Mitchell Santner (New Zealand) 18 (17b, 2x4) & 4-0-11-4 vs. India in Nagpur on March 15
Mitchell Santner dons his spectacles everywhere except when on the field of play. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t come across as ‘geeky’ when you watch him on TV. A student of mechanical engineering, the 24-year-old loves golf, idolises Daniel Vettori, praises Nathan Lyon and follows the career of Ravindra Jadeja. His performance against India made everyone sit up and take notice. On a pitch that turned square, he made India’s batting royalty look like paupers. His scalps: Rohit Sharma (stumped), Suresh Raina (caught at midwicket), Hardik Pandya (leg-before) and M. S. Dhoni (caught in the deep). The result: India was bowled out for just 79, a humiliating 47-run defeat.
Chris Gayle (West Indies) 100 not out (48b, 5x4 11x6) vs. England in Mumbai on March 16
England had put up a reasonably commanding show with the bat, but the big man from Jamaica had other ideas. Sample this: he trumped the opposition’s tally of nine sixes with a cool 11 of his own. No wonder, then, that the 183-run target was achieved without much ado. Gayle was quiet to begin with. With just 22 runs from 16 deliveries, he upped the pace with two sixes off leg-spinner Adil Rashid. Then, it was Ben Stokes’s turn to face the music. The sucker punch was his assault of Moeen Ali, who saw the ball sail over long-on three times in a row. By now, Gayle was on 79 off just 36. He stayed on, completed his 17th Twenty20 hundred and took his team home.
Joe Root (England) 83 (44b, 6x4, 4x6) vs. South Africa in Mumbai on March 18
When the baby-faced Yorkshireman arrived at the crease, the scoreboard read 71/2 in just 4.2 overs. A good time to bat, perhaps? Well, not if the target is a mammoth 230. Root took his own sweet time to get a feel of the proceedings. With just 12 runs to show after 11 deliveries, he creamed JP Duminy for a six over midwicket.
And, by the time he was done caressing, smashing, reverse-sweeping and switch-hitting the South Africans into submission, he had a brilliant 83 against his name. When he got out in the 19th over, England was just 11 away. Thankfully, the others did their bit as England was spared the ignominy of an early exit.
Virat Kohli (India) 55 not out (37b, 7x4, 1x6) vs. Pakistan in Kolkata on March 19
Ask a batsman about the pressure he goes through during the course of a tight chase. Now, multiply that by 1,000. That’s what Kohli went through because the opponent was Pakistan. The target was a modest one: 119. But the pitch at the Eden Gardens was doing funny things. And, India was reduced to 23/3 in the fifth over. So, what does Kohli do? Ably assisted by Yuvraj Singh, Kohli puts his head down, plays each delivery on merit, and conjures an unbeaten 55 off 37 balls to ensure India’s all-win record over its arch-rival in global competitions stays intact. His two back-to-back boundaries off Shahid Afridi, both through extra-cover, were pure gems.
M. S. Dhoni (India) 13 not out (12b, 1x4), two stumpings and a run-out vs. Bangladesh in Bengaluru on March 24
You know of Dhoni the finisher with a willow in hand. Against Bangladesh, we saw a different avatar of his. With just 17 to defend, and two overs to go, Dhoni put his faith in Jasprit Bumrah. And, the youngster did a fine job by giving away just six runs. There was a mini-team meeting ahead of the final over.
Not only was Hardik Pandya told where to bowl, he was told how to do it. As one thing led to another and the equation came down to two off the final delivery, Dhoni took off one of his giant gloves. A back-of-length delivery landed in his hands, and he sprinted to the pitch to run Mustafizur Rahman out. Earlier, he also effected two stumpimgs. One of them — Sabbir Rahman — was simply brilliant.
James Faulkner (Australia) 4-0-27-5 vs. Pakistan in Chandigarh on March 25
These days, even a 194-run target is eminently gettable. And, that’s why James Faulkner’s effort will go down as one of the finest in the history of Twenty20 Internationals. Faulkner got rid of the spunky Sharjeel Khan after the opener had eased his way to 30 runs with the help of six fours. And, as the game headed for an interesting finish, he dismissed Khalid Latif, who was threatening to explode, with a slower ball. The next delivery, he unleashed his trademark back-of-the-hand slower one to induce a mis-hit from Imad Wasim, who was duly caught at cover. And, with a 30-run cushion to boot, he bowled a brilliant last over by getting rid of Sarfraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz to knock Pakistan out of the tournament.
Virat Kohli (India) 82 not out (51b, 9x4, 2x6) vs. Australia in Chandigarh on March 27
This was one for the ages. If nothing, Kohli reiterated that there’s no better ‘chase master’ than him in world cricket today. His stunning and unbeaten 82 from 51 deliveries led India to a six-wicket victory with five balls remaining in what was a virtual quarterfinal against the Aussies. After effectively carrying an injured Yuvraj Singh through the middle overs, Kohli launched a mind-blowing assault on the bowlers as India reached the 161-run target with aplomb. Kohli and captain Dhoni smashed 59 runs from the last 25 balls to pull off the dramatic escape, but it was the former who stunned the world with an astonishing flourish in the last three overs.
