I know you don’t care about cricket and can’t make heads-or-tails of its rules, but bear with me here, for this is one hell of a story.
The T20 World Cup final took place in India yesterday, and was contested between England and the West Indies. T20—an abbreviation of Twenty20—is a relatively new form of cricket meant to appeal to those good-for-nothing millennials, who don’t have the attention span for day-long cricket matches with tea breaks. Instead, T20 matches consist of a single innings with a maximum of 20 overs (each over consists of six balls) for each team. T20 matches take roughly three hours to play, putting it on par with other sports.
The West Indies, one of just 10 full International Cricket Council members, almost didn’t even make it to the T20 World Cup. For the last year-and-a-half their players have been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board over their collective bargaining agreement, resulting in the cancellation of a tour that was already under way and threats of action from all sides. But eventually, 12 of the 15 players picked for the tournament by the WICB accepted their spots. One pulled out to focus on test cricket, one said his rehab was incomplete, and one is still working on correcting his bowling form after being suspended for an illegal bowling motion. One of the replacement players was Carlos Brathwaite, whose name will come up again, quite prominently.
In Group Play, the West Indies and England finished one-two in Group 1, both advancing to the semifinals. England made light work of New Zealand, while the West Indies had to go deep into their final over to chase down India, after India put up a healthy 192 runs in their innings.
West Indies won the coin toss in the finals, and elected to field first. England scored 155 runs in their 20 overs, a sold but not insurmountable performance. But it became a lot less surmountable for the West Indies when their first two batsmen—Johnson Charles and the fearsome Chris Gayle—were retired after scoring just one and four runs respectively, both skying balls that were easily caught by Ben Stokes. The one consolation here is that Chris Gayle is a Very Bad Cricket Man, so screw him.
One of the people who saved the West Indies was their third batsmen, Marlon Samuels, who scored an amazing 85 runs not out. To understand what that means, we have to take a quick detour into how cricket is scored.
If the batsmen belts the ball over the boundary they score six runs, while if they hit a ball that rolls to the boundary they score four runs. If they hit a ball on the ground, they and their partner—who is at the opposite wicket, next to the bowler—run back-and-forth as many times as they can before the fielders get the ball in. If in doing so they score an odd amount of runs—almost always one, but occasionally three—the batsmen and his partner are now at opposite wickets, and the partner now takes his turn batting, with the bowler bowling from the same spot as before.
Since Samuels batted third and never got out, what this means is that he would bat and score a bunch of runs, eventually scoring an odd number, putting his partner up to bat. That partner would bat for a bit and eventually get out, and a new batsmen would enter. Samuels and the new batsmen would go back-and-forth until the new batsmen got out, but never Samuels. This happened with the second batsmen, fourth batsmen, fifth batsmen, sixth batsmen, and seventh batsmen, all eventually getting out while Samuels partnered with them and was unstoppable.
The eighth, and ultimately final, West Indies batsmen was the aforementioned Carlos Brathwaite, a massive tree trunk of a man. When he finally got a chance to bat, it was the fourth ball of the 17th over, and the West Indies were down 155-116. They would need to score 40 runs in their final 21 balls to win.
Over the next 15 balls, Samuels and Brathwaite chipped away at England’s lead, mainly going back-and-forth scoring single runs, but mixing in a couple of twos and fours. Going into the final over, the last six balls, it was Brathwaite’s turn to bat, and the West Indies needed to score 19 runs to win the World Cup. To win would require the greatest comeback in a final over in T20 international history, and what happened is better watched than written about:
(You can watch the full final in real time here.)
This motherfucker had six balls to score 19 runs and decided, “nah, I’m just gonna do it in four balls by hitting four straight sixes.” Now, sixes are much more common in cricket than home runs are in baseball, so it’s not quite right to say that this was the equivalent of four straight batters hitting home runs in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off victory in Game 7 of the World Series, but it’s something close.
As Brathwaite was bombing his sixes, his partner Marlon Samuels was basically bat-flipping in the in the face of the English bowler, Ben Stokes:
After giving up his four straight sixes, Stokes was very sad:
Stokes and Samuels had been talking shit to each other all match long, to the point that Samuels was fined for “using a language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during an International Match.” In the post-match press conference, he went in on Stokes:
Samuels, his feet comfortably kicked up on the table, starts out by saying that Stokes “doesn’t learn,” and that when he plays against Stokes he warns him “do not speak to me, because I am going to perform.” Halfway through, however, his answer morphs into a screed against former Australian bowler and current cricket commentator Shane Warne—who he has a long history with, like the time they got into what amounts to a cricket fight—and makes fun of his (presumably surgically augmented) face: “I don’t know why he talks this way about me. Maybe because my face is real and his face is not.”
Samuels wasn’t the only one who used the occasion of victory for a bit of score settling. West Indies captain Darren Sammy criticized the West Indian Cricket Board for failing to even reach out and congratulate the team on their victory, while teammate Dwayne Bravo went even further, saying that the governing body for cricket in India does more for the West Indies team than the WICB.
But lest you think they were all grumpy sourpusses, heck no, they just won the World Cup! As they are known to do, they danced their goddamn asses off:
Even Usain Bolt got into it:
Broadly, cricket faces some of the same generational challenges as baseball, as both are lengthy and heavily tradition-bound sports that don’t appeal to young people the say way they appeal to their parents and parents’ parents. But T20 matches are shorter and much higher energy, and if they’re also contested among shit-talking adversaries and feature the exploits of a Paul Bunyan-esque batsmen and a team so overjoyed by tremendous plays and tournament wins that they dance at every chance they get? Sign me up.