On Sunday one team will become the first in history to claim two World T20 titles. Will it be Eoin Morgan’s England, winners in the Caribbean in 2010, or Darren Sammy’s West Indies, who lifted the trophy two years later in Colombo?
We can expect thrills and spills, nerve-shredding drama and a blaze of boundaries as two powerful teams match-up in the finale of a superb tournament of attacking cricket.
Free-spirited, fearless England chased down the highest total in World T20 cricket of 230 to beat stunned South Africa while the West Indies crashed 146 runs (76.84 per cent of their 190) in fours and sixes to dump hosts India out in the semi-finals. No one encapsulated the tournament’s ethos more than match-winner Lendl Simmonds; parachuted in after an injury to Andre Fletcher to strike a career best 82* from 51 deliveries.
The West Indies are a blockbuster team, evidenced by the fact that Sammy has only six runs and one wicket (both against Afghanistan) in the tournament. Admittedly the smooth-talking skipper has only had two innings but his position batting down at No.8 highlights their quality.
The Windies have an enviable winning record over England, extending it to nine from 13 with the Chris Gayle-insipred opening victory. But after four wins since England are bristling with confidence and genuinely bat down to No.11.
In the build-up to the biggest game of their lives, Morgan highlighted destructive opener Jason Roy and death-bowler Chris Jordan as two men who epitomise the bold courage needed to succeed in this format.
When the skipper does not even need to mention his world-class Joe Root, the only Englishman to make a T20i century Alex Hales, a man averaging more than 50 in the tournament Jos Buttler, his leading wicket-taker David Willey or gun all-rounder Ben Stokes you know he has a very good team at his disposal.
One more game to win in hot and humid Kolkata and England can call themselves world champions. What an opportunity beckons.
When? Sunday 3 April
Where? Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Start? 14:30 (GMT)
How to keep up with the action?
Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Sam Billings (Kent), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Ben Stokes (Durham), Reece Topley (Hampshire), James Vince (Hampshire), David Willey (Yorkshire)
Darren Sammy (capt), Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Samuel Badree.
Jason Roy vs Chris Gayle
This tournament is Jason Roy’s watershed, elevating the 25 year-old from an immensely promising talent to a man who delivers on the world stage. The brave big-hitter thumped a maiden half century from 26 balls (the second fastest for England by one delivery) to finish on 78 from 44 balls in the semi-final win and set the tone for a record run chase against South Africa with 43 from 16 balls. If Roy survives the opening overs with wicket and confidence intact, he can win the game.
Chris Gayle is the brightest star in a universe of World T20 batting talent and the 36 year-old’s match-winning 46-ball century in the opener only enhanced his intimidating record against England. In nine T20i knocks Gayle has hit 945 runs – more than anyone else – at an average of 43 and strike rate of 156. Standing tall and effortless striking boundaries, England must look to David Willey’s early swing to remove him.
Adil Rashid vs Samuel Badree
The likely good batting track may blunt the wicket-taking threat of the leg spinners but both will expect to have an impact on the outcome. Adil Rashid starred in the Big Bash this winter and raced through the warm-up fixtures with a flurry of wickets only to take some punishment during the tournament. Heralded by teammates and coaches as “the ace in England’s pack”, the 28 year-old’s ability to tempt the West Indies’ explosive middle-order into a mistake could be crucial.
Samuel Badree has carved out a positon as a T20 specialist in recent years and has the stats to back him up. The 35 year-old Trinidadian has 38 wickets in 27 T20 internationals at an average of 15 and, crucially, an economy rate of 5.44. Badree opened the bowling in the Mumbai win and although England played him well on that occasion, the confident openers will aim to inflict hefty blows if he does so again.
Ben Stokes vs Andre Russell
Powerful midde-order batters, dead-eye death bowlers and go-to men in the field, both teams have quality all-rounders to call upon. Ben Stokes has been outstanding with the ball in pressure situations, sending down 50 per cent dot balls in over bowled between the 16th and 20th. And anyone who witnessed his glittering 258 against South Africa – the fastest ever in Test cricket – this winter will be surprised to read his average in T20 internationals is 14.33. A game-changing contribution is a sure thing in the near future.
Andre Russell is hard to miss with his bleached-blond Mohican but the 27 year-old has crept up on plenty of batsman this tournament. The Jamaican has eight wickets, including Roy and Root in the opener, and has dangerous variations with the new ball. With the bat Russell seems to have a simple motto: smash everything. Batting at No.6 and with an average of 14.71, much like Stokes, he boomed 43 from 20 balls in the nail-biting semi-final win. England must hope Russell has used up his quota of magic with the bat already.
Quotes from the captains
Eoin Morgan: “Winning would mean a huge amount. I think given the strides that we’ve made in the last 12 months in white-ball cricket, this would be a great reward for the mindset we’ve shown, the dedication and the hard work.
“Even before we played them in the group stages I was quite firm that the West Indies team is not just Chris Gayle.
“It is important when you are playing good sides you don’t focus on one or two players, it’s everybody, because anybody can hurt you, and I think India witnessed that in the semi-final.”
Darren Sammy: “I think since the inception of Twenty20, you’ve seen West Indies is a boundary-hitting team. We know the power we have in the dressing-room. So it was exciting to watch…[Lendl] Simmons, [Andre] Russell and [Johnson] Charles displayed that type of boundary-hitting against India.
“We’re left with one step and we as a group we believe in each other, we enjoy each other’s success and we think about ourselves lifting up that cup tomorrow.”
16 March 2016 in Mumbai: West Indies won by six wickets
13 March 2014 in Bridgetown: England won by five runs
11 March 2014 in Bridgetown: West Indies won by five wickets
9 March 2014 in Bridgetown: West Indies won by 27 runs
27 September 2012 in Pallekele: West Indies won by 15 runs
World T20 results/fixtures
16 March in Mumbai: lost to West Indies by six wickets
18 March in Mumbai: beat South Africa by two wickets
23 March in Delhi: beat Afghanistan by 15 runs
26 March in Delhi: beat Sri Lanka by 10 runs
30 March in Delhi: beat New Zealand by seven wickets
16 March in Mumbai: beat England by six wickets
20 March in Bengaluru: beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets
25 March in Nagpur: beat South Africa by three wickets
27 March in Mohali: lost to Afghanistan by six runs
31 March in Mumbai: beat India by seven wickets
Did you know?
West Indies are ranked second behind India in ICC T20 rankings. England are up to fourth.
West Indies have won nine of 13 T20 internationals against England.
Alex Hales is the only England player to record a T20i century and made 99 in a seven-wicket win over the West Indies in 2012.
England’s run rate in the powerplay of 9.50 is the best at 2016 World T20.
Chris Gayle holds the record for the most sixes in World T20 history with 60. India’s Yuvraj Singh is second with 33.
West Indies have hit the most sixes (36) in the tournament. England are second with 34.
Joe Root needs 78 runs to overhaul Virat Kohli as the leading run scorer among those who joined at the Super 10s stage.