By R Kaushik in Mirpur
Gayle and Narine lead batting and bowling efforts as the West Indies scales down Australia’s 178 in final over
He was joined in the celebrations by all his teammates, most notably Chris Gayle, after Sammy smashed James Faulkner over his head and beyond the boundary boards for the winning six that consigned Australia to its second consecutive loss in the ICC World Twenty20 2014.
Australia, having scored 178 for 8, seemed to have tied the match up after the West Indies needed 31 off the last two overs, but Sammy smashed Mitchell Starc for 19 in the penultimate over and sealed the deal with successive sixes in the last over to fashion a remarkable six-wicket triumph, and trigger scenes of wild jubilation in front of a packed stadium on Friday (March 28) evening. The loss left Australia on the brink of elimination.
For a brief while, Chris Gayle stood up and batted with the kind of explosive freedom that has made him such a darling with crowds around the world. For the first two matches, Gayle was unusually quiet, scoring a just over a run a ball, and hitting only four fours and four sixes from 81 deliveries faced while making 82 runs.
It was, one suspected, only a matter of time before the marauding Gayle, the Gayle who hits fours for fun, resurfaced. He did, to Australia’s detriment, but his innings didn’t last long enough to be the difference between the teams. That honour went to Sammy.
George Bailey had done his side a good turn by winning the toss, and his formidable line-up had responded in kind. The 178 it put up had looked increasingly inadequate when Gayle teed off at the start, but once the ball softened a little bit and the big Jamaican was dismissed by James Muirhead, the young leggie, with his seventh ball of the match, the fight seemed to go out of the West Indies. Until Sammy arrived, armed with fours and sixes and a ready jig.
Gayle warmed up with four successive boundaries off Starc in the second over of the chase. His first seven scoring strokes were all boundaries – six fours and a six – and he raced to 40 off just 14 deliveries, by which time Dwayne Smith had been dismissed after an opening stand of 50. He then slowed down drastically, taking a further 17 deliveries to reach his 50 as Australia rediscovered its wits, and its lengths.
Faulkner had brought Australia back into the game with a first spell of 2-0-11-0, but it was Muirhead’s induction, in the 11th over, that was crucial. Australia was in the middle of a good run, having conceded just 26 in five overs, when Bailey summoned the 20-year-old. Muirhead had Gayle caught in the deep by Glenn Maxwell, whose turbo-charged 45 had sent Australia on its way earlier in the day. Maxwell then leapt high in the air to get rid of Lendl Simmons at deep backward square, and Haddin atoned for his earlier mistake by taking a brilliant catch high to his right to end Marlon Samuels’s troubled stay. The West Indies was in a spot, but Sammy had other ideas.
Australia’s great strength lies in the fact that its batting muscle isn’t concentrated among the top four. Such is its depth, and such is the ferocity with which even No. 9 can attack a cricket ball, that particularly in a Twenty20 innings, it can afford to keep going after the bowling even when wickets are falling, which is exactly what it did in inarguably the best batting conditions of the day.
Once again, it was Maxwell who provided the spark with another extraordinary exhibition of ball-bashing with a particular eye on the short leg-side boundary while facing the bowling from the Mirpur Thana end. Maxwell had walked in when Aaron Finch and David Warner had been dismissed within eight runs and eight deliveries of each other after an opening stand of 33. 41 for 2 quickly became 41 for 3 when Sunil Narine bamboozled Shane Watson with a doosra, and Denesh Ramdin had enough time to whip off the bails on his second attempt.
The run-rate was pretty impressive, touching 7.5, but with three wickets having gone down and more than 14 overs remaining, most teams would have eyed a conservative approach. Not Australia, and most certainly not Maxwell. Where Finch had taken a shine to Samuel Badree, Maxwell turned his attention to Sammy, taking 16 off the West Indian captain’s only over with two mows to the on-side to subtly shift the momentum his team’s way.
Bailey was no more than a mute spectator after one giant slog-sweep off Badree, who had a reasonably ordinary day in office, as Maxwell kept finding the leg-side boundary. Just about the only bowler who maintained control throughout his four overs was Narine, his accuracy beyond reproach and his variations hard to pick as the ball fizzed off the pitch and turned alarmingly one way or the other. Krishmar Santokie was very good with his left-arm changes of pace for his first three overs while Dwayne Bravo had one poor over when he went for 16, but West Indies was let down badly by Sammy and Andre Russell, even though Samuels produced two wickets, including Finch just when he was threatening to take the game away from the West Indies.
When Maxwell was caught at the same spot – deep midwicket – as he had been against Pakistan, Australia had subsided to 100 for 5 midway through the 12th over but again, there was not even so much as a thought to taking it easy. Brad Hodge and James Faulkner were in the middle with Haddin and Starc to follow, so began another counter-attack that produced the highest partnership of the innings. It wasn’t marked by frenzied strokeplay except when Hodge smashed successive sixes off Bravo; instead, this 52-run stand off 40 came more through excellent placement and intelligent running, putting West Indies under some pressure.
The West Indies' fielding held up reasonably well, even though the bowling was patchy with seven wides and there were two full tosses above the waist. Bravo snaffled a brilliant catch on his second attempt, running in from long-off and catching the rebound as he twisted his body in the air and dived to his left to get rid of Faulkner, while Russell held on to a screamer at long-on, ending Starc’s brief foray.