World Twenty20: West Indies captain Darren Sammy happy his 'six-hitters' have fallen in love with T20
West Indies and Twenty20 seem to be made for each other. If their divorce from their first love, Test cricket, is merely awaiting its decree absolute, this may be a second marriage made in heaven.
Their buccaneering batting – calypso might be another description – has illuminated the World T20 tournament and it has been complemented by some extremely smart spin bowling. They have brought an unfettered joy to events too easily lost in the maelstrom of big-time sport. If you do not want them to win the thing – unless you are from India, South Africa or Sri Lanka – there is something wrong with you.
"We've a lot of experience, eight of our players play in the Twenty20 leagues around the world," said Darren Sammy, their captain and chief architect of their intent to blaze away down the order. "I guess we love that format and the type of players we have in the dressing room are probably suited for that format."
Sammy is in the short-form form of his life, batting deep in the crease, and happy to hit sixes to any part of the ground, often flat missiles. Twice he has come in to save the innings, against Australia, batting second, when he made 34 not out from 13 balls, and then against Pakistan, batting first, when his 42no from 20 balls resolved a crisis.
Sri Lanka, their opponents in Thursday's first semi-final in Mirpur, are officially the No 1-ranked side in the world. Beaten by England in the group stage (which takes some doing), they looked to be struggling to qualify when they were all out for 119 against New Zealand.
But a stunning bowling performance, in which Rangana Herath took 5 for 3 in his first game of the tournament, saw the Kiwis dismissed for 60. The batting looks suspect, however, and West Indies are ready to take advantage.
There have been observations, the latest by Suresh Raina of India, that Sammy's side tend to miss singles and twos and concentrate only on hitting sixes. This appears justified, not least when Chris Gayle is at the crease. But as Sammy said: "If he thinks we are only six-hitters, then stop us from hitting sixes."
Gayle, the most prodigious T20 batsman, is due to make his mark. While there is a clear joie de vivre in the way West Indies have gone about their business, nobody should mistake how much Gayle wants the team to retain the title they claimed in 2012. It would be wonderful for world cricket if they won. And as for Tests, sadly, like many warring couples, they are hardly on speaking terms. But that is a settlement to attempt on another day.
England's women arrived here today. The team, led for eight years by Charlotte Edwards, will play South Africa tomorrow in the second semi-final. The first is on Thursday between Australia and West Indies.
It is the tie England would have preferred. They have never lost to South Africa in a T20 match. That makes them clear favourites but South Africa, like most women's teams, have improved beyond recognition and their array of spinners is bound to test a batting order that has been distinctly apprehensive so far.
West Indies D R Smith, C H Gayle, L M P Simmons, M N Samuels, D J Bravo, D Ramdin (wkt), D J G Sammy (capt), A D Russell, S P Narine, S Badree, K Santokie
Sri Lanka M D K J Perera, T M Dilshan, D P M D Jayawardene, K C Sangakkara (wkt), H D R L Thirimanne, A D Mathews, N L T C Perera, K 0M D N Kulasekara, S M S M Senanayake, H M R K B Herath, S L Malinga (capt)
Umpires R A Kettleborough (Eng) and R J Tucker (Aus)
Weather Warm and humid, with a chance of rain and storms. Maximum temp: 33C
TV 1.30-7pm BST, Sky Sports 2
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