West Indies (161/6) beat England (155/9) by four wickets

It was one of the most remarkable victories ever known, a match that will resound well beyond the boundaries of this stadium, well beyond the boundaries of Twenty20, as a finish for the ages. With six balls required and 19 runs to get, the West Indies looked a beaten side. England stood on the verge of a crowning glory of which few had dared to dream. Ben Stokes stood with the ball in his hand. But within the space of barely a minute, the dream evaporated into the sweltering Kolkata night.

As Carlos Brathwaite’s fourth six sailed into the air, not to be seen again, the jubilant West Indies players flooded the field, their belief transforming into disbelief. Stokes sank to the floor in despair, inconsolable. A matter of millimetres had separated him and his team from glory. The difference between four perfect yorkers and four clean half-volleys, all of which disappeared into the stands.

When the smoke clears and the emotions simmer down a little, perhaps even the English will reflect on what a wonderful final it was, lurching this way and that like a fairground ride. Nobody’s pulse rate was safe. England’s total of 155 looked feeble, flimsy, fodder in the face of the big West Indian cannons. But with fire running through their veins, the men in red bared their teeth and bit back, taking three early West Indian wickets and setting up a chase of nerve-shredding tension. Just as he had done four years ago in Sri Lanka, Marlon Samuels played the match-winning innings: 85 not out of 66 balls, having been reprieved early on by a matter of millimetres. Those millimetres will scar the memory of every English cricket fan for many, many years.

The indefatigable Joe Root deserved better. After a terrible start by England, his brave 54 gave them a target to bowl at. Then, he took two wickets in a stunning first over to swing the game England’s way. And there it stayed right until the final over, as England’s fast bowlers maintained a relentless, metronomic discipline.

It was a delightfully spicy, deliciously bitchy encounter too. Not even India and Pakistan played a final as antagonistic as this. The West Indies’ habit of doing their “Champion” dance after every England wicket began to irk even the mild-mannered Root. When England bowled, the curses flowed even more freely than the boundaries. They came, they swore, they so nearly conquered.

For the West Indies, a conglomerate of vastly different islands united in just this one cause, it was a fitting reward for the tournament’s most entertaining, strong-willed team. From spinner Samuel Badree at the start of the match to Brathwaite at the end, they are a team of champions in every sense. Twenty20 is the future, and for all their many problems, Twenty20 is their future.

When it came down to it, it was the West Indies who held their nerve. England began tentatively, losing Jason Roy for a duck, Alex Hales for 1, captain Eoin Morgan for a tortuous 5. Were it not for the pounding pop music, you could have heard England’s nerves jangling.

But where would England be without Root? With the reliable Jos Buttler in tow, the pair set about rebuilding England’s crumbling edifice. Buttler holed out at deep mid-wicket going for his fourth maximum, and when England lost three wickets – including Root in four balls, humiliation beckoned.

England needed something. A score. A toe-hold in the game. Something to talk about, if nothing else. David Willey tried his best with two sixes off Dwayne Bravo’s 17th over. Chris Jordan flicked a four in the final over to lift England above 150. Their total looked at least 20 short, even taking into account that no team had ever chased down more than 148. But it was something.

Enter Root. After a parsimonious first over from Willey, Morgan lobbed the ball to his talisman, his totem, his spirit animal, his part-time off-spinner with a career economy rate of 10.9. Down the pitch first ball came a harrumphing Johnson Charles, trying to hit him into Jharkand, finding only the basket-hands of Stokes at long-off.

Two balls later, exactly the same thing happened. Down the pitch, the long handle, a clean swing, an even cleaner catch by Stokes, running around to his right. Except this time it was the big scalp: the leviathan Chris Gayle, out second ball. The England players swarmed towards each other in pure delirium. Bliss was it in that dusk to be alive, but to be Root was very heaven.

Lendl Simmons went next, LBW to Willey first ball, and all of a sudden England were in the ascendancy. Samuels counter-attacked, but on 27 bottom-edged a cut off Liam Plunket that Buttler took very low. Too low, in fact: the third umpire decided that the ball had brushed the ground on its way into Buttler’s gloves.

In hindsight, it was a decision that turned the game. Plunkett and Adil Rashid bowled superbly to keep the asking rate rising, but with eight overs left the West Indies made their move. First Bravo, and then Samuels, picked up the pace. Samuels collared Plunkett for two consecutive sixes. Willey hit back in the 16th over with the crucial wickets of Andre Russell and Darren Sammy, sending them back to the pavilion with the minimum of delicacy. With 12 balls remaining, 27 were required. Jordan’s final over was sensational: a four, four singles and a dot ball. He, too, deserved better.

Stokes had, until that final over, been one of England’s heroes. He had taken three tough catches on the boundary, saved countless runs in the field, and bowled two tidy overs at a difficult stage of the innings. Forgiveness, from his team-mates and the public will be swift. You only hope he can forgive himself.