The West Indies upset hosts India to set up a meeting with England in the final of the World Twenty20 in Kolkata on Sunday. In a thrilling climax to a roller-coaster contest at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, it came down to Virat Kohli, who had again starred with the bat when firing 89 not out to guide India to a total of 192, bowling the final over defending eight runs. The man who has so often been the hero for India in recent times on this occasion couldn’t sprinkle the magic dust, as Andre Russell blasted a four and then a six to give the West Indies the victory by seven wickets with two balls to spare.
Written off by many at the start of the tournament, having not played a single T20 international in 2016 in preparation for the tournament and then being disrupted by a contract dispute, the West Indies will now have a chance to repeat their 2012 title. And with the West Indies also into the final of the women's competition, there is now a welcome ray of light shining on Caribbean cricket after what has been a tumultuous few years.
Given the difficulties they have had to endure in getting here, the West Indies may feel they were well entitled to the fortune that smiled on them on Thursday. The 82 not out from Lendl Simmons, who had only arrived to join the squad in place of the injured Andre Fletcher the last few days, was pivotal, but he needed four lives to complete it.
Twice he was turning to head back to the pavilion when being caught, first when on just 18 and once again when on 50, only for replays to show that the deliveries, from Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya, had been no-balls. More regret was to follow for India, when a catch after some juggling on the boundary was ruled to have been made only after the fielder had put his put on the boundary marking.
The no-balls in particular proved decisive. Simmons and Johnson Charles put on a 97-run partnership. And, even after Kohli had appeared to confirm he could do no wrong when taking the wicket of Charles in his first ball after surprisingly being brought into the attack, Simmons and Russell swiftly picked the pace back up to add another 80 to guide the West Indies over the line.
Earlier in the evening, it had appeared that it would be the West Indies, and not India, left ruing what might have been. Captain Darren Sammy’s side looked to have blown their best chance for victory when, in remarkable circumstances, three times missing the chance to run out Kohli when he had just a single run to his name.
It was an extraordinary couple of minutes. First, after Kohli went for a ill-advised run on a leg-bye, wicket keeper Denesh Ramdin missed the stump by a mere inch and then bowler Andre Bravo somehow did likewise from just a couple of meters away. Kohli would have been gone, as we would have been on the very next ball when he tried to come back for two and only got there because Ramdin failed to collect a throw in front of the stumps.
Having been given a solid platform by openers Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, Kohli went onto accelerate toward the end, delivering 45 runs off the final 16 deliveries he faced to help India to what appeared a strong score. But on a wicket that had earlier in the tournament seen a successful run chase of 230, perhaps they, and Rahane in particular, needed to have been more aggressive.
Still India and the thousand of expectant supporters in attendance were in jubilant mood when West Indies danger man Chris Gayle was sent back to the sidelines in just the second over. Jasprit Bumrah’s swinging full toss uprooted Gayle’s off stump and left the burden of responsibility on the rest of the West Indies’ lineup.
But, for so long in Gayle’s shadow, they stepped up on the big occasion, with Charles, Simmons and Russell all delivering big match-winning contributions. They will now go into the final full of confidence that, even if Gayle doesn’t shine, they possess the firepower to succeed in what promises to be a high-scoring shootout against England.