Give it to both teams. It was a great final.
In the end, there has to be a winner and loser in every tournament. But ‘best’ and ‘second best’ would be a better way to put it in the context of the match between West Indies and England, not ‘winners’ or ‘losers’. Such a description would demean the quality of the contest we witnessed on Sunday at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
It was a tension-packed see-saw battle at every stage, beginning with the initial six overs of the innings for both teams. The better team bagged the ICC World Twenty20 championship but England didn’t come out looking miserable. But for that terrible last over from Ben Stokes, it was a match of equals.
If fans of England are looking for a villain, in Stokes they would find an easy one. 6, 6, 6, 6... the bowler himself would look back at that last over with horror. It would haunt him for the rest of his life. The target of 19 runs off the last over was still a tough challenge for the West Indies batsmen, but Stokes made it easy for Carlos Brathwaite by some thoughtless bowling. The man who came to the tournament with a formidable reputation as an impact player with all-round abilities would certainly go back home a much-diminished man.
There could still be questions on whether England’s 155-run target was good enough. But for Joe Root’s well-compiled 54 and Jos Buttler’s 36, their batting appeared listless, with a clear lack of purpose. With better running between the wickets they could easily have added 15 more runs to the total. And none in the middle-order displayed the urgency to bat through the 20 overs and take their chances when they came later. Root himself could be faulted with playing a rash shot when the team required him to anchor the innings.
But the rather poor total didn’t seem to be a concern when they reduced the West Indies to 11/3 inside the PowerPlay overs. With big-hitters Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons back in the dugout, England had the upper hand almost through the entire stretch of the match. The West Indies middle-order led by Marlon Samuels fought back valiantly, but it was an open game still in the last over. Teams don’t score 19 runs off 6 balls every day. Then Stokes took the ball and Brathwaite decided to make fielders irrelevant by sending the ball to the stands through air.
In the end, the West Indies had two heroes: Samuels, the man who had performed similar heroics in the 2012 World Cup final against Sri Lanka; and Brathwaite, who made it all look so easy. In a format where batsmen corner all the credit and are lionised for their performance, a good amount of it should go to the bowlers too.
Perhaps more than the batsmen, the West Indian bowlers shaped and put the team on the course to success. Samuel Badree conceded a mere 16 runs in his four overs and bagged two wickets; Andre Russell gave away only 21 in his quota of 4 overs; and Brathwaite conceded 23 and claimed 3 wickets. What can be a better team bowling performance in a T20 match?
The bowlers were the critical difference between the two sides. Those of West Indies were far more disciplined than their English counterparts. Barring David Willey, who conceded 20 runs in his four and claimed three wickets and the spinner Adil Rashid, who gave away 23, none of the English bowlers was impressive. A target short by at least 15 runs and one more bowler coming good is where England lost the match. They have done wonderfully well in this tournament but they need to do better to win the cup next time.
It’s easy to look back and be wise in hindsight. What actually happens on those 22-yards when the game is on renders itself to no easy arm-chair explanation. Otherwise cricket won’t be called the game of wonderful uncertainties.
Thanks to both teams for giving us a great final.