West Indies stun England to level series

After being asked to bat first on a slow and low turner, they struggled to a total of 113 for 5 and looked set for a second heavy defeat in three days. But instead, they rallied supremely to bowl England out for 88 with more than three overs of their allocation to spare.

With England set to embark on a tour of India next week, and with the defence of their World Twenty20 crown taking place in Sri Lanka in 12 months’ time, this was a match that will have caused a few jitters in the team thinktank. On the same pitch that proved receptive to spin in Friday’s opening game, both teams stacked their side with slow bowlers, but it was England’s new-look order that ultimately