PREVIEW: West Indies T20 superstars take on England in today’s World Cup finals

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BIG PICTURE:

Test cricket originated in England, West Indies became its biggest stars. Fifty-over cricket originated in England, West Indies became its biggest stars. T20 cricket originated in England, West Indies are again its biggest stars.

A little over two weeks ago, both teams were in Mumbai for their first match of this World T20. The England players stood at Marine Drive, unrecognised, and succeeded in hailing a cab after only 15 minutes, just like any average person. West Indies, though, could not move around without being mobbed. Kolkata provided another example. Tragedy had struck the city on the day of India’s semi-final when a flyover that had been under construction collapsed, killing 23 people. People huddled around TV sets at paan shops seeking information, and not watching cricket. But when the West Indies team arrived yesterday, they had hundreds greeting them at the airport, at the hotel, at the ground.

With good reason. Though it is a bit of a caricature of “calypso cricket”, and it doesn’t quite do justice to how smart they have been, West Indies’ batsmen have been attractive. They play T20 cricket in its basest style and have taken power-hitting to a whole new level. They’ve got the nuances right too: they field acrobatically, and when under pressure they back themselves so much that it hardly seems like they are under pressure.

Take away a bit of power-hitting, add some quicker sets of legs, and you have England. Quietly, they have revolutionised their limited-overs cricket. Among teams that entered the tournament in the second round, England are second only to West Indies in six-hitting, and only by a count of two. England make up for it with a lower dot-ball percentage – 33.85 to West Indies’ 45.44, but West Indies have conceded runs at only 7.25 an over compared to England’s 8.53. West Indies have edged England with their boundary percentage, but not by a lot.

Clearly England’s one-day revival is not to be scoffed at. It was here, at Eden Gardens in 1987, that Mike Gatting was burnt for playing a “risky” shot that is considered commonplace now.

A final can often come down to what you are not at your absolute best at. If the pitch is flat, England will try to go well past the 182 they set against West Indies and lost in the league stage. West Indies, too, will have to match the quicker English fielders. If there was any danger of there being less attention on the final because India were knocked out, Kolkata put it to rest. When Darren Sammy stepped into the press-conference room, he was taken aback by the number of journalists waiting. It will be the same with the Eden Gardens crowd today (Sunday); the final has come to its spiritual home in India, after having missed out in 2011.

Neither Darren Sammy nor Eoin Morgan have had much time in the middle with the bat, but they have been inspirational captains © Getty Images/ICC

FORM GUIDE:

England WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WLWWW

IN THE SPOTLIGHT:

Sammy has faced 11 and bowled 12 balls in the tournament. It shows how good West Indies have been because he is the man to call when one of the five bowlers goes for plenty or when the batting fails. Sammy, though, will be disappointed that when things did go wrong he didn’t set them right. Against South Africa, he fell to an Imran Tahir wrong’un first up, but West Indies managed to close a tight chase.  Against Afghanistan, though, West Indies went on to lose. Sammy has been a superb captain on and off the field, but in perhaps his last match for West Indies, Sammy will want to make a big personal contribution. The only thing better would be if Sammy weren’t even called upon.

Ditto for Eoin Morgan, who has two golden ducks to his name. “It’d be nice to get past the dot ball,” he joked.

Chris Jordan was 14 when he moved to England from Barbados. At one point he ran the risk of ending up as another Jade Dernbach, a big-hearted trier who couldn’t make it as England’s slog-overs specialist. England kept the faith in Jordan though, and his yorkers have carried the team into their second World T20 final. Unlike Dernbach, Jordan kept it mostly simple: bowl yorker after yorker after yorker. Against New Zealand in the semi-final, Ben Stokes benefitted from the pressure Jordan created. England won’t mind if the same happens in Kolkata. Sammy acknowledged the criticism that his team does not rotate strike enough, but also said the opposition has to stop them from hitting boundaries first. Jordan will be key for England.

TEAM NEWS

Neither team should have any reason to change the XIs that won them the semi-finals. If the pitch turns, they have two spinners each. If it helps the quicks, they have the bowlers to exploit that too. England had a couple of players down with illness in the lead-up, but they were fit and ready to train.

England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 David Willey, 11 Liam Plunkett

West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Lendl Simmons, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Carlos Brathwaite, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Samuel Badree

PITCH & CONDITIONS

“There is a nice covering of grass,” Morgan said. “Looks like a really good cricket wicket, which is good news.” Kolkata remains a good chasing ground with dew likely to play some part in the evening. There is a chance of a thunderstorm on Sunday, but not serious enough to disrupt the cricket.

Stats and trivia:

  • Dwayne Bravo is four wickets from joining the two-member club of players with 50 T20I wickets and 1000 runs. Shahid Afridi and Shakib Al Hasan are already there.
  • West Indies have met England in two major finals, and beaten them on both occasions, in the 1979 World Cup and the 2004 Champions Trophy. In three other finals, they have beaten England twice, and lost once, in Sharjah in 1997.
  • Going into the final, Joe Root is the fourth highest run-getter of the tournament. With 195, he is exactly a hundred behind the leader, Tamim Iqbal. Among those who didn’t play in the first round of the tournament, Virat Kohli leads with 273 runs.
  • West Indies played eight completed matches (and one no-result) between the last World T20 and this one, England played nine.

QUOTES

“We are quite real about this. We know it is not going to be a normal game. Even in the semi-final there was quite a lot of hype of expectation playing the final. I want all of our players to embrace it. Tomorrow everything will feel rushed to start with, but we want to be in a really good frame of mind to slow things down when needed. Most importantly execute our skills.”
England captain Eoin Morgan stays away from the cliché. Almost

“We have studied England. We look at the players. They have a lot of match-winners. We don’t take that for granted. But after we have done that we shift the focus back on us… One of the senior players made a comment in a team meeting, I think it was Dwayne Bravo, the only team that can beat us is ourselves. We believe that. Only we can defeat ourselves. Once we do what we know we do well, we will win. That’s the mentality we take into the final. ”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy knows how good his team is

(Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo © ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)

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