Marlon Samuels played one of the best counter-attacking innings under pressure against an impressive Sri Lankan attack to guide West Indies to a reasonable 137 for six in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 here today.
Samuels, who hit five of his six 6’s off T20 specialist Lasith Malinga, made a brilliant 78 off 56 balls, even as Ajantha Mendis returned figures of four for 12.
Samuels alone spoiled Malinga’s figures as he went for 54 off four overs after Mendis pegged the West Indies back.
While only 32 runs came off the first 10 overs, the Caribbeans courtesy Samuels and skipper Darren Sammy (26 no, 15 balls, 3x4) managed 106 in the back 10.
The total might not be a challenging one but the manner in which Samuels batted having scored more than half the runs, the innings will be remembered for a long time to come especially as other West Indian batsmen looked like lambs ready to be slaughtered.
The pressure of playing a World Cup final was telling on Johnson Charles as he offered a simple catch to Nuwan Kulasekara at mid-off in Angelo Mathews’ opening over which was a wicket maiden.
The first run for West Indies came when Kulasekara bowled a wide after three dot balls in the second over. The first run off the bat came off the 17th legal delivery and the first boundary in the next over when Samuels punched one through covers.
Gayle, who has been predicting results like ‘Paul the Octopus’ in the last few days, was strangled by the Lankan bowlers and finally Mendis got him with a straighter one that looked like hitting the leg-stump.
The Powerplay yielded only 14 runs for West Indies and Sri Lanka had already got the opposition match-winner out of the equation.
There were no demons in the pitch and the ball was coming onto the bat nicely but Sri Lankan bowlers maintained discipline throughout.
While Mathews kept on pitching it up in the corridor of uncertainty, Mendis only added to the pressure with Samuels waging a lonely battle. The Caribbean batsmen haven’t seen much of Mendis before this tournament and were indecisive in their strokeplay and perished in the process.
Jayawardene marshalled his resources pretty well in the first 10 but somewhat lost the plot towards the end. While he completed Mathews’ quota of overs within the first 10, he ensured that schoolboy Akila Dananjaya, who replaced an in-form Rangana Herath was introduced when there was relatively less pressure.
Although Dwayne Bravo hit him for a six over the deep mid-wicket area, Akila gave only 13 runs in his first two overs.
The 13th over saw Samuels finally breaking the shackles as he hit Malinga for three sixes with 21 runs coming off that over. The first six was hit over mid-wicket when Malinga, watching Samuels move towards leg-stump, fired one into the block hole and the batsman flicked it into the stands.
The second one was also bowled in the block hole and this time it was spanked over extra cover. The third one was a length delivery that was hit over long-on.
The 50-partnership came off 43 balls while Samuels completed a well-deserved half century with a six off leggie Jeevan Mendis.
Bravo (19) was wrongly adjudged leg-before off Mendis by umpire Simon Taufel, standing in his last international game.
Kieron Pollard chased a wide delivery to be caught at short third man while Andre Russell tried a sweep shot and was adjudged leg before.
There was no stopping Samuels who hit another couple of sixes - a hook shot and one over long—on as the 100 came up in the 17th over. Samuels’ bravado came to an end when he holed out in the deep mid-wicket region by Jeevan. But that West Indies were able to reach some sort of score was simply due to the coolheaded Jamaican.