England v West Indies
Sunday April 3, 11:30pm
It’s all come down to this with power-packed sides England and the West Indies both looking to claim their second World T20 crown at the iconic Eden Gardens on Sunday night.
England stormed into the final with a dominant win over the previously unbeaten New Zealand in Wednesday’s first semi-final in Delhi. After allowing the Black Caps to get away to 1-89 off ten overs, the unlikely pair of Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan dragged England back into the ascendancy, taking a combined 5/20 off the last four overs to leave the Kiwis with a below-par total of 8/153.
In reply an explosive start from openers Jason Roy (78 off 44) and Alex Hales (20 off 19), who blasted 67 off the first six overs, ensured that the run rate required was down to a run a ball from as early as the tenth over and with some assistance from Jos Buttler (32 not out off 17) they cruised home with seven wickets in hand and 17 balls remaining.
It was undoubtedly England’s best all-round performance of the tournament, coming off the back of narrow wins over the less-accomplished Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
Encouragingly for Eoin Morgan’s side, Jordan and Stokes appear to have bounced back from horrific performances against South Africa, conceding 6.58 and 6.64 an over respectively in their last three matches.
While England’s batting has undoubtedly been their strength throughout the competition, the skipper himself has not had the best time of it, averaging only 15 with two golden ducks and it is now ten innings since his last half-century in this format.
If England are to claim the trophy then the likes of Roy, Root and Buttler need to continue their hot form with the bat, while England’s collection of all-rounders must do enough with the ball to nullify the Windies’ long batting line-up.
Despite limited preparation and losing a number of key players prior to the tournament the West Indies have swept all before them with the exception of a minor blip against Afghanistan. In their semi-final they again overcame the odds to outlast competition hosts and favourites India, chasing down a formidable target of 193 with two balls to spare.
While the majority of their bowlers beared the brunt of a Virat Kohli onslaught, leg-spinner Samuel Badree continued his outstanding tournament with figures of 1-26 from four overs when none of the other bowlers conceded less than nine an over.
The Windies’ chase looked in big trouble when they lost Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels early, however Johnson Charles (52 off 36) and the returning Lendl Simmons (82 off 51) combined to get them within reach, before the combustible Andre Russell blasted an unbeaten 43 off 20 balls to power the Calypso Kings home.
The performance of Simmons was all the more remarkable, given that he only arrived India two days prior to the game as a replacement for the injured Andre Fletcher, although his knock was not without luck, twice being dismissed off no balls.
Importantly for the Windies this was the first time in the tournament that multiple batsmen made significant scores, with previous victories underpinned by individual performances.
However they will be hoping that Carlos Brathwaite finds his radar again, with the big all-rounder conceding 8.75 runs an over without taking a wicket over the last three games. Provided the Windies’ bowling attack can restrict England from compiling a colossal total, their deep batting unit will fancy themselves to chase down just about anything.
Eden Gardens has hosted four matches throughout the competition with first innings scores varying from 5/201 to 5/118, incidentally both made by Pakistan. There hasn’t appeared to be any toss bias with the side batting first and second winning two games apiece, although in last year’s IPL the chasing side won the majority of games here.
Spinners have been more difficult to score against at Kolkata, conceding 6.84 runs an over in the tournament compared to 7.63 from the quicks so the likes of Badree, Benn and Rashid loom as key figures in determining the outcome of the final.
- England have lost only three of their last 13 T20Is.
- England have made over 170 in eight of their last 12 innings batting first.
- West Indies have won four of their last five T20Is when batting second.
- West Indies have won four of their last six T20Is when chasing 175 or higher.
- West Indies have hit more sixes than their opponents in their last seven T20Is.
The Windies have been installed as the most marginal of favourites with England considered slight outsiders to take out the title.
Sammy’s side deserve to go in with shorter odds given their superior form throughout the tournament, however England are such a dangerous side and appear to be peaking at the right time.
These teams have actually already met with the Windies edging England in the opening match in Group 1, however that result was largely determined by a freak hundred to Chris Gayle and could so easily have gone the other way if Gayle failed to fire.
The toss will also be a crucial factor with both teams more suited to chasing and the conditions likely to support batting second. It looks set to be a match that could ebb-and-flow with plenty of price fluctuations, however I cannot take a position on the match odds pre-game.
One area where the Windies may have a more distinct advantage is in the six-hitting department. With a violent batting unit featuring the likes of Gayle, Samuels, Bravo, Russell and Sammy, the Windies are custom-built to clear the ropes and their record shows it.
The Calypso Kings have hit more sixes than their opponents in each of their last seven T20Is, averaging eight per game whilst conceding an average of less than five. In this tournament alone they have had seven different individual six hitters and all but one has hit three or more.
England themselves are set up pretty well to hit sixes with a deep batting line-up and plenty of power all the way down to David Willey at number ten. They actually have eight individual six hitters and have averaged a healthy 6.8 over the course of the tournament, however they also have an issue with conceding maximums.
England have leaked an average of 8.4 sixes during the competition, three times being dispatched for double-figures. Every single one of their seven frontline bowlers used has seen the ball disappear over the ropes and in their last seven T20Is England have scored more sixes than their opponents just twice.
With all that my mind my final bet for the 2016 World T20 will be to back the West Indies to maintain their streak and hit more sixes than their English counterparts.