Colombo, Sri Lanka – West Indies completely outplayed Australia in their semi-final on Friday night and marched into the final of the ICC World T20 tournament for the first time.
Led by a brilliant unbeaten half-century by Chris Gayle at the ideal time, the Windies rattled up 205-4 off 20 overs. They then bundled out the Aussies for 131 to win the one-sided contest by a massive 74 runs. West Indies now face host nation Sri Lanka in the final on Sunday at 7 pm (9:30 am Eastern Caribbean Time/8:30 am Jamaica Time).
Gayle led the boundary-hitting charge on a slow surface at the R Premadasa Stadium. He tore apart the bowlers and ended on 75 not out off just 41 balls. He slammed five fours and six sixes. Marlon Samuels (26) and Dwayne Bravo (37) played cameos to help maintain the momentum. At the end of the innings, Kieron Pollard came to the fore with a breathtaking 38 off 15 balls – which included three towering sixes in the final over, which cost 25 runs.
Gayle outlined that his masterplan was to bat through the innings – a goal he achieved – which helped the Windies to the highest score of the tournament. With Pollard’s injection of power the Windies made 131 runs in the last ten overs and overall hit 14 sixes and 13 fours.
“The key was to be there till the end. The plan was to have the other guys play around me. It was a slow start and I didn’t get much strike in the first six overs. What was important was that we didn’t panic and lose focus,” said the 33-year-old.
“Marlon Samuels came in and hit a few boundaries to take the pressure off me. The partnership with Bravo helped a lot and Pollard at the end helped take the total to 200. When you can play with a bit of power, you can pick up key runs at the end. It was a really good batting display.
“Watching the games here, it was a slow track and we knew spin would play a part. But we capitalised on the bad balls and put their spinners under a bit of pressure. We were looking at 150 to 160. To get 40 runs extra was a bonus.”
The Windies Number 45 added that he was particularly pleased for Pollard, who had struggled with the bat earlier in the tournament but rebounded to make a major contribution at a crucial time.
“Last night they were showing his Champions League innings for Trinidad against New South Wales on tv. I said to him, ‘for today I need the old Pollard back’. And he did play that part. There’s one more hurdle to cross and hopefully he can give us that boost again and take us to the trophy.”
With a huge target ahead of them, the Australian batsmen succumbed as the West Indies bowlers were again impressive. Pollard (2-6) and Ravi Rampaul (3-16) recorded career-best figures. The spin combination of Samuel Badree (2-27) and Sunil Narine (2-17) also proved too much for the Aussies.
“They have world-class players at the top of the order who have done it before. To get them out early was a plus for us. (Michael) Hussey has won a lot of games for Australia. Picking up early wickets exposed the middle order a bit. I’m not saying there aren’t quality players in the middle, but they haven’t had a lot of hits. It was always going to be difficult for them to chase down 200 on that sort of wicket,” Gayle said.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s match, Gayle predicted a thrilling finale as the West Indies have gathered much needed momentum and confidence since a slow start to the tournament.
“It’s going to be a thriller against world-class players, but it’s going to be good fun. We’re enjoying it, but at the same time we want to win the final. We struggled to reach this far, now there’s just one more hurdle and there’s no pressure on us,” Gayle said.
“We played against them in the Super Eights and we know what to expect – the atmosphere, the noise. We lost that game, but we’re definitely going to lift this trophy here. TI feel very confident and the others feel confident too.”