Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard lit up the World Twenty20 with scintillating power-hitting as West Indies breezed into the final of the tournament crushing Australia by 74 runs in a lop-sided semi-final on Friday.
It rained sixes at the R. Premadasa Stadium as the West Indies batting order fired in unison to power them to the tournament’s highest total of 205 for four.
Darren Sammy and his men then returned to bury Australia under the run mountain, bowling them out for 131 in 16.4 overs to book a place in today’s final against hosts Sri Lanka.
Australia skipper George Bailey scored 63 brisk runs off 29 deliveries but the big-hitters let the team down just when they needed them most.
After he won the toss and decided to bat first, Sammy watched in amusement from the dug-out as Gayle (75 not out) toyed with the Australian bowlers and the subsequent batsmen joined the party.
Gayle has been in superb form with three half-centuries and has scored 219 runs, including 19 fours and 16 sixes, the highest by an individual in the tournament.
The only time he looked in discomfort was when he pulled a side muscle that required medical attention.
The 33-year-old Jamaican opener, however, went on to hit six sixes and five fours in his 41-ball knock.
“I prefer to hit more sixes than fours,” a candid Gayle said after collecting the man-of-the-match award.
“I am really happy to get a chance to win a World Cup for the first time, so I am looking forward to the final against Sri Lanka on Sunday,” he said.
“I think this World Cup is going to be ours. Sorry Sri Lanka, but it’s going to be ours,” he said.
Gayle got good support from fellow-Jamaican Marlon Samuels, who chipped in with 26 while allrounder Dwayne Bravo (37) justified his selection ahead of brother Darren despite not being fit enough to bowl in the match because of a groin injury.
Down the order, Pollard (38 off 15 balls) set the match alight, hitting three successive sixes in the final over of the innings to help West Indies to an imposing total.
Their innings contained more sixes (14) than boundaries (13) as West Indies inched closer to the dream of winning their first major international title since the 2004 Champions Trophy.
“We knew what we needed to beat Australia and it’s a good feeling to be in the final,” Sammy said.
“If you look at the quality in the dressing room, once we go out and execute our skills properly we can beat any team. And today we showed that once we go out and play as a team we are dangerous,” he said.
For Australia, young New South Wales paceman Pat Cummins claimed two for 36.
Chasing such a huge target, Australia needed handsome contribution from their big-hitters but that did not happen.
Trinidadian trio Ravi Rampaul (3-16), Samuel Badree (2-27) and Sunil Narine (2-17) plus Pollard (2-6) struck regular blows to deny Australia any significant partnership.
Defending a massive total, West Indies started with spin from both ends and were soon rewarded as leg-spinner Badree removed both the big-hitting openers David Warner (one) and Shane Watson (seven).
Australia could never really recover after they slumped to 29 for three in the fifth over as wickets kept tumbling and the required run rate spiralled.
“Absolutely outplayed, full credit to West Indies, they deserve to be playing the final for sure,” Bailey said.
“Were we helpless? Probably Chris Gayle can do that to you,” he said. “But the fact is that we just got outplayed.”
“There are no excuses. The best team absolutely won the game tonight,” he said. “There is a gap between your best and worst cricket, and we did not play good cricket at all.”