Kolkata: A new-look England and a resurgent West Indies will battle to become the first two-time winners of cricket’s World Twenty20 in a big-hitting showdown Sunday that promises to rain sixes.
A year after exiting the 50-over World Cup with egg on their face, Eoin Morgan’s England will hope to complete their redemption by outmuscling a West Indies team who are themselves a team reborn.
Inspired by the ultimate game changer Chris Gayle, the men from the Caribbean are hoping to go home with the shortest format’s biggest prize on the same day that their women are also gunning for glory at Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens stadium against Australia in an earlier final.
Gayle will be looking to become the first player to crack a century of sixes in T20 internationals, having already smashed a record 98 — 11 of them in the current tournament.
England meanwhile will hope to add to their tally of 34 sixes in the tournament, more than any other team, underlining their transformation into the game’s great entertainers.
Jason Roy, one of the stars of the new-look England, promised they would come at their opponents ‘with all guns blazing’ and continue in the same aggressive vein that has confounded their old conservative reputation.
‘It’s going to be an incredible experience but we are going to play our natural way and the brand of cricket we have have been playing for the last year or so,’ said Roy after smacking 78 in just 44 balls in the first semi-final against New Zealand.
England won the 2010 World T20 but they failed to build on that triumph and were widely ridiculed for their demise in 2015 when they lost to every major side in the World Cup.
That embarrassment came a year after their meek exit from the last World T20 in Bangladesh which included a defeat to the Netherlands.
But pundits have been showering praise on Morgan’s team in India, with former skipper Nasser Hussain among those won over by ‘a side who don’t fear anyone’.
‘Not a one-man show’
The criticism heaped on England would have sounded familiar to a West Indies team which has had to put up with brickbats from stars of their heyday in the 1980s when the likes of Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshall ruled the world.
But while the Test team is a shadow of its former self, the West Indies’ limited overs side has been a formidable unit for some time and won the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka.
Gayle, ridiculed for a clumsy bid to chat up an Australian TV reporter in January, has long been their dangerman.
But the 36-year-old, who could be playing in his last major tournament, has failed to notch up a decent score in his last two innings after earlier setting the competition alight with an unbeaten century against England.
Unsung sluggers such as Lendl Simmons, Jonathan Charles and Andre Russell have instead come to the party, with India’s spin bowlers the latest to be carted around the park in Thursday’s second semi-final.
‘England will certainly be aware that it is certainly not a one-man show in this team,’ Simmons said afterwards.
Following their early setback against the Windies, England gave themselves a major confidence injection by chasing down a record 230 target against South Africa in their next game.
And after sometimes nervy wins against Afghanistan and holders Sri Lanka, England halted the previously unbeaten New Zealand juggernaut in its tracks in New Delhi.
Joe Root, who has scored 195 runs in five matches, has been the pick of their batsmen.
But England have also relied heavily on all-rounder Ben Stokes whose near-perfect death bowling has taken them over the line in crunch ties.
The West Indies have also shown their metal at the death, with Simmons and Russell completing their chase in Mumbai with two balls to spare, reaching their total with a six.
England (probable): Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler (wkt), Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey
West Indies (probable): Darren Sammy (capt), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels