Pallekele: A match that began with low-grade cricket from both teams ended in a high-intensity tie that was followed by a Super Over in which West Indies knocked New Zealand out of the ICC World Twenty20 2012. For the second time in the tournament, New Zealand found themselves at the wrong end of a Super Over, and their campaign ended without a single win in the Super Eights.
The action heated up only in the final over of the New Zealand chase, with 14 still needed to reach the 140 needed for victory. Marlon Samuels, who had not bowled a single over in the game till that point, speared his darts into Ross Taylor's pads. After deflecting one to short fine-leg, where it was misfielded by Sunil Narine, and working another through the on-side for a brace, Taylor struck gold, scoop-sweeping Samuels over fine-leg for six. With three needed off two balls, Taylor got off strike with a single, and Doug Bracewell was left to take the final ball.
The field remained well spread, and when Bracewell worked the ball to the on side, a win seemed to be on the cards. As the batsmen scampered the second, a powerful throw cannoned into the stumps, leaving the game tied.
In another surprising move, Darren Sammy overlooked Narine to bowl the Super Over, handing the ball again to Samuels. Narine, who had figures of 4-0-20-3 could only watch as Taylor and Brendon McCullum attacked Samuels, picking up a scooped boundary off the fourth ball and a massive six over midwicket off the penultimate delivery.
Set 18 to win, but technically only needing 17 (West Indies would've gone through by virtue of having hit more boundaries in the regular game if the Super Over finished with scores level), Gayle went to work against Tim Southee. The first ball, a huge no-ball, was struck brutally over long-off of a six. Even with the free-hit delivery not yielding much, the pressure was on, and Southee delivered a wide to make matters worse.
When Samuels, who had suddenly become the afternoon's chief protagonist, clobbered Southee over midwicket for six off the penultimate ball, West Indies had gone through with a ball to spare.
In all the drama of the Super Over, the original 20-over game seemed like something from a different age. Taylor won an important toss and fielded first, even though he was without lead spinner Daniel Vettori, who suffered some Achilles tendon stiffness in his left leg after the previous game. Fortunately for New Zealand, Jacob Oram had recovered sufficiently from a stomach bug.
Johnson Charles was the first West Indian batsman to stutter, playing seven dot balls in his brief stay at the crease before presenting Doug Bracewell with a return catch. The early fall of Charles did little to hinder Chris Gayle, who picked off Kyle Mills, effortlessly lofting the bowler back over his head for six. Not much later, when Oram served up a full-toss on a free hit, Gayle smacked the ball into the stands over square-leg to bring up his 300th Twenty20 six.
With Gayle bludgeoning away, West Indies seemed in pole position, especially when they ended the Power Play overs at 60 for two. Andre Russell had been and gone, throwing away a great opportunity by tucking a leg-side short ball straight to short fine-leg.
When Gayle fell, caught behind off Southee after a 14-ball 30, he had given West Indies the start they needed. What he would not have counted on was a distinct lack of application from those who followed. Samuels was a case in point. In the 11th over, Nathan McCullum made an elaborate show of adjusting his field, moving Southee to a very straight long-on position.
If the setting was unorthodox, what followed off the very next ball was downright bizarre, with Samuels launching McCullum straight down Southee's throat. The fielder, stationed at his position precisely then, did not have to move a foot sideways or forward.
With Dwayne Bravo missing the game because of a groin niggle, the middle-order was robbed of an energetic batsman, and it was only Kieron Pollard's 22-ball 28 that lifted West Indies to 139, after they failed to bat out 20 overs.
A target of 140 should not have been too much for New Zealand, but McCullum made matters difficult by giving Samuel Badree the charge to be clean bowled. With neither the power-hitters at the top of the order coming off, nor meaningful partnerships being put together, it was left to Taylor to make a match of it.
He did so magnificently, cutting out risk and scoring off proper cricket shots to get to an unbeaten 40-ball 62. As it turned out, he did not have enough support from his mates, and with West Indies holding their nerve, New Zealand were knocked out.