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Samuels keeps Windies in contention
Marlon Samuels single-handedly gave the West Indies just an outside chance of success in their otherwise unfathomable batting performance against Sri Lanka in the ICC World Twenty20 final.
The tigerish hosts bowled and fielded supremely well, but the West Indies' uneven progress to 137 for six was impossible to rationalise on a fair pitch for this showpiece occasion. Their famed big-hitters were simply nowhere to be seen for the first half of their innings, as initial caution morphed into a collective freeze on centre stage.
Only Samuels did not fluff his lines, with a memorable 78 containing six sixes and three fours from 56 balls, as Ajantha Mendis (four for 12) took most advantage of the Windies' failings. Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekera used the new ball well, but it was still bizarre that the West Indies should take until the fifth over to reach double-figures.
Their achingly slow start began with four dot-balls from Mathews to Johnson Charles, who reacted to the fifth by mistiming a catch to mid-off.
After that wicket-maiden - number three Samuels let the sixth ball, his first, go - there was not a run on the board until Kulasekera bowled a wide halfway through the second over.
Around 40 was probably par in powerplay. But after Chris Gayle took nine balls to get off the mark, with a scampered single to mid-off - and was eventually lbw pushing forward to Mendis, for three from 16 - the Windies could muster only 14 for two in their first six overs.
It was not until the 12th over, after Kulasekera had dropped Samuels at long-off on 20 off Jeevan Mendis, that birthday boy Dwayne Bravo added a first six to go with the four - over midwicket off Akila Dananjaya but Samuels clubbed consecutive sixes off the returning Lasith Malinga, over midwicket and extra-cover, and then a third in the over - beyond long-on.
Bravo was out lbw, even though bat might have been involved, pushing forward to Ajantha Mendis to end a third-wicket stand of 59. Yet when Samuels brought up his 50 with his fourth six, over long-on off Jeevan Mendis, the West Indies were at last striking to their potential.
It seemed too much had been left too late, though, an impression confirmed after Ajantha Mendis put himself on a hat-trick - Kieron Pollard cutting, and well-held at backward point, and Andre Russell lbw sweeping.
Samuels was eventually sixth out, caught in the leg-side deep off Dananjaya, but captain Darren Sammy did his best to give his team a late lift by taking 16 off Kulasekera's final over.