MIRPUR – Captain Darren Sammy hit consecutive sixes to lead West Indies to a Group Two victory at the Shere Bangla National Stadium today with two balls to spare and leave Australia on the brink of going out of the International Cricket Council’s World Twenty20 Tournament.
Australia had posted a competitive 178 for eight, with Glenn Maxwell scoring 45 off 22 balls and Brad Hodge making 35. But Chris Gayle (53) kick-started the chase and Sammy finished it in style crashing James Faulkner over the ropes twice to finish unbeaten on 34 off 13 balls.
Faulkner had spiced up the build-up to the game by telling the press that he did not “particularly like” the West Indies following a run-in with Gayle last year and that he was looking forward to knocking them out of the competition.
And so, after heaving the young fast bowler back over his head to complete Windies’ best ever Twenty20 chase, Sammy sprinted off towards his jubilant team-mates, while Gayle danced in delight.
“Faulkner’s comments galvanised us,” said Sammy.
“We used it as motivation. It was so funny that Faulkner was bowling the last over; the victory felt very good. That put the cherry on top. When you’re in the ring, you’re on the ropes and you throw that knockout punch, that’s how it felt.”
Australia skipper George Bailey added: “I don’t mind what he [Faulkner] said. I think probably he might choose his words a little bit differently next time. I’d be disappointed if teams weren’t thrilled to beat us.”
Holders Windies will join India in the semi-finals if they defeat Pakistan in their final group game on Tuesday.
After back-to-back group defeats, Australia will need to win their final two matches against India and Bangladesh and rely on other results going their way to stand any chance of going through.
“Any loss is always hard to take,” said Bailey. “I don’t think we batted very well. We’ve played two games of cricket where we haven’t been our best.”
Australia, beaten by Pakistan in their first match, once again struggled against spin as a wicket apiece for Samuel Badree, Sunil Narine and Marlon Samuels reduced them to 41-3. Maxwell led a counter-attack with a bullish innings, including three sixes and five fours, before he pulled Badree to Dwayne Bravo at deep midwicket.
Hodge kept up the momentum with an entertaining 35 and Brad Haddin cracked the last ball of the innings for four to post what looked to be a solid score.
Gayle then signalled his intent with four consecutive boundaries off Mitchell Starc in the second over of the West Indies innings. He and Dwayne Smith pummelled 50 runs in less than five overs before Starc found the edge of Smith’s bat through to Haddin to give Australia the breakthrough.
Gayle ploughed on, however, bringing up his fifty in 31 balls and taking his team to the 100 mark in the 12th over. But the innings wobbled after Gayle holed out to young leg-spinner James Muirhead and was followed to the pavilion by Lendl Simmons (26) and Marlon Samuels (12).
With 31 required off the final two overs, Australia were slight favourites. Sammy had other ideas. A half-volley was smashed over long-on for six, a flick was finessed to the fine-leg boundary and another four was slashed behind point, and Starc’s inability to land the ball in the right spots meant 19 runs had leaked from his over, leaving 12 required off the final six balls.
Importantly, Sammy was on strike, though his partner Dwayne Bravo had contributed plenty to the chase with 27 off 12 deliveries. Two yorkers from James Faulkner gave Bailey reason to breathe easier, but Sammy followed those with a six crunched over long-off from a full toss and another six down the ground to secure the six wicket win with two balls to spare.
Sammy threw his arms up in the air to celebrate. He took off well before the ball had thudded back into the ground, and headed towards his onrushing teammates who were about to put together one of the most memorable and spontaneous celebrations seen on a cricket field.
Sammy had flung away his bat moments after turning towards the dressing-room, and Bravo followed suit. Bravo had thrown his so high the spidercam was threatened, and since Faulkner was still sulking somewhere in the vicinity of the pitch, it could have fallen on him.
By this time, Gayle was still making his way past his teammates. He tackled Sammy and started to dance the Gangnam.
Having treated the crowd to three Gangnams, he spotted a camera and made a gesture that said everything: too much talk man.
The crowd lapped it up and there were howls of laughter in the press box as everyone kept their eyes fixed on the TV screens.
“Like I said in the pre-match press conference, talk is cheap,” Sammy said, moments after the reporters at the Press conference had given him a surprise ovation.
“Cricket is a game of action. You can talk all you want but it is the action that matters. West Indies acted today. It feels very good to bring it home. We fought for it. Faulkner will not like us anymore.”
That Faulkner had got under the West Indies players’ skin was evident from the start of the game. When Maxwell and Faulkner were caught in the boundary by Bravo, the send-offs had an extra edge to them.
“I didn’t care who was bowling,” Sammy said. “We had to get 12 runs. But you feel better when it is the guy who was talking a lot before the game. He bowled some good yorkers but I stayed low and got under the ball.”
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