- England suffered a four-wicket defeat by West Indies in first game of T20 series
- Tourists collapsed in the second half of their innings to be bowled out for 171
- Andre Russell hit the winning runs with 11 balls to spare to finish 29 not out
England were brutally outmuscled by West Indies at the Kensington Oval as the first match of five in a series they are using to prepare for next year’s World Cup title defence ended in a four-wicket defeat.
The reigning champions simply could not match the power of the 2024 tournament’s hosts, watching their total of six sixes surpassed within 39 deliveries of the Windies’ chase of 172, and conceding 14 in all, losing with 11 deliveries unused.
As in the recent one-day series loss here, there were fleeting periods when England created opportunities to change the destiny of the contest. Not least, when teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed found himself on a hat-trick with West Indies 123 for six following a stoppage for rain.
Between them, Adil Rashid and Ahmed – leg-spinning master and apprentice – shared five of the wickets.
However, an ability to clear the boundary at will meant the home team were never in trouble for long and they took advantage of England spectacularly relinquishing an early advantage.
Andre Russell enjoyed a stunning comeback after two years in the international wilderness
He claimed career-best T20 international bowling figures and hit an unbeaten 29 with the bat
England’s innings imploded after plundering 77 runs in the power play, on the back of a quick fire 20-ball 40 from Phil Salt.
With 112 for two on the board at the halfway stage, the tourists were eyeing a 200-run total and it was arguably still on when they entered the 18th over, but they somehow contrived to lose five wickets for six runs in 15 balls, relinquishing their position of strength.
‘We want to keep pushing the boundaries and trying to be as positive as we can. But it’s about finding ways to keep scoring in that manner,’ bemoaned captain Jos Buttler.
‘Getting those extra 20, 25 runs in an unfashionable way.’
Veteran all-rounder Andre Russell enjoyed a stunning comeback after more than two years in the international wilderness, claiming career-best T20 international bowling figures of three for 19 with a concoction of slower ball variations on a used pitch and then crunching an unbeaten 29 from number eight.
It took some dexterous footwork from Shimron Hetmyer on the boundary to provide Russell with the wicket of Salt, the first of four fine catches by the Windies.
The best perhaps Brandon King’s interception of a skier offered by the in-form Will Jacks that he initially misjudged, twisting himself to take the ball over his head running back from cover.
West Indies began with a blitz, but were checked by Yorkshire’s Rashid, who was presented with a commemorative cap by England team mentor Andrew Flintoff before the match, to acknowledge his 100th Twenty20 appearance for his country.
Captain Jos Buttler and Phil Salt (above) took the tourists to 77-0 at the end of the powerplay
Rashid marked the occasion by hauling his side back into things, having left-handers Kyle Mayers and Shimron Hetmyer held in the deep to become the first Englishman to 100 wickets in the format, either side of fellow wrist spinner Rehan Ahmed accounting for Nicholas Pooran with an athletic caught and bowled.
West Indies required 64 off 44 balls, with six wickets intact, when their innings resumed following a 42-minute rain delay, and the contest took another twist as Ahmed responded to being planted into the crowd at midwicket by luring a mishit from Shai Hope next ball, and then accounted for the dangerous Romario Shepherd via an edge to slip.
But Windies captain Roman Powell pounded his team to victory in unison with Russell, both men finishing with strike rates in excess of 200 to leave England with more thinking to do ahead of Thursday’s second game in Grenada.
‘You’re always learning throughout the game as you’re watching. So, there’ll be plenty that we can reflect on, plenty of stuff to mention we did really well, we just need to put together a more complete performance,’ said Buttler.
‘The conditions got tough but we might ourselves in that position in a World Cup game in six months’ time so what can we do, if anything, when the outfield gets as wet as this? Especially playing against the West Indies, they hit a lot of sixes as a team – that’s something that is a trademark of their side and we’ve got to find ways to limit that.’