Marlon Samuels played a memorable innings as the West Indies hoisted the World Twenty20 trophy for the first time after hosts Sri Lanka choked in the final on Sunday.
With his team reeling at 14 for two after Chris Gayle failed to produce his usual fireworks, Samuels blasted a 56-ball 78 to power the West Indies to a decent 137 for six.
His combativeness seemed to have rubbed off on his bowling colleagues who shot out Sri Lanka for 101 in 18.4 overs for a 36-run victory.
The West Indies’ first World Cup trophy since winning the 50-over championship in 1979 triggered a wild “Gangnam Style” dance with Gayle doing a perfect imitation of the horse-riding dance made famous by South Korean singer Psy.
It was also their first major title since their 2004 Champions Trophy triumph.
In contrast, hosts Sri Lanka slumped to their fourth successive defeat in World Cup finals, and to make it worse, in front of a full house at the R. Premadasa Stadium.
“In the last two years, we have shown the never-say-die attitude, but we have not been getting the results in our favor,” West Indies captain Darren Sammy said at the victory presentation.
“This moment we’re going to live forever. The team has been through a lot not only in the last two years but the last decade,” he said.
“The mission was to win the Twenty20 World Cup. The belief we left the Caribbean with pulled us through,” Sammy said.
The West Indies skipper was left to rue his decision to bat first as the Sri Lanka bowlers straitjacketed a West Indies batting lineup teeming with some of the biggest hitters in the game.
Gayle, the biggest of them all, scratched around for a 16-ball 3 before Ajantha Mendis (4-12) trapped him leg before and the accurate Sri Lankan bowlers conceded a single boundary in the first 11 overs.
However, Samuels had other ideas as the 31-year-old took the Sri Lankan bowlers head on, hitting six sixes and three boundaries to inject some momentum into the moribund West Indies innings.
He singled out arguably the world’s best Twenty20 bowler, Lasith Malinga, and hit him for five sixes, including three in an over.
“Marlon batted very well, it was outstanding batting in a pressure situation,” Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, who played in each of the team’s two World Cup 50 overs finals losses in 2007 and last year and the T20 final loss to Pakistan in 2009, said.
“He played some really good shots. It was one of those days when the momentum shifted and it was pretty tough to get back in it again,” he said.
Mendis went on to dismiss the big-hitting Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell to negate the firepower in the West Indies batting order.
Bravo was unlucky to be given out leg before wicket after Simon Taufel, standing in his final game as an umpire, failed to notice an edge.
Down the order, Sammy (26) also chipped in with an unbeaten 15-ball cameo to give some respectability to the West Indies total.
Sri Lanka lost Tillakaratne Dilshan in the second over but Jayawardene (33) and former captain Kumar Sangakkara (22) were making steady progress before their batting order caved in, partially because of their anxiousness to stay ahead of the par score in case of a rain interruption which seemed imminent.
“The drops were falling, so we were not sure exactly how to go about it,” Jayawardene said.