England v West Indies, World T20 2016 final April 3, 2016

The sixes that silenced England

Carlos Brathwaite's stillness, the smooth flow of his bat, the ball struck sweetly beyond the ropes - again and again and again. Four balls that wiped out all that had gone before
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'Ben Stokes is an absolute legend' - Brathwaite

Twenty20 matches are more often won or lost in the 19th over. Fielding captains bowl their best bowler in the 19th so that during the chaos of the 20th they have more to defend.

Chris Jordan has had a great tournament with his yorkers. He has a wet ball in his hand. England have 27 to defend. Jordan bowls an ordinary first ball, which goes for four, but comes back superbly, conceding just singles off the next four balls. For West Indies' sake, they need a boundary off the last ball because they don't want to find themselves needing three sixes off the last over. Marlon Samuels, 85 off 65, is on strike. He has been brutal on everything that has been not a yorker of late. Jordan - 3.5-0-36-0 - has to secure this match for his team right now. He runs in, Samuels backs away as he always does to open up the off side, and Jordan slips in a wide yorker.

This is a dot. The next best thing to a wicket. Now England have a last over at Carlos Brathwaite, in his eighth Twenty20 international. It's simple: they have to deny West Indies three boundaries. Even if they get three boundaries at least one of them has to be a six. Michael Hussey chased 18 in the last over against Saeed Ajmal in the 2010 World T20 semi-final. In the 2014 World T20, James Faulkner made it difficult for West Indies with two dots at the start of the 20th over, but Darren Sammy took the required 12 off the next two balls with sensational, brutal sixes.

This is different, though. This is the World T20 final. The final. West Indies are playing this for much more than just the final. They need three boundaries, at least one of them has to be a six, and they have a rookie on strike, against an allrounder who will be one of the best of this era. He has won England Tests and ODIs, but this is the World T20 final. The final. Also, like Faulkner, West Indies just don't like Ben Stokes.

Written word will never be able to do justice to Sammy's narration of that final over, so it is over to him.

All right. Okay 19 runs, six balls. All of us in the dugout. Three hits that's all we need.

Bowling his first over of the night from the High Court End, Stokes has three men on the leg-side boundary. Long leg, deep midwicket, long-on. The idea is to cramp him. Bowl yorkers. Stokes runs in, Samuels is not backing up, there can be no mankading, there are to be no pinched singles. Stokes fails to execute the plan. He bowls length, and on the pads. Brathwaite doesn't hit the ball hard. He just flicks it. In the air. All night England have been running their boots off after balls hit in the air or along the ground. You look at Moeen Ali at midwicket. He doesn't move. He knows it. Long leg doesn't move. He knows it. The ball has bisected them. It has gone for six. Just six. Not a big six. Doesn't even go into the stands, but does the job. Samuels goes and hugs Brathwaite. Later he says he told Brathwaite Stokes is a "nervous laddie", that he will err.

Over to Sammy again.

First one over square leg, six. YES! Come on Carlos.

Stokes now knows the plan is right, but not the execution. He needs to execute it better. Just bowl the yorker. Don't let Brathwaite get under it. But Brathwaite has also shown earlier that he is capable of playing the cute ramp over short fine so he can't get too full on the yorker.

Those who know MS Dhoni say one of his tricks in final-over heists is to send the first or second ball for a six. Not just a six. A huge six. It doesn't matter where the ball goes because the bowler doesn't look behind to see where it has gone. It has to sound big off the bat. That sound has to completely demotivate the bowler. A flick doesn't make that sound. For that you need a straight six. Brathwaite hasn't done that yet.

Now Stokes runs in. Brathwaite stands still. The front leg cleared slightly. He holds the bat high. He doesn't move. Nothing to tell what he was going to do. Bowlers look for that sign, and perhaps bowl a bouncer or a slower ball. There is nothing here. So Stokes tries the yorker. This is not quite a yorker, but if a batsman is moving forward there is no way he can get under it. This is that full.

Brathwaite is expecting this, he is deep inside his crease, and when the ball dips on him, it is like everything has slowed down. You don't know if Stokes hears the demoralising sound, because this is not a powerful hit. This is just a caress. The long powerful arms of Brathwaite hold the bat right at the top of its handle, giving him leverage to lift these balls high. The long-on is in place. There has never been a fielder more redundant. This lands in the crowd. Samuels comes and hugs Brathwaite again. Ian Bishop says on television commentary: "You think he will be a player in the future, Carlos Brathwaite. You think he has talent. It ain't over yet, but this is a glimpse into the future."

Kidding us, Bish. He is the present. And this is over bar the shouting.

Over to Sammy.