After smashing a six and two fours in the 18th over bowled by James Faulkner, Kohli then collected four boundaries off Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Given that he walked in at 23 for one and saw three others perish for the score to read 37 for two, 49 for three and 94 for four, Kohli’s show was nothing but genius. His T20 International average in the second innings is now an eye-popping 91.8!
Jason Roy (England) 78 (44b, 11x4, 2x6) vs. New Zealand in New Delhi on March 30
When England scaled that 230-run peak against South Africa, Joe Root walked away with the accolades for his blistering 83. Lest we forget, Jason Roy set the base that evening with a 16-ball 43. Nearly two weeks later, Roy got his rightful share of praise after he dispatched the New Zealand attack to all corners of the Kotla in a match as big as a semifinal. His electrifying knock was more than enough for England to stun the Kiwis, who started the tournament as one of the favourites but eventually got the top billing after a spotless record in Group 2. Yes, New Zealand’s total of 153 for eight was anything but imposing, but the manner in which Roy went about his business was superb. From hitting Corey Anderson for four fours in an over to executing sumptuous straight drives at will, Roy batted like a man possessed. His fifty came off just 26 deliveries. And, by the time he was out in the 13th over, England needed just 44 runs from 47 balls. Roy’s mates duly finished the game.
Lendl Simmons (West Indies) 82 not out (51b, 7x4, 5x6) vs. India in Mumbai on March 31
It was supposed to be a case of just another match and just another match-winning performance for Virat Kohli and his legion of fans. It was, until Lendl Simmons decided to crash the party. For someone who had touched down in the city only a couple of days prior to the game, Simmons battled jetlag, fatigue, lack of sleep and what not to knock India out of the tournament. That he did so at the Wankhede Stadium — his second home — made it even more special for the visiting team. Yes, Simmons led a charmed life. He was caught off a no-ball. Twice over! And, in the business end of the game, he was caught at the boundary but batted on only because the fielder’s foot was touching the rope. It was some night. It was some hitting. Walking in at 19 for two in the third over, Simmons added 97 runs in the company of Johnson Charles before stitching another crucial stand of 80 with Andre Russell. He was particularly severe on Ravindra Jadeja, who he carted for 33 runs off 15 balls, including two sixes. He almost scored two runs off every Jasprit Bumrah delivery he faced (23 off 12). He smashed the ball to all corners of the Wankhede, but collected 32 runs in the arc between fine-leg and square-leg. Ditto in the region from third man and extra cover. He also hit two sixes in the ‘V’. It was some knock.
Marlon Samuels (West Indies) 85 not out (66b, 9x4, 2x6) vs. England in Kolkata on April 3
What’s with Marlon Samuels and World Twenty20 finals? Whatever it is, the West Indies isn’t complaining! To walk in when the scoreboard reads one for one in 1.1 overs is a challenge in itself. To see your side slip to five for two and 11 for three in a matter of minutes can only compound your woes. Marlon Samuels was in that boat at the Eden on D-Day. But, just like he had done against Sri Lanka in the final of the 2012 event, Samuels put his head down and went about his business with panache and precision. His three fours off a Chris Jordan over gave the chase a fillip. But the high point of his 75-run stand with Dwayne Bravo was their 18-run creaming of Liam Plunkett. Andre Russell and Darren Sammy would fall sooner than expected. And, that’s when Samuels became even more determined. Once Carlos Brathwaite drilled those four nails into the England coffin, the showman in Samuels took over. He took off his shirt to settle scores with Ben Stokes, shamed Shane Warne during the presentation ceremony and put his feet up — literally — during the press conference. Well, when you make a habit of winning title clashes, all is perhaps forgiven.
Carlos Brathwaite (West Indies) 4-0-23-3 and 34 n.o. (10b, 1x4, 4x6) vs. England in Kolkata on April 3
Carlos Brathwaite has faced a mere 251 deliveries in 43 Twenty20 matches. He has never scored a fifty, and has hit just 28 sixes in this format. It doesn’t matter what your opinion was of the 27-year-old prior to the World T20 final. In any case, it sure has changed. When the Barbadian walked into the cauldron that’s the Eden that evening, the West Indies was reduced to 107 for six. The equation was a tough one: 49 off 27 with only Denesh Ramdin to follow. Yes, Brathwaite had the well-set Marlon Samuels for company, but it didn’t really matter. For when the time to deliver the sucker punch arrived, Brathwaite did it all by himself. With 19 required off the final over, he gave Ben Stokes such a hiding that it beggared belief. It literally brought England’s Next Big Thing to his knees. A half-volley on leg-stump went over deep backward square-leg; the next ball went over long-on; the next, a mis-hit, sailed over long-off; and the next — you guessed it — went for another six as the West Indies completed an emphatic win. For the record, Brathwaite also accounted for top-scorer Joe Root, and cameo stars Jos Buttler and David Willey with his medium pace. Here’s more good news: Brathwaite will turn out for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL.
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