Captain Eoin Morgan was left to lament the “cruel” nature of cricket after England, and Ben Stokes, were left broken by Carlos Brathwaite in the World Twenty20 final.
Stokes has been a rock for his country in the tournament, repeatedly sticking his hand up for the chaotic death overs, but he was left in a heap at Eden Gardens after being blitzed for four consecutive sixes in the last over of an unforgettable four-wicket win.
Brathwaite was unstoppable, smiting a leg-stump delivery over fine leg then unloading three mighty blows down the ground to make short work of the 19 needed to win.
Within a matter of seconds England had gone from champions-elect to extras in the West Indies’ cabaret and the burden appeared to weigh heavy on Stokes as he struggled to lift his weary body from the turf.
“Cricket can be a cruel game. This is not Ben’s fault, we’re all in this together,” said Morgan.
“But it’s quite simple from my point of view: he is going to be devastated. It’ll take its toll in the next couple of days but we share everything we do, we stick together as a side.
“We share pain, we share the success. I hope in the future we have a lot more success and, personally, I think we will have but tonight we share the pain.”
Stokes took to Twitter after the dust had settled on a remarkable evening in Kolkata, writing: “Overwhelmed by all the support of everyone after a disappointing last over... So proud to of [sic] represented my country in a World Cup final.
“To everyone who has supported us thank you very much you’ve been awesome...congrats to the West Indies on winning a great final.”
Morgan absolved not only Stokes but the rest of his attack of any blame, with David Willey a standout with figures of three for 20 in four overs.
Instead he felt the initiative was really surrendered in the first innings, where England suffered a slow start before Joe Root’s half-century lifted them to 154 for six.
“First and foremost I can’t fault anything we did with the ball or in the field,” he said.
“But we let ourselves down tremendously with the bat. I thought we were terrible. We were probably 40 short, it was a 180-190 wicket. We didn’t have enough runs on the board.”
Marlon Samuels, whose 85 not out in 66 balls provided the foundation for Brathwaite’s brutal cameo, took the man-of-the-match award.
He conducted his entire post-match press conference with his feet raised and crossed on the top table and took the opportunity to throw a few digs in Stokes’ direction.
The pair memorably clashed in the Caribbean during last year’s Test series – Samuels saluting the all-rounder after he was dismissed in Grenada and earning a few industrial words by way of riposte.
“Stokes is a nervous lion,” said Samuels.
“What I told Brathwaite is just hold his pose and he is going to bowl a couple of full tosses, as always. It worked in our favour and Brathwaite played a brilliant knock to give me a little break at the end.”
Stokes did not deliver a single full toss but nevertheless found himself with no answer to Brathwaite’s brutish power-hitting.
“He doesn’t learn,” added Samuels, picking up where an ill-tempered match left off.
“We keep telling him when we play against him ‘do not speak to me because I’m going to perform’. I hadn’t even faced a ball today and he had a lot to say, so I thought I’ll have to be around til the end again.”
Morgan ended on an optimistic note and well he might.
His side came into the match with 171 fewer T20 caps than the West Indies, and had an average of 26.7 compared to 31.
“I felt a range of different emotions, but this is the beginning of something I hope is going to be special,” he said.
“This side is at the very beginning of its progression. It’s actually frightening to think what we can do if we achieve our potential.
“We have a great amount of talent to work with. Let’s hope we can keep this group of players together for a long time and look to the future.”