They say Twenty20 cricket is all about runs. That isn't really the case; over the years it has become a lot more nuanced. But sometimes everything lines up for a game that has so much run scoring that it is difficult to look past it. This is what we got in Florida.
It is worth taking some time to list the records that fell at the Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill on Saturday, as the runs exploded in the highest profile match that had taken place in the USA since Australia last toured in the 1930s.
The West Indies scored the third highest total of all time. India made the highest ever total batting second. The West Indies scored 21 sixes in their innings, a T20I record. India scored 11 more sixes to take the match total to 32, another T20I record. For the first time ever in an international T20, two batsmen made centuries. At 489, the total runs scored in this match was the highest ever run aggregate in any T20 match, international or domestic. It was a statsgasm for those of us that love the numbers that cricket generates.
And all of this came in a game without Chris Gayle! Imagine what he can do on this pitch with these boundaries if he plays in the next match.
While there were plenty of runs scored on a very flat pitch on a ground with small boundaries, it wasn't just about the batsmen, even in this game that was so saturated with runs. Evin Lewis and KL Rahul scored hundreds, but neither of them had the most telling impact on this game.
Rather it was two bowlers who turned things around.
First it was Jasprit Bumrah. He returned to the attack in the 18th over of the West Indies innings with the score at 215 for three. At that stage the West Indies looked set to score well over 250, possibly even breaking the record for the most runs in an T20I innings, the 260 for six made by Sri Lanka versus Kenya in 2007. That 18th over went for just 10 runs, and while that might have been a lot in a regular game, it was a brilliant return considering this batting massacre.
He then came back for the 20th over of the innings and again conceded just 10 runs, He ran Carlos Brathwaite out off the first ball. But it was called a no-ball and the resultant free-hit was struck for six. The final five balls of the West Indian innings yielded just three runs, and Bumrah also took the wickets of Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons, both bowled by excellent yorkers. As crazy as it sounds, he had given his side some hope of chasing down the ridiculous target of 246.
The next bowling performance of note came from T20 superstar, all-rounder and musical sensation Dwayne Bravo. Against all odds, India were cruising to their victory target. They were at a near identical 214 for three at the start of the 18th over. Bravo conceded just eight runs over the next six deliveries, a mixture of slower balls and yorkers.
The 20th over began with India needing eight runs to win. Bravo — the leading wicket in the history of this format of this game — should have had Dhoni out first ball. He got a thick outside edge that spooned to Marlon Samuels at short third man; Samuels dropped it. It was the easiest chance that you could imagine and he had been let off. They scrabbled through for a run and the undefeated centurion Rahul was on strike. There seemed to be no coming back.
But Bravo is such a canny bowler. Two singles, a leg bye and a couple meant that India needed two runs off the last ball to win, and one for a tie. Bravo moved his field, bringing a man into the mid-wicket region to cut off Dhoni working the ball into the leg side. Dhoni attempted to play the same shot he had to the first ball of the over and with the same result. It looped up to Samuels again, and this time he didn't drop it. The West Indies won by just one run.
For all the runs that this game had given us, more than any game ever before, it was two bowling performances that turned the tide.
The two hundreds, meanwhile, were contrasting ones. Evin Lewis' effort was a swashbuckling ton full of power and shots that were muscled over the boundary. Rahul's hundred was a batsman's knock, his innings was about timing and placement. Both have their place, and both are hugely effective. Lewis made his first T20 international ton, Rahul completed a set of Test, ODI and T20I hundreds. Both are hugely exciting talents.
This remarkable game was played out in front of a large crowd that paid big bucks to watch their heroes. Cricket can work in America, these matches, the Warne-Tendulkar circus and the six Caribbean Premier League games at this same venue have showed us that. We will have to wait and see if this has a developmental impact, but it has been great to see.
But ultimately if we want cricket in America to work, we need a successful Team USA. That is still a very long way away, but the last 12 months have been the most positive in American cricket in 50 years, maybe even longer. Things are looking up Stateside.
First Published On : Aug 28, 2016 15:42 IST