Windies Whitewash

Unless you’ve been asleep for the last few days you will know that the West Indies had one of their most glorious days in recent memory by winning both the men’s and women’s T20 World Cup on the same day, one after the other. After all the problems with administration and governance they have had over recent months this has come as a major surprise – certainly to this correspondent who failed to predict even a semi-final place for the men and nothing better for the women. In my defence I don’t think I was the only one.

To be honest the bigger of the two shocks was in the women’s final. As expected, Australia made the final and were looking for their fourth straight title and were clear favourites going into the match. When they  left the West Indies 149 to chase to seal the tournament, an enormous chase in the women’s game, I frankly didn’t give them a prayer. Just goes to show – 18 year old Hayley Matthews led the charge with a half-century and looked completely fearless throughout her innings. The carefree attitude of youth, I guess. Anyway a real shot in the arm for the women’s game with a winner outside of the usual. Would be nice to see the West Indies get the occasional Test match now, would be interesting to see how they go. The future looks good for them, regardless.

Onto the men’s, and for once I got a prediction right in suggesting England could go all the way to the final. After the first match it didn’t look hopeful, as they were soundly beaten by the eventual winners after a Gayle blitz, but from there they clung onto a couple of unconvincing victories before hitting their stride. It was a strange tournament for them in many ways as I never really felt that they produced a complete performance until the semi-final. Their group wins showed off facets of their game, either the bowlers masking over a poor batting performance or visa versa. The latter was exemplified by an extraordinary chase of 230 against South Africa, a record breakeer for the format. But the semi-final win over an unbeaten New Zealand, who had stormed their group with effortless ease, was when, like the A-Team, it all came together. A player who impressed me throughout was Chris Jordan, whose ability to bowl yorkers at the death caused problems for all the teams. He was somebody fighting for his place before the tournament after a few poor matches so to come back in the way he has is of great credit to him. Unfortunately our other death bowler had more misfortune but onto that later…

In group B India came through to face the Windies, who had won every game up to that point other than a final group match defeat to Afghanistan. They had rested players having already qualified but this was still a shock.  On a sidenote this was the first ever game between the two side in any format which shows the boring nature of the current way the game is set up. Anyway, other than that they made serene progress. India found it a little more difficult after losing to New Zealand in their opener, and much like England their victories were not convincing. Virat Kohli was invincible all tournament though, averaging a scarcely believable 136, which saw them through. Despit his heroics again in the semi, scoring 89 not out, the Windies got home with 2 balls to spare thanks to some brutal hitting from Lendl Simmons.

Onto the final then, and man this was tough to take for an Englishman, with Carlos Braithwaite hitting four back to back sixes off a hapless Ben Stokes in the final over to clinch victory. As an exciting finish, this was right up there. Poor Stokes has already been on the receiving end of some ‘Ben Chokes’ headlines in the English press which does the guy a great disservice, he’s a star. He just got the length slightly wrong and Braithwaite pounced. It was an amazing finale and all credit to the winners for winning what looked like a hopeless cause. Braithwaite will be remembered but Marlon Samuels anchored the innings after two early wickets and got them there or thereabouts. His post-match presser was pretty spicy too, having a pop at both Stokes and bizarrely, Shane Warne. There was a bit of indignation about this but I don’t really see why – both the objects of his wrath give as  good as they get and it’s all pantomime stuff, really.

So, another 4 years until the next one which is a shame. This format is the best way to grow the game and as such every two years, as it has been would suffice. Still, I’ve enjoyed what little of the matches I have seen (time difference makes it difficult, sadly) and from a personal perspective it’s good to see England make progress after the shambles of World Cup 2015. Congrats to the Windies, I’m off for a lie-down…

 

 

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