KOLKATA • A new-look England and a resurgent West Indies will battle to become the first two-time winners of cricket's World Twenty20 in a big-hitting showdown today that promises to rain sixes.
A year after exiting the 50-over World Cup with egg on their faces, Eoin Morgan's England will hope to complete their redemption by out-muscling a West Indies team who are themselves a team reborn.
Inspired by the ultimate game-changer Chris Gayle, the men from the Caribbean are hoping to go home with the shortest format's biggest prize on the same day that their women are also gunning for glory at Kolkata's iconic Eden Gardens stadium against Australia in an earlier final.
Gayle will be looking to become the first player to crack a century of sixes in T20 internationals, having already smashed a record 98 - 11 of them in the current tournament.
England have first-hand knowledge of his destructive potency, having been blown away by his 47-ball century in a Super 10 hammering in Mumbai a fortnight ago.
But England have collectively tallied 34 sixes in the tournament, more than any other team, underlining their transformation into the game's great entertainers.
Jason Roy, one of the stars of the new-look England, promised they would continue in the same aggressive vein that has confounded their old conservative reputation.
"We are going to play our natural way and the brand of cricket we have have been playing for the last year or so," said Roy after smacking 78 in just 44 balls in their semi-final against New Zealand.
England won the 2010 World T20 but they failed to build on that triumph and were widely ridiculed for their demise last year when they lost to every major side in the World Cup. That embarrassment came a year after their exit from the last World T20 in Bangladesh which included a defeat to the Netherlands.
The criticism heaped on England would have sounded familiar to a West Indies team who have had to put up with brickbats from stars of their heyday in the 1980s when the likes of Vivian Richards and Malcolm Marshall ruled the world.
But, while the Test team are a shadow of their former selves, the West Indies' limited-overs side have been a formidable unit for some time and won the 2012 World T20 in Sri Lanka.
Gayle has long been their danger man. But the 36-year-old, who could be playing in his last major tournament, has failed to notch up a decent score in his last two innings.
Unsung sluggers such as Lendl Simmons, Jonathan Charles and Andre Russell have instead come to the party, with India's spin bowlers the latest to be carted around the park in the semi-finals.
"We said this before the tournament that Chris is under pressure," said all-rounder Darren Sammy, who is seeking to become the first captain to lead a team to a second World Twenty20 title. "He is our best Twenty20 player but we have 15 match-winners in this side."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Final, England v West Indies: Singtel TV Ch123 & StarHub Ch236, 9.20pm