Second one, where it did go, deep midwicket? Long-on, yes long-on. YES! Come on Carlos! One more hit away.

Stokes will continue to win matches for England, but you can see it on his face. He even looks at the ball sail away. Brathwaite's job is done. Bowlers usually just turn up to take their punishment after two such hits from these modern bats. Stokes has some life in him yet. He runs in with the same plan, looking for that yorker again. The length is similar again. He has erred but not by a lot. But Brathwaite stays beautifully still. The high back lift, waving the bat about chest high.

And everything slows down again as the ball dips on him. The high grip on the bat, the bat coming down in a smooth motion but with the momentum from such a high back lift. He has timed this perfectly even though it looks like just a slice. The only difference is, unlike the last ball which he took from outside leg, this is on middle and off. This time he clears long-off. None of the sixes has drawn a wild reaction from the press box. It is the largest "ho ho ho" ever in unison. There is marvel at the cleanness of the strikes, the lack of nerves, the brutal but smooth execution.

Stokes is down on his haunches. He has tears in his eyes. Samuels, who has been sledged by him earlier, is giving it to Stokes now. He is also running circles around Brathwaite. A match that is lost is almost won back.

Over to Sammy.

And you know… the third ball… six again! Ramdin thought we won. He was halfway on the field. Look it was just amazing. Jerome Taylor sat in the dugout and said we'll win with two balls to spare and he was spot on. It was just a joy. We needed this. We've been through so much.

It is not over yet. Even before we evoke Bangladesh, there is a small matter of separating Samuels and Stokes, and retrieving the ball. The ball has to be changed. For a while, as they wait for the ball, the fielders don't come in to defend the single. For a while it seems that England, just like India against Bangladesh, are going to play on the hero factor. They don't think West Indies will look to nurdle a quiet single. That can perhaps explain the lack of urgency in the fielders moving in. But as the ball is replaced, the field moves up.

There is no reason now to not end it with a six. Why? Because you can. Without stretching yourself. Stokes runs in again, he errs a little again. Bowls the line outside leg. In slow motion again Brathwaite lifts this over long-on. "Carlos Brathwaite," goes Bish. "Remember the name." Only now does Brathwaite let out a roar.

Stokes is inconsolable. Kumar Dharmasena leaves his cap on his shoulder. The celebrations are wild. Twenty20 is brutal on the vanquished, but these are four of the most non-violent sixes you might ever see in a cluster. The absolute stillness, the smooth flow of the bat, the timing, it is enough to make you forget a messed-up chase. The party has begun. West Indies have risen again. Like a raging fire.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Amindha on July 20, 2016, 12:14 GMT

    There will be links back to this article for finals to come!

  • Pawan on April 6, 2016, 14:15 GMT

    hi fabulous batting performance by brathwaite, but really i want to seen india in the final

    they did very little misatke of no ball and they knocked out

  • Jay on April 6, 2016, 12:54 GMT

    Excellent Article Sidharth! Wonderfully expressed!

  • Ron on April 5, 2016, 19:17 GMT

    Well done, Sidharth Monga.

    Your summation of the WCT20 final over is beautifully-written, lucid, expressive, intelligible, brilliant, poetic and one aspiring writers can take note of. It is a literary 'picasso esque' masterpiece. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you, Sid!

  • Jim on April 5, 2016, 17:59 GMT

    No, Stokes isn't the best of his generation. Not yet anyway. But the author only opined that he "WILL be". So forget the past stats, and look to the future. He's only 24 and has mountains of potential.

  • Michael on April 4, 2016, 22:51 GMT

    I am a West Indian from Barbados and I have always admired Ben Stokes. I even said during Englands' last tour of the WI that he will emerge as their best all rounder ever . His bowling caught my eye then and his 250 with the bat shows that he is indeed the best of his generation. I Always look at his performances with both bat and ball whenever he is playing.

  •   Cricinfouser on April 4, 2016, 22:00 GMT

    Stoke is best of his generation? Is this a joke? His batting and bowling average in both test and ODI is ordinary. He's just above average

  • Brian on April 4, 2016, 20:16 GMT

    Beautiful work. Poetic even. For all the talk of KW's brilliant captaincy, Sammy kept it simple and used his resources brilliantly.

  •   Prasad Bhojak on April 4, 2016, 18:47 GMT

    Best of his Generation, STOKES???? Whatever. Good article though.

  • Randolph on April 4, 2016, 16:38 GMT

    Sid, you gave credence to artistic truth with imaginative literary picturesqueness that would make any teacher of English give you a perfect score in a School Certificate Examination Story Essay Test. keep it up. Long May You Reign.

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