The West Indies did their job. Then Sri Lanka did them a great favour.
West Indies marched into the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 Championship after a nail-biting victory over New Zealand in a Super Over at Pallekele today after both sides had finished on 139 in their 20 overs.
Then West Indies watched, and more than likely cheered lustily, as Sri Lanka defeated England to dump the defending champions out of the tournament. An England win would have meant them advancing ahead of the Windies on a better run-rate.
Needing 17 to win from their six balls in the Super Over, Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels both smashed huge sixes off Tim Southee to propel the Windies to their second win of the Super Eight stage.
West Indies had been put in to bat at the start of the regulation overs and while Gayle blasted 30 from just 14 balls, the rest of the line-up struggled to a disappointing total of 139 all out as Doug Bracewell and Southee each took three wickets.
Kieron Pollard (28) and Samuels (24) also contributed to the West Indies total but Bracewell (3-31) and Nathan McCullum (2-19) dismantled the top-order while Southee (3-21) claimed the prize wicket of Gayle, who smashed three fours and two sixes.
The Black Caps made a steady start to their chase, setting things up for skipper Ross Taylor (62 not out) to seemingly put his side on course for victory.
There was no way New Zealand should have lost this, though. Not in regulation time, not in extra time. It was a day for heroes and villains, and they were often the same men. The same Tim Southee that foxed Chris Gayle and went for 3 for 21 in regulation time failed to defend 16 runs in the Super Over.
The same Sunil Narine who bowled overs 17 and 19 for five runs and two wickets to keep the match alive fielded appallingly, most noticeably in the final over, allowing Ross Taylor to retain the strike, and force the tie.
What of Taylor, though? He didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. He braved that inexplicable pressure his team-mates found themselves under; 127kmph darts from Samuels delivered from two steps; managed a six each in both the final over and the Super Over; posted his highest Twenty20 score as captain; and yet found himself at a loss to explain what just happened to New Zealand.
But the scores finished tied mainly thanks to some impressive death bowling from Narine (3-20), who was surprisingly overlooked in favour of Samuels for New Zealand’s Super Over.
Narine stopped bowling off-breaks, which the whole world knows by now that he bowls with a thumb sticking out. However, Jacob Oram failed to read the carrom ball and was out lbw. Sammy had to take the risk, leaving the last over for the non-specialist. When Narine began the 19th, New Zealand needed 17. Instead of taking six singles, Nathan McCullum tried six in one shot, and fell to the carrom ball again. The pressure was on New Zealand now.
Martin Guptill (21) and Brendon McCullum (22) got the scoreboard ticking over for New Zealand before Taylor took control, but the Black Caps fell just short when needing 14 from the final over.
When Windies skipper Darren Sammy handed the ball to Samuels for the first time in the match, the part-time bowler did well to restrict Taylor and Bracewell.
The Black Caps looked to be in pole position when Taylor flipped a full-toss over fine leg for six to leave them needing three off two deliveries.
But it fell to Bracewell (one) to face the final ball, which he hit to deep mid-wicket where substitute fielder Dwayne Smith collected and scored a direct hit on the stumps to deny New Zealand a second, match-winning run.
In the Super Over, Taylor again took centre-stage as he led his side to 17 runs alongside Brendon McCullum, but the advantage looked fragile from the moment Southee sent down a no-ball first ball that Gayle smashed for a huge maximum with the Kiwis’ first delivery.
The score edged out to 12 as Southee recovered his composure, but when Samuels smashed a six from the penultimate delivery the West Indies were left to celebrate.
Narine was named Man-of-the-Match.