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A Fairy Tale End to a Great Final

(by Mark McGowan)

It was an extravagant affair, full of emotion and drama. The quality of cricket ranged from the spectacular to the ordinary and in the end, the perennial runners-up Sri Lanka trumped India to finally recapture World Cup glory. The Sri Lankans deserved to win since more often than not they were able to produce something special when it was required.

Overall, the tournament was keenly contested and there were several moments that would have left indelible impressions on cricket fans.

Insight looks at some of these moments:

Arise Sir Hales!

England’s opening batsman Alex Hales played what was perhaps the innings of the tournament scoring 116 (off 64 balls) to lead hisalex-hales side to victory over Sri Lanka in the first round.  Chasing a huge target of 190 in a must win game, Hales, with some help from Eoin Morgan and others, led his team’s recovery from 0 for 2, after the first over, to their highest successful run chase. Hales was clinical, smiting 11 fours and 6 sixes as he recorded his maiden T20I century before scripting a satisfying victory against one of the pre-tournament favourites and the eventual winners.  This was certainly the highpoint in what was otherwise a disappointing campaign for the English team.

Not under my watch!

New Zealand appeared to be cruising to victory in their preliminary round match against South Africa when their chase experienced some hiccups. Nevertheless the Kiwis appeared to be favourites when they began the last over needing 7 runs to win with Ross Taylor in sublime touch.

But Dale Steyn had different ideas and demonstrated once again why he is the premiere fast bowler in the world conceding only four runs (Nathan McCullum struck him for a boundary). It was an eventful over as Steyn took two wickets, bowled two dots and effected the run out of Ross Taylor off the final ball.  In the end South Africa got home by 2 runs and Steyn ended with figures of 4-0-17-4.

Sammy, you beauty you!

West Indies’ captain Darren Sammy has developed quite a reputation for his ability to finish off an innings in these shorter formats and he chose the must win game against the Aussies to show the world just why.  He joined Dwayne Bravo in the 17th over with the score at 130/4 chasing 179 for victory. He took a few balls to settle in, and then took 17 runs off the penultimate over of the innings bowled by Mitchell Starc. With 12 runs needed of the last over, Sammy who didn’t score off the first two balls, let loose with two consecutive sixes off James Faulkner to seal victory.

Such was Sammy’s rollicking finish that one could easily forget Dwayne Bravo’s 27(12 balls), which had kept the West Indies in the game after Gayle’s early heroics of 53 (35 balls).

There’s no party like a West Indian party.

The wild celebrations by Chris Gayle and company moments after Sammy’s heroics against the Aussies brought back memories of WI’s victory in the 2012 final against Sri Lanka. Suddenly, ‘Gangnam Style” was not so 2012 anymore.

The men from the Caribbean were clearly pumped up for the game with Faulkner’s pre-match comments about not particularly liking the West Indian players serving as some form of motivation for them.

Spell of the tournament

Having bowled out Sri Lanka for 119 runs within the allotted 20 overs, New Zealand appeared to be on their way to upsetting Sri Lanka in what was a virtual quarter-final. That was until Rangana Herath, the veteran left-arm orthodox spinner sparked a New Zealand batting collapse by capturing 5 wickets for 3 runs as the Kiwis were dismissed for 60.  Herath registered bowling figures of 3.3-2-3-5. Among his victims were the important scalps of Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, James Neesham and Luke Ronchi.

The defining innings

There were a number of quality innings by batsmen but undoubtedly the defining knock of this tournament was one of the most torturous you would ever see. Yuvraj Singh’s 11 off 21 balls in the final was one of the major factors in India’s defeat to Sri Lanka.  Singh’s struggles sucked all the momentum from India’s innings. Not only did Singh struggle to score, he robbed the in form Virat Kohli of much of the strike in the closing overs. In fact, Kohli only faced 8 off the last 24 balls and India scored 19 runs off the last four overs. Kohli was run out off the last ball of his side’s innings and ended up with 77 runs off 58 balls.

Singh’s record in the shorter formats of the game speaks for itself but it was sad to see a great player look so ordinary in one of the biggest matches of his career.

The fairy tale ending

sangakkaraFor several years Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have carried the batting of their nation with much success. This is not to say that they have not had adequate help, but these two generals have had to endure much heartbreak with Sri Lanka reaching 4 World Cup finals but  failing to capture the crown on each occasion. This time was different though and it seemed the perfect send off for two of the modern greats.

It must have been particularly meaningful for Sangakkarra, who salvaged what was an otherwise forgettable tournament for him, with an unbeaten 52 (35 balls) to lead his side to victory. For Mahela it must have sweet since he had good scores during the tournament and was clearly the primary tactician whenever Sri Lanka fielded.

Indeed, some cricketers do experience a fairy tale ending.

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