COLOMBO – It all went according to plan at the Premadasa Stadium today. The West Indies’ script, that is.
Chris Gayle once again proved why he is so important for the West Indies while Kieron Pollard, despite struggling for form the entire competition, showed he is also key to the team’s fortunes.
Gayle hit a belligerent 75 off just 41 balls while Pollard starred with both bat and ball slamming a brutal 15-ball 38 and taking two wickets to help West Indies seal a massive win and storm into the ICC World T20 final on Sunday.
Australia were playing catch-up from the very beginning as the assault from Gayle put them on the back-foot. Only skipper George Bailey did well with a good counter-attacking knock. But with the odds stacked against the Australians he was always fighting a losing cause.
Opting to bat first, West Indies suffered an early setback as Johnson Charles was out in the third over. The right- hander had hogged most of the strike early in the innings and failed to get going. The increase in pressure soon had its effect as Charles edged a Mitchell Starc delivery to keeper Matthew Wade. Other than his 84 against England, it marked yet another failure for Charles. Marlon Samuels proved to be a much more able partner for Gayle as the duo took the attack to the opposition.
Xavier Doherty’s first over went for two sixes while Brad Hogg was also lofted for a big six as West Indies crossed the 50 run mark in the seventh over. The Windies lost another wicket as Marlon Samuels fell for a bright 26 off 20 balls. Gayle was setting himself up for another big knock but spent most of his time at the other end. At the end of the ninth over, Gayle had only faced 14 balls and the inability to give strike to their best batsman resulted in the top two wickets.
Dwayne Bravo and Gayle combined brilliantly to put the West Indies on top. Bravo got into the groove early and was able to help his team make steady progress. From the time the duo got together, they ensured they picked off a boundary every over. This helped them maintain a steady run rate and set themselves up for a late flourish.
The flourish came after Bravo was dismissed. Bravo fell in the 16th over to give Cummins his second wicket but had played his part with a steady 31-ball 37. Pollard chose the right game to come into his own as he started to stamp his authority with some big hits.
The 17th over from Cummins yielded 14 runs and that was only a sign of things to come for Australia. The next over started with Gayle smashing a towering six while Pollard finished things off with two fours and a two to take West Indies to 180 for 3. Australia’s move to use Doherty for the final over, turned out to be a horrible decision as West Indies took full toll. Gayle started off with a huge six over deep mid- wicket while Pollard showed why he is so dangerous as he struck three consecutive sixes to help West Indies end with a mammoth total of 205 and leave Australia with a huge task on their hands.
Chasing such a huge total, Australia would have hoped for their opening pair to get them off to a great start but they were staring down the barrel in the fifth over itself. David Warner was out to Samuel Badree in the very first over while Michael Hussey’s bright start was only a flash in the pan as he skied a simple return catch to Samuels. With Watson shouldering much of Australia’s hopes, he too fell cheaply as Badree picked up his second wicket by bowling the in-form all-rounder to leave Australia reeling at 29/3 in the fifth over.
The slide didn’t end there for Australia as they continued to lose wickets at a rapid pace. Ravi Rampaul put West Indies on top with a double blow. The right-armer dismissed Cameron White off his very first delivery. White only managed to edge a delivery down the leg-side and Denesh
Ramdin gleefully accepted the catch. Rampaul went one better two balls later as he sent back David Hussey for a duck to leave Australia deep in trouble. When Narine had Mathew Wade out for 1 in the next over, many would’ve been sure that the match was over as a contest.
But Bailey fought hard for his side as he carted Andre Russell for 25 runs off his solitary over and soon brought up his fifty off just 23 deliveries to give the Australians some remote hope. He continued to fight hard but his luck finally ran out as Pollard accounted for the well-set batsman, caught by Russell in the deep for a 29-ball 63.
The rest was a mere formality as West Indies took three quick wickets at the end to formalise the huge 74-run win.