World T20: England, West Indies lock horns to clinch title second time
Kolkata: This may not be the final sports buffs would have expected, but both the West Indies and England know they are on the doorstep of history to become the first team to win the World Twenty20 twice as they lock horns in the summit clash here on Sunday.
Very few would have given these two sides a chance when the tourney began, considering the subcontinental conditions. And also, neither of them were in champion form.
England were still recovering from their debacle in the 50-over World Cup last year while West Indies players had problems aplenty with their country's cricket board, that led to some stars opting out.
The last time these two sides met was in the first match of Group 1 on March 16. Chasing a tough total of 182, Chris Gayle made it look ridiculously easy. The burly Jamaican remained unbeaten on 100 and took West Indies home with six wickets and 11 balls to spare.
However, England bounced back in some style by winning against South Africa in the next contest. With the help of Joe Root and other power hitters they chased down a target of 229.
The 'Three Lions' had a bit of a scare against minnows Afghanistan, but nevertheless they scraped past the finishing pole and then quite easily skipped past the Sri Lankan threat.
In the semis, it was opener Jason Roy who played an outstanding knock (44-ball, 78) chasing 153 to oust New Zealand from the competition.
On their way to the final, West Indies beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets and then went past South Africa by three wickets. But then they fell against Afghanistan.
However, the team showed great character to rally back from the disappointment and produced an all-round team effort against India in the semi-finals at the Wankhede on Thursday.
The Eden Gardens, however, will be a different strip altogether. The wickets here are known to have purchase for the bowlers and at this time of the year it turns too.
West Indies have come armed with all-rounders and spinners who are perfect for such conditions. And in the finals they are likely to go with the same outfit as they did against India.
However, if there is grass on the surface, pacer Jerome Taylor might get a look in.
The batting has been explosive to say the least. Lendl Simmons, who came into the side against India, has struck form and with players like Andrew Russell and Johnson Charles, the 2012 champions are a powerful batting unit.
Fighting fire with fire, England have their very own batting arsenal. Top order willowers Jason Roy and Alex Hales have been great, followed by consistency from the likes of Joe Root and Jos Buttler. It is also the time for their captain Eoin Morgan to come good.
"We've just got to do our business like we want to do -- a style of cricket that is positive. Plan to do that on Sunday as well. We know how strong West Indies are as a side. We have to play well to beat them, make sure we look at our own game,” Root told reporters here ahead of the clash.
England have a young and inexperienced bowling line-up which will be put to the test here but then again they have been crafty about the trade and have yielded favourable results.
Head to head statistics show England have lost nine of their 13 T20 encounters against the West Indies. The Eden Gardens is also the stage where England had lost to Australia in the final of the 50-over World Cup in 1987 after their skipper Mike Gatting needlessly went for a famous reverse sweep that finished in the hands of the wicket-keeper.
Similarly, West Indies perished to Pakistan by five wickets from a favourable posiition in the invitational Nehru Cup final two years later.
Both sides, would be hoping to avoid any more reverse at the iconic venue.
Cricket lovers have to wait till Sunday night to see whether Morgan's men create history in front of a packed stadium, or whether the West Indies cricketers end up dancing to their calypso.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin (wicketkeeper), Andre Russell, Darren Sammy (captain), Carlos Brathwaite, Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Evin Lewis, Jason Holder, Ashley Nurse, Jerome Taylor.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (captain), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett.