COLOMBO: Gangnam stylists West Indies roused memories of a lost time as they sank Sri Lanka by 36 runs to win the ICC World Twenty20 - their first world title in over three decades. Darren Sammy's side of booty-shaking league mercenaries pulled off a massive upset at the R. Premadasa in a battle between islands on Sunday night, as a shell-shocked home crowd watched its vaunted batting line-up come unmoored against inspired West Indian bowling and fielding. Chasing 137, Lanka lost their last nine wickets for 53 runs as the pursuit ended in the 19th over.
The defeat was Sri Lanka's fourth in as many World Cup finals across formats in the last five years and came despite the home team being considered a firm favourite for the title against the unpredictable Caribbeans. For the West Indies the win may just indicate a revival, a renewal of the spontaneity and energy that was the hallmark of their halycon years at the top of world cricket in the 1970s and 80s.
On a threateningly overcast Sunday evening, if it was Marlon Samuels' single-handed derring-do that took the champions to 137-6 after Darren Sammy elected to bat, it was the their collective effort in the field that proved decisive after a promising stand between Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara threatened to revive the Lankans. Man of the match Samuels, who was dropped by Nuwan Kulasekara on 20, struck six sixes (and 39 in 11 balls off perceived threat Lasith Malinga) to extricate his team from 32-2 in 10 overs. Samuels' 56-ball 78 allowed his team to massacre 105 in the last 10. The all-rounder returned to bowl four overs for just 15, arresting Lanka's quest for quick runs as they succumbed to the unquantifiable pressures of a World Cup chase.
Lanka fall apart
The hosts would have thought that Ajantha Mendis' superlative 4 for 12, including the scalp of the dangerous Chris Gayle for a 16-ball 3, would have brought the Cup halfway to their dressing room. But Sunil Narine had a few tricks up his own sleeve, and his 3 for 9 including Jayawardene's prized scalp offset the good work of Lanka's bowling.
Ravi Rampaul started brightly, knocking Tillakaratne Dilsha's off-stump back with a delectable leg-cutter in the second over of the chase and rekindling hopes of the impossible in West Indian hearts. Although the Windies dropped Jayawardene twice - Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell the culpable parties - they lifted their performance in collusion with Lanka's demise.
Jayawardene added 42 in just over 8 overs with Sangakkara as Samuel Badree, Rampaul and Marlon Samuels kept it tight. But the left-hander's dismissal to Badree in tenth over began the slide. Sri Lanka needed 80 from ten at that stage, but fell into an morass as they lost five wickets for 16 runs in a span of 22 balls.
Sangakkara pulled Badree to Pollard, Mathews shuffled endlessly in his crease before being bowled by Sammy, and Narine came on in the 13th over to land the death blow. By this time a drizzle was doing the rounds, and Jayawardene, with an eye on the Duckworth-Lewis target, went for the reverse pull against the mystery spinner, top-edging to his counterpart at point. One ball later, Jeevan Mendis fell short of his ground when Narine broke the wicket following a second-attempt pick up and throw from Bravo at long off.
Another run out broke Sri Lanka's backbone, as they slid to 64-6 when Thisara Perera was done in by wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin trying to steal a bye. Nuwan Kulasekara sparkled momentarily, spanking boundaries to spoil Rampaul's figures as the asking rate shot through the roof. Narine soon removed Kulasekara, and Samuels joined the bowling party by dismissing Ajantha Mendis. All hell broke loose when Narine's third wicket - fittingly Lasith Malinga, who had gifted 40, more than the margin of tonight's victory, in two overs to Samuels - brought the Calypso Kings their first World Cup in 33 years.
Samuels' singular strikes
The match was set up brilliantly by Samuels' fearless approach in the first innings as wickets fell like nine pins around him. The West Indies line up appeared loaded to the gunwales. But after losing three World Cup finals across formats in the last five years, Lanka looked prepared. The innings appeared to be going nowhere at 32-2 in ten overs, before Samuels injected it with a vial of uppers.
Johnson Charles was out in the first over to Mathews and after the trio of Lanka's pacemen managed to keep Gayle quiet, the introduction of Ajantha Mendis accounted for the big left-hander. Gayle was trapped leg before by a straighter one, but the the tempo went up when Malinga went for 21 runs, including three impudent sixes, in the 13th over.
Dwayne Bravo was out to a bad decision by umpire Simon Taufel, who was standing in his last match, when he appeared to have inside edged Ajantha on to his pads, but was adjudged leg before. Samuels reached his 50 in 46 balls with a six and West Indies were 87-3 in 15 overs. Ajantha Mendis' double-strike in the 16th pegged the visitors further back - Kieron Pollard perished to the cut and all-rounder Andre Russell was done in by the sweep.
But Malinga returned to bowl the 17th and gave away another 19, Samuels biffing another couple of sixes including a huge tee off that soared all the way to 108 metres. Akila Dananjaya, in the team for the experienced Rangana Herath, got rid of Samuels when the West Indian pulled him straight to mid-wicket. Sammy came in and struck a few lusty blows. It was, in fact, the skipper's 15-ball 26, as well as his two wickets for six, that proved to be vital in the eventual scheme of things. This just may rest for posterity questions over Sammy's place in the side and his captaincy credentials. After all Sammy - and not Viv Richards, or Richie Richardson or Brian Lara - became the first West Indian skipper since Clive Lloyd to hold aloft a Word Cup.