If you had asked all cricket fans to predict which two sides would reach the 2016 World T20 Final, I can’t imagine any would have said West Indies and England. Sure, maybe the odd patriot would back one or the other, but no one (and I’m including Eoin Morgan and Darren Sammy here) would give you both.
Especially after Gayle’s pummelling of the England attack in Mumbai last month. Especially with India lurking in the semi finals. Especially as Afghanistan beat one and came close to beating the other.
It’s a final that, in many ways, is fantastic for the sport. West Indies have been in dire straights in red ball cricket for an incredibly long time, yet they have a huge, passionate fan base who crave the glory days. A route back to the dominant sides of days gone by through the white ball seems possible with this, the success of the women and the victorious under 19 lot.
For England, neutrals around the globe have welcomed this fresh side. A side not haunted by failure or scared to lose. A country whose board has begrudgingly and belatedly accepted the power of one day cricket, and assembled a side capable of delivering success and excitement in equal measure.
I said at the start of the tournament, a strong West Indies means a strong cricket. The same rings true for England, and if both are strong, then cricket has 6 or 7 (New Zealand are making huge strides towards the traditional elite, Bangladesh continue to grow) sides who can all compete for major honours. Gone are the days of Australian, Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan dominance on the shorter forms.
This final will make history. For the first time, a side will win their second T20 world cup. England or West Indies will become the most successful nation ever at T20 for the next four years. Whilst maybe believable for the Windies, be honest, did you ever think you’d hear that about England?
The two semi finals, however, continued two traditions. New Zealand’s loss to England meant that, in 6 attempts, no side has ever gone undefeated. India’s loss to West Indies the next afternoon extended the jinx the tournament has on the hosts. Australia will look to rectify both of those in four years time.
The West Indies are comfortable chasing, they’ve done it in every one of their matches so far. England also prefer chasing, so expect whoever wins the toss, dependant on conditions, to put the others in.
One aspect the final may be decided on is how the side defending reacts to that, which may put England in the ascendancy. West Indies haven’t defended a total, England have. Successfully. Twice.
Before the semi-final, West Indies would have been worried about how they cope when star man Chris Gayle fails. However, he failed in the semi-final and the Windies still managed to chase a score of 190+. With that fear allayed, they go into the final in a rightly confident mood (when are they not confident?!). That being said, getting Chris Gayle early will still be key to England’s chances of winning.
England’s best chance of winning lies with the form of Joe Root. If he can bat for 10 or more overs, he will assess the pitch and bat accordingly. He will always score runs, and always get them at such a rate that it doesn’t hinder the side. Either he will allow Roy or Hales to get a flier, rebuild with Morgan or assist Buttler and Stokes in the slogfest at the end. Joe Root is a danger whenever he bats.
Spin will always play a big part in India; however, I think that this final will be decided by which team gets the death overs seam bowling right. Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes have performed magnificently in the last four overs in the last two matches and that will be crucial in limiting the West Indies to a manageable total. On the other side of the park will be Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell. Which pair performs best could well decide which way the final goes.
Both captains haven’t been in the best of form. Usually this would be problematic, however the strength of their respective captaining rescues them. Darren Sammy can offer experience and power with both bat and ball, while Eoin Morgan will always keep a cool head whatever the situation. They are also big game players, and I have a feeling one of them will fire on Sunday.
So, what will it all come down to? For me, it’s the bowling. The batting is fairly equal, and both bowling attacks will need to restrain some of the biggest hitters in world cricket. A final containing Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Marlon Samuels, Jason Roy, Joe Root and Jos Buttler is immensely exciting, but it’ll be just as thrilling to see how Samuel Badree, David Willey, Adil Rashid and Sulieman Benn react.
Essentially, what I’ve said in this preview is to watch all eleven members of the respective sides and one aspect of them will decide which way the final goes. It’s obvious, but it’s true. I have a couple more pointers to leave you with.
Firstly, this tournament proves T20 is for the batters. It’s no coincidence that, on paper, England and West Indies have two of the best batting line-ups in the world. India’s is probably better in theory but they didn’t fired. No side had a great bowling line up, but the ones with the best couldn’t cope when facing England or West Indies. All this does is backs up my point that the bowling will decide who lifts the trophy.
Secondly, this is the closest final I can remember in years. Unfamiliar conditions may play a part, but then both sides have that to deal with. Both sides have the same strengths, both the same weaknesses. A fielding mistake here, a fielding mistake there, a bad decision or a poor shot and the final, and the chance at history, is gone.
I’m very much hoping that England win, but a West Indies one would be no less than they deserve.
Meanwhile, I am wholeheartedly backing the West Indies in the women’s final. Them beating Australia, and breaking the stranglehold of the top 3, would be the best thing to happen in women’s sport for a long time.