love at all. They screamed for Chris Gayle missing a full toss, they screamed again when Marlon Samuels popped one up. They were loud. Really loud. Indian loud. Wankhede loud.
And then nothing.
Well, not nothing, there was a small noise when the smoke machine pushed out its celebratory smoke. If you really listened closely, you probably could have heard the smoke release operator pressing the button. It was as if someone was releasing the belief of the fans into the air. Like it wasn't a T20 gimmick, but a representation of India's chances, silence and smoke.
And all for one ball, well, one legal bowl.
There had already been a similar disappointment earlier on, when an R Ashwin short ball was hit straight to short third man by Lendl Simmons. That was his first innings: 18 off 12. Handy, but not enough.
But while everyone gave up when Gayle was out, and doubled down on that giving up when Samuels left after him, no one told Johnson Charles.
Once every nine innings Charles does something special. The innings aren't any different than his other innings. He doesn't take singles, he uses up dot balls, he doesn't try for twos, and he tries to slog boundaries. He loves to slog. There is no art, no rhythm, it's just a man trying to hit a ball really hard, a lot. One in nine times that works. How could India, how could anyone, know that tonight was that night?
So while Simmons was playing out his second innings, Charles was just playing one of his innings. Play and miss, mishit, six. Simmons wasn't even trying to catch him, he knew it was Charles' night, he just played the ball around.
Then a full toss, a nothing, a nobody ball, appeared to him from Hardik Pandya and, yet again, a bad ball ended up in a fielder's hand. And then the umpires did that thing where they run onto the field to stop the player coming off again.
No, it couldn't be. There is no way, what are the chances, it just could not happen, not twice, it is impossible, it just shouldn't, a spinner and a medium pacer, what are the, this is silly, this is stupid, he must be out…… Oh, that's a no-ball even if your eyeballs are tri-coloured in orange, green and white. That's a no-ball even if you're forced at gunpoint. That's a no-ball.
32 off 23 was Simmons second innings.
It would have, should have, been the two half-century makers out in consecutive overs. It should have been where India saw if the West Indies did really struggle with the chase against Afghanistan, or if it was just a dead-rubber dawdle. It should have been the part where the crowd took over, and the West Indies weren't playing against a team, but a cacophony of patriotism. A wall of Mumbai madness.
Instead it was the time a length ball outside off stump disappeared into the stands. The only time it was loud was when the ball hit the bat.
This was the team that should have run Kohli out three times in two balls. The side who took Andre Russell off after a great first over. Who gave 13 runs in one legal delivery. And suddenly this wasn't that team, they were the team of earlier in the tournament. Playing their kind of T20.
Turn ones into twos. No. Steal tight singles. No. Make sure there are no dot balls. No. This is Chris Gayle-ball, Johnson Charles-rules, and Dre Russ' six-a-festo.
It doesn't matter if the most in-control whip through midwicket is followed up by a non-existent three-quarter footless waft that disproves the theory that data scientists are trying to prove. It matters that there will be a boundary in that over. Maybe two. Dot balls are for other teams to worry about.
Even when Jasprit Bumrah bowled three straight slower balls with devious minds of their own, and all three meant that Simmons was swinging wildly, lengthening the gap between runs needed and balls left, it didn't matter, because that was how they batted all game.
But then it mattered when the fourth ball was in the air, it mattered when Ravindra Jadeja ran around to take the catch, it mattered when he tossed the ball to Kohli, it mattered when the first review shot showed what looked like a catch, and it stopped mattering again when that boundary triangle winked back at Simmons.
Simmons third innings was 18 off 11. His fourth innings started with that six. In that over he added a two, and then a four that landed near Suresh Raina and span away. It was the West Indies innings in one moment. Dot balls, big swings, lucky Lendl, a couple of big swings, and over ten runs. Lendl's fourth innings was 14 off 5.
It was Russell who hit the final silence, right into the second tier of the Divecha Pavilion. He had already hit one into the third tier of the Sachin Tendulkar stand, and bounced one off the Bal Thackeray press box.
With that final silence, the smoke came up again. The West Indians didn't notice it. The Indian fans stood still for a moment, then when the smoke was gone, they left too. They left behind the silence. The West Indies had earned that.
Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber