West Indies are the first world champions in cricket. They are the first two-time champions. But the third title took its own sweet time to arrive. To be precise, it took West Indies 33 years after winning their second ODI World Cup in 1979 to lay their hands once again on a World Cup.
The wait ended with Darren Sammy and Co beating hosts Sri Lanka in the 2012 World T20 final. But batting first against the favourites in the all-important match, West Indies were 14 for 2 after the powerplay and 32 for 2 after the 10 overs on a track where Russel Arnold predicted 160-170 as the par score in the pitch report.
The passionate home crowd at the R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo was breathing down the necks of the West Indies batters. Playing in their first World Cup final since 1983, West Indies' story in the summit clash looked done and dusted. But it wasn't. From here the cricketing world witnessed possibly the greatest T20I innings.
Marlon Samuels' counter-attacking 78 off 56 turned the game on its head. Such was the impact of the innings that the pumped up Lankan team collapsed like a house of cards, succumbing to a 36-run drubbing.
Devil lies in the details
Samuels came out to bat in the first over itself as opener Johnson Charles went back in the hut for a duck. In the sixth over, Samuels witnessed his batting partner and stalwart Chris Gayle depart. The situation demanded discipline. The stage wasn't yet set for Calypso brilliance, and so Samuels started rebuilding the innings with his partners.
With Gayle, he stitched a 14-run partnership off 30 balls. Next was Dwayne Bravo, with whom Samuels added 59 off 49 but they didn't break free till the 11th over. At this mark, their partnership was just worth 24 off 31, largely as a result of singles and doubles. In the 12th over, Bravo broke the shackles with a six, the first boundary of the match since the fourth over.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene responded by bringing in the best T20 bowler, Lasith Malinga, into the attack. Samuels replied with three maximums as Malinga kept missing the yorker length. A flicked six over deep midwicket, a lofted maximum over extra-cover, a straight one down the ground " Samuels had shifted gears.
Jayawardene got the wily Ajantha Mendis in to neutralise the attack, and while the mystery spinner responded with aplomb, taking three wickets in two overs, Samuels had got into the cheat mode. Sandwiched between Ajantha's two overs was Jeevan Mendis' six balls that went for 14 runs including a six and four for Samuels.
Malinga was trusted again to force Samuels back to the pavilion but this over cost Sri Lanka 19 runs. The West Indian hit him for three consecutive boundaries including a 108-metre-long straight six. The carnage came to an end in the next over as Akila Dananjaya had him caught at deep midwicket, but by then Sri Lanka had lost their confidence.
Daren Sammy's cameo of 26 from 15 helped West Indies post 137/6, which eventually proved to be a task too difficult for the hosts.
Samuels adds to Lanka's misery with bowling
The shell-shocked Lankans got off to a horrific start with Ravi Rampaul cleaning up Tillakaratne Dilshan on the first ball of his second over. Veteran Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene batted for 50 balls together and scored 42 before departing one by one. From there on, batters kept making their way to the dugout in quick succession, with the hosts being bowled out for 101.
Sunil Narine recorded the best figures for the champions, picking up 3 wickets for 9. But Samuels also made some telling contributions with the ball. He was the first change bowler for West Indies, coming into the attack as early as in the third over. His four overs accounted for mere 15 runs with one wicket of Ajantha.
That world title win just did not end the agonising 33-year wait but also had a deeper impact. It injected fresh life into cricket in the Caribbean islands and helped Samuels redeem himself as a cricketer. In 12 years of international cricket before the final, Samuels was suspended from bowling for disputed action, was suspended in 2008 for two years for alleged links with bookmakers, besides facing questions for failing to live up to his potential. On that night, Samuels put those disputes and debates behind him for good, reviving West Indies cricket in the process, with a counter-attacking masterclass.
To read more standout moments from past T20 World Cups, click here