• Carlos Brathwaite hits four sixes off Ben Stokes’s first four balls of final over
• West Indies, 161-6, beat England, 155-9, by four wickets with two balls left
Carlos Brathwaite broke the hearts of an England side, which for the first time in a wonderful, fluctuating game of cricket, had sensed that the World Twenty20 title was in their grasp.
When Ben Stokes was tossed the ball for the final over the match West Indies needed 19 runs for victory. Marlon Samuels, 85 not out, was still there but at the non-striker’s end. Perhaps England felt this was a good thing. It transpired that this was not the case.
In the previous two matches Stokes had been so effective when bowling the death overs; it is unlikely that Brathwaite had taken too much notice of that. The mighty right-hander stood tall in the crease and swung. Poor Stokes sought the yorker but he could never find it.
The first ball was swung straight for six; so too was the second. Suddenly the match had yo-yoed yet again, with seven runs needed off four balls. Braithwaite hit another six and for a moment the batsmen thought it was all over.
The players reassembled for the last rites. Whereupon Brathwaite finished the game with one more six. Stokes was inconsolable on his haunches. Earlier he had taken three brilliant outfield catches as England tenaciously worked themselves back into the game. Now he felt the villain having delivered those delicious length balls. All the England players and their coach, Trevor Bayliss, put their arms around him at the end of a melodramatic campaign.
Meanwhile West Indies began to celebrate as only West Indians can. Until the Brathwaite intervention even Chris Gayle had looked nervous in their dug-out. The target had seemed so accessible. On an excellent batting surface England’s 155 never seemed enough.
Desperate situations in the field require desperate measures, but these rarely include tossing the new ball to a part-time off-spinner, who looks as if he has just come from choir practice.
Eoin Morgan came up with a cunning plan that at first glance seemed to have many of the hallmarks of those proposed by Baldrick of Blackadder fame. In fact it was a stroke of genius by Morgan to toss the ball to Joe Root for the second over of the West Indies innings.
The West Indies openers were taken aback. Obviously both of them decided that they would have nothing to do with such nonsense. Such an impertinent move demanded that Root should be smashed to all parts of Eden Gardens. Johnson Charles heaved at Root’s first delivery, not a bad one, and the ball spiralled to long-on; Stokes steadied himself and took a fine catch.
The batsmen had crossed so it was Gayle who drove loosely at Root’s next offering, the ball sliced over cover for four. Root’s third ball was handy. Gayle tried to hit it for six; again the ball spiralled; again Stokes steadied himself; West Indies 5 for 2. The match was alive.
When Lendl Simmons was stuck on the crease and lbw to David Willey, whose eyes were burning with passion, it was 13 for 3.
Now West Indies were indebted to Samuels, the man who scored the vital runs in their World T20 final win against Sri Lanka four years ago. He hung in for a while; he was given out on 27 but recalled when there was doubt over whether the ball had carried to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. But soon he hit some crushing blows to the shorter leg-side boundaries. Then came Brathwaite.
If the end of the game was nightmarish for England, the start did not go to plan either. Jason Roy has obviously never faced Samuel Badree before and he did not seem able to establish where the ball was coming from. Roy missed the first ball of the match and it struck his left pad; the appeal was declined; he missed the second and it struck the leg stump.
In the second over Alex Hales flicked at an innocuous leg-side delivery from Andre Russell and the ball flew straight into the hands of Badree standing at short-fine leg.
There was a solitary boundary for Morgan before he too was duped by Badree, who propelled yet another skidding top-spinner; Badree appears in the guide-books as a leg-spinner, which should invoke the trade description act. He hardly ever bowls a leg-break. England must have known that but this was not obvious from their batting.
Joe Root looked on phlegmatically, clipping boundaries whenever he could. Buttler offered reassuring assistance for seven overs. In all he hit Sulieman Benn for three sixes and West Indies were challenged at last. In pursuit of another maximum he found Darren Bravo on the mid-wicket boundary. But the partnership of 61 had given the innings some impetus.
It could not be sustained as England lost three wickets for one run when they were threatening at 110 for 4. Unfortunately one of those was Root, who had batted with his usual deftness while making 54. He was dismissed when trying the most elaborate shot of his innings, a scoop over the left shoulder, which sent the ball gently to Benn at short fine leg.
David Willey managed to crack two sixes and England were able to bat their quota of overs but there was no disguising West Indian delight at their work in the field.
Their fielding was almost flawless with Sammy cleverly managing to hide his most senior citizens, Gayle and Samuels; as has been the case throughout the tournament the bowlers went about their business intelligently; Badree was unrelenting and simple in his approach; the quicker bowlers varied their pace shrewdly; only Benn and Sammy were collared, but none so devastatingly as poor Stokes in the final over of a mesmerising contest.