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World T20: Rampant West Indies take on resurgent England in final

April 02, 2016 14:50 IST

IMAGE: Darren Sammy of the West Indies and England captain Eoin Morgan pose with the ICC World T20 trophy. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

They dampened the local spirits by knocking out India but a resurrected West Indies cricket team will bring its own brand of joie-de-vivre to the ICC World Twenty20 summit clash when they take on a transformed England in what promises to be a battle of power-hitting at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.

The exuberant Caribbeans, who almost did not come to the tournament owing to a pay dispute with their Cricket Board, have been nothing short of phenomenal so far. A shock loss to Afghanistan in the group stage is the only setback they faced in the course of what is turning out to be a fairy-tale run. 

"We think it is us against the world," captain Darren Sammy has declared twice so far, in a veiled reference to the bitter standoff with the Cricket Board during which the players were accused of putting money over country. 

On the other side is England, a team which, like the Windies, got no mention in the pre-tournament favourites list, barring the one given by Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar. 

IMAGE: England warm up ahead of a net session at Eden Gardens. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

There will be little to choose between both the sides who will be bidding to become the first nation to clinch the WT20 silverware for a second time, with England having won the tournament in 2010, followed by the West Indies two years later. 

Eden Gardens will host its first World Cup final since 1987 when the Mike Gatting-led Englishmen had lost to the Aussies by an agonising seven runs in the ODI version of the tournament. Now, 29 years later, the Englishmen will play another World Cup final at the same venue and will look to exorcise the ghosts of that infamous Gatting reverse sweep. 

With a 4-9 win loss record against the explosive West Indies, England may start as dark horses but Eoin Morgan's ice-cool leadership has made them a potent force. The West Indies journey, however, has been quite exemplary given that 12 of the 15 members of the squad agreed just on time and were terribly short on match practice coming into the tournament. 

A hurriedly arranged week-long camp in Dubai was all that they could manage in the name of build-up coming into the big event. Add to this, they were missing three of their key players Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo.

IMAGE: Darren Sammy of the West Indies and England captain Eoin Morgan share a joke. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

But whenever the West Indies needed, the team found a hero, the latest being Lendl Simmons, who single-handedly demolished India in the semifinals despite being jet-lagged after a late call-up to be Andre Fletcher's replacement. 

Their inspired run comes at a time when the Caribbean under-19 has won the World Cup and their senior women's team has also made the World Twenty20 final. 

"Cricket is the glue that unifies the Caribbean so whichever team does well it's always a massive plus for the people in the region," skipper Darren Sammy said. 

"When the next edition happens (in 2020) many of our players would not be around, so the winning the title means a lot to us, it will give a massive boost back home. We've 15 match-winners in our team." And Sammy is not too off the mark in his claim of having 15 match-winners.

In games where their star player Chris Gayle flopped, the 'Calypso charmers' found unlikely heroes in Johnson Charles and Simmons among others.

IMAGE: England players celebrate winning the World T20 semi-final against New Zealand at Feroz Shah Kotla. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

England too followed a similar pattern though theirs have been a story of consistency since they put their campaign on track after overwhelming South Africa by two wickets chasing out an astounding 230. 

Not so long ago, touring South Africa in the build-up to the WT20, England had lost the Twenty20 series 0-2 and ODI series 2-3 and with their struggles against the turning ball it was unimaginable to think of them making it all the way. 

But they have quietly made rapid progress in the tournament especially after their epic chase against South Africa in the Super 10 where Joe Root anchored their innings with his 44-ball 83. 

With 195 runs at a strike rate of 145, England's No.3 Root is second only to Virat Kohli in this tournament and he will look to build the innings combined with the explosive opening duo of Jason Roy and Alex Hales. Displaying some glorious strokes off the back-foot to go
with his exquisite drives, Roy was the star of their win against New Zealand who were considered the team of the tournament.

Roy will be the one to watch out for in the batting with the hard-hitting Jos Buttler who has floated up and down the order. Batting at four, Butler's unbeaten 66 from 37 ball had powered England to a winning 171/4 against Sri Lanka, while he finished their tricky 154 chase with an unbeaten 32 in 17 balls to send New Zealand packing in the semis. 

IMAGE: England captain Eoin Morgan arrives ahead of a net session at Eden Gardens. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

England will hope that Morgan, who has had two golden ducks, returns to form and the Windies will have similar expectations from Marlon Samuels who had hit a match-winning 78 in the 2012 final against Sri Lanka. 

As for big-hitting standards, the Windies will be second to none with the big-hitting and most-sought T20 cricketer Chris Gayle leading the charge. 

Against the same team, he had smacked an unbeaten 100 in their tournament opener, the ominous Gayle is sitting quiet for sometime and he would look for one final hurrah in what could be his final International appearance. 

In Charles, who set up their win against India with a 36-ball 52, and Simmons, who arrived just in time for his unbeaten 82 from 51 balls, West Indies have a dangerous top-order. 

An equally devastating bottom half with Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo and skipper Darren Sammy also holds promise of a run feast.

IMAGE: West Indies players celebrate after winning their semi-final against India at the Wankhede. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

With the teams matching each other on power-hitting, it's the bowlers who are likely to make the difference on a pitch that has behaved slow and aided vicious turn on occasions. 

The surface may have some grass to aid the lateral movement and the English bowlers -- with their seam quartet of David Willey, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes -- will fancy their chances. 

Their relatively expensive Windies counterparts -- Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Dwayne Bravo and Sammy -- will also hope for an improved show.

As far as the spin battle is concerned, the West Indian duo of Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn are expected to stay ahead of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, who did well to turn it around for England in the semi-final against New Zealand.