England v West Indies
ICC World T20 2016 final, Kolkata, 3rd April, 19:00 IST, 13:30 GMT
Not many people will have predicted an England-West Indies final, particularly after Chris Gayle took England apart in their group game, but that is what we have to look forward to at Eden Gardens on Sunday.
England have steadily improved as the tournament has progressed. They followed up a poor bowling display against South Africa with a record-breaking run chase, batted excellently against Sri Lanka and New Zealand and their bowling has been impressive.
They overpowered New Zealand in dominant fashion to get through while West Indies have put their defeat to Afghanistan well and truly behind them – just as they said they would - and beat India by chasing down 193 with two balls to spare to romp into the final.
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You will see that most bookmakers are already making the game too close to call, and who can blame them? After all, the outsiders – if you can call them that in a two-horse race – won both semi-finals and you could argue that both West Indies in 2012 and Sri Lanka in 2014 were not the most favoured teams to win in previous finals.
Both of these teams will want to chase. The West Indies have not batted first at all during the tournament so will naturally be more comfortable doing what has suited them so far.
lost to West Indies by eight wickets
beat South Africa by two wickets
beat Afghanistan by 15 runs
beat Sri Lanka by 10 runs
SF: beat New Zealand by seven wickets
beat England by eight wickets
beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets
beat South Africa by three wickets
lost to Afghanistan by six runs
SF: beat India by seven wickets
England batted first against West Indies and lost, then did the same against Sri Lanka and won, but have clearly been stronger when chasing. As it was in the semi-finals, the toss will be important and both captains will look to avoid batting first and any adverse effects the dew may have later on.
Neither side rely heavily on one or two players. No side can get this far by doing so and that is arguably why India fell by the wayside – only Virat Kohli was batting consistently well enough for them.
Chris Gayle has not scored big runs since the group game between these two yet in Andre Fletcher, Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell, they found match-winners. England captain Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales have only shown glimpses of what they are capable of but Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Joe Root have stepped up with the bat.
Samuel Badree is the world’s top ranked T20I bowler but England have developed a strong pace attack which has strangled good batting line-ups with their control and cool heads under pressure, led by Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes. They have a little more variety on their side with left-armer David Willey and plenty of options.
However, their spin attack lacks the experience of Badree and Sulieman Benn, particularly in Indian conditions and that will hand some advantage to the 2012 champions, but this is a very tight game to have to call.
Neither of these sides have played in Kolkata during the tournament, although West Indies did play warm-ups against India and Australia there, losing by 45 runs and winning by three wickets respectively. During the tournament, the venue has seen a mixed bag of innings, from Bangladesh’s 70 all out against New Zealand to Pakistan’s 201 for five against the same opponents.
It is likely to come down to who handles the occasion better on the day and which players produce outstanding performances. Morgan won with England in 2010 and Hales was part of a Mumbai Indians squad that won last year’s IPL, but eight West Indians were involved in 2012 most and are seasoned IPL veterans. They are less likely to be fazed by the big stage in front of a roaring crowd at one of cricket’s most iconic stadiums.
One outstanding over, or one brilliant innings will likely swing the final decisively one way or the other. Finals don’t generally produce high-scoring matches but considering the way the game is being played and how fearless these two outfits are, don’t be surprised if this match does see plenty of boundaries.
As for a winner, though, you might as well flip a coin to decide who to back.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (captain), Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Liam Plunkett
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Andre Russell, Denesh Ramdin (wicket-keeper), Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy (captain), Carlos Brathwaite, Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn
© Cricket World 2016