It is all to gain for Windies as the direct qualification for the 2019 ODI World Cup is on the line. They have to ensure a victory margin of 4-1 or more to earn a place but England is in no mood to give it away so easily. The start of the series has put the visitors deeper in trouble and the hopes for the direct entry look bleak.
It was a rain-marred affair as the start of the match was delayed due to rain and wet outfield. The game started 2 hours after the scheduled start of play with 42-overs a side encounter. Surprisingly, Jason Holder won the toss and opted to bat first.
The Gayle scare
When the big man is at the park, all eyes lie on him. Off the third delivery of the first over, Joe Root gave him a lifeline as a catch was put down off the bowling of Chris Woakes in the slip. It seemed as if the Jamaican had realized the day belonged to him and didn’t waste much time in opening his arms.
He smacked Woakes for 2 fours and a six in the 3rd over to give Root a nightmare. It was followed by a couple of sixes in the next over to David Willey as the score raced off to 38 after 4 overs. His partner Evin Lewis though failed to impress and gave his wicket away to Moeen Ali.
It seemed to have an impact on Gayle as he slowed down a bit in the overs that followed. Pretty soon, Root made up for his mistake and pulled off a stunning catch at extra cover to send the batsman packing for 37 from 27.
Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels stuck together for a while and stitched a fifty partnership. While Hope found the odd boundary, Samuels was rather slow. Hope departed in the 24th over of Ben Stokes courtesy a brilliant catch from Jonny Bairstow. Shortly after that, Samuels too made his way back to the pavilion as Stokes bagged his second scalp.
The same old story
Just like many matches in the recent past, Windian batting line-up suffered another collapse and what began with a lot of promise ended with disappointment. After a partnership of 42 runs for the 5th wicket, the innings lost momentum. Jason Mohammed, Rovman Powell and Ashley Nurse fell in quick succession and the visitors were reeling at 160/7.
Jason Holder played the lone hand and scored an unbeaten 41 off 33 balls while he saw Devendra Bishoo and Jerome Taylor perishing at the other end. Windies was restricted to 204/9 at the end of 42 overs and clearly fell short of a substantial total.
All about Bairstow
England’s new opener Jonny Bairstow, who was picked ahead of Jason Roy, made full use of the opportunity. He looked determined from the outset. Alex Hales too began with a few boundaries early but a cut shot off Jerome Taylor went straight into the hands of Evin Lewis at backward point as the batsman had to walk back for 19 in the 5th over.
The No.3 batsman and the ever-reliable Joe Root was at it yet again. He accompanied Bairstow and the duo washed away any hopes of a Windian victory. They kept collecting boundaries at regular intervals and took the score to 69/1 after 10 overs. The fifty partnership was brought up in the 12th over and soon, the fifty for Bairstow as well.
The two kept the assault going and were relentless on both pacers and the spinners. The 100-run stand came up in the 21st over and Root got to his 23rd ODI fifty in the 23rd over. Just when England was cruising to the target, against the run of play, Root was castled by Kesrick Williams in the next over for 54.
Williams removed the skipper Eoin Morgan as well for just 10 when the target was in the hindsight. Ben Stokes had to walk in but all eyes were on Bairstow who was approaching the three-figure mark. He indeed got there in the 31st over and brought up his maiden ODI ton.
Stokes didn’t waste much time from then on and finished the match with a mighty six over long-on to give England a victory and a lead of 1-0 with 4 games still to be played in the series.
Windies won the toss and opted to bat first
Windies: 204/9 in 42 overs
Jason Holder 41*, Chris Gayle 37
Ben Stokes 43/3, Adil Rashid 31/2
England: 210/3 in 30.5 overs
Jonny Bairstow 100*, Joe Root 54
Kesrick Williams 50/2, Jerome Taylor 46/1
England won by 7 wickets
Match was reduced to 42 overs per side due to wet outfield
Player of the Match: Jonny Bairstow