Sluggish surface, turning track, ball getting stuck in the
pitch. Quite obviously, the West Indies hasn’t heard of all these
In the most bruisingly spectacular batting display of the
ICC World Twenty20 2012, the West
Indies buried Australia under an avalanche of runs in the second
semi-final at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday night, setting up a Sunday date
with Sri Lanka in the title round.
The runs had pretty much dried up once the Super Eights
began on September 27, sides struggling to touch even the 150-mark. The West
Indies, all swagger but not without substance, decimated Australia’s hitherto
impressive attack as it amassed the biggest total of the competition, 205 for
4, after Darren Sammy, delighted at winning the toss, chose to bat.
Under the pump and its confidence completely
destroyed, Australia crashed out of the tournament after slumping to
its second straight loss, this time by a massive 74 runs as it was fired out
Chris Gayle was the principal destroyer as he batted through
the innings to make an unbeaten 75, but this wasn’t by any stretch of the
imagination a one-man show. Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo played their parts
in boosting the rate of scoring in the middle overs, and Kieron Pollard
exploded at the death, smashing three fours and as many sixes as he rattled up
38 in just 15 deliveries.
Australia, which had ridden roughshod over the rest of the
field barring Pakistan in its last Super Eights match on the back of the
exploits of Shane Watson and David Warner, needed its two aggressive openers to
produce their best batsmanship of the tournament. Samuel Badree, the quickish
leg-spinner whose greatest virtue is his accuracy, accounted for both by the
fifth over and with that, any outside chance of Australia making a
match of it completely evaporated.
Badree’s twin strikes were complemented by Samuels’s
dismissal of Mike Hussey, and when Ravi Rampaul got rid of Cameron White and
David Hussey in the space of three deliveries, Australia was in
severe strife. An early finish appeared nigh at 43 for 6, but George Bailey was
in no mood to give in without a fight.
Australia’s captain played a wonderful hand in posting his
highest Twenty20 International score, racing to 50 in just 23 deliveries with a
series of wonderful strokes on a night of tremendous hitting. Andre Russell
suffered the most as his only over went for 25. Bailey and Pat Cummins put on
68 for the seventh wicket to delay the inevitable and reduce the margin of
defeat, until both fell in the same Pollard over.
Long before Australia came out to bat, though,
the fate of the match had all but been sealed. The West Indies, easily
possessing the most intimidating and fearsome batting line-up of the
tournament, finally unleashed the collective fury it had threatened at various
stages, Gayle unsurprisingly at the forefront.
If this wasn’t vintage Gayle, then it was only because he
was denied the strike for long periods. But when he did come on strike, he more
than made up with clean ball-striking that left the reasonably big crowd
awestruck and Australia completely shell-shocked.
Gayle only faced 10 deliveries in the first five overs,
eight in the next five, 11 in the third quarter and 12 in the last block of
five overs. However, in those periods, he made 10, 16, 24 and 25 runs
respectively, hammering five fours and smashing six sixes, each one struck with
complete nonchalance, flying way over the boundary boards and into the crowds.
Johnson Charles provided Australia early hope, keeping
Gayle away from the strike and then edging Mitchell Starc behind the stumps,
but hope turned to despair as Samuels played a little beauty, hogging the
bowling and the runs during a second-wicket stand of 41. Bravo took his time
settling in as Australia stayed in touch till 10 overs, at which stage the West
Indies was 74 for 2 with Gayle on 26. Little was it, or anyone else, to know
then what carnage lay ahead.
The push actually didn’t begin until the 15th over
– sent down by David Hussey, expectedly brought into the XI in place of Glenn
Maxwell. 19 came off it as Gayle breezed to his 50 in 29 deliveries and after
that, Australia just couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Under such immense pressure with the ball flying all over
the place, it was no surprise that Australia cracked, first in the
field and then with the ball. Cummins, along with Starc the most impressive of
the bowlers, did his team no good at all by having Bravo caught at mid-off
after a partnership of 83 in just 51 with Gayle. It had set the stage up
beautifully for Pollard – 140 for 3, 4.1 overs left.
Pollard began quietly, but as Gayle pulled an abdominal
muscle – or so it seemed – he went into overdrive. The fours flowed
freely, Australia clearly waiting for the end of the innings. In a
desperate bid to somehow curb the mayhem, Bailey bowled out his premier bowlers
by the 19th, and was left to pick between Brad Hogg and Xavier
Doherty, both left-arm spinners, to bowl the 20th.
He went with Doherty, and all hell broke loose. Gayle
deposited the first ball over mid-wicket, then took a single and admired
Pollard’s handiwork. Doherty bowled one full toss after another, and Pollard
punished him each time with three giant sixes, each one bigger than the other.
By the time he was dismissed off the last ball, the over had yielded 25, the
association 65 in a mere 25 deliveries. The West Indies had laced its
innings with 13 fours and 14 sixes. It wasn’t just game-changing or
game-breaking, simply game-killing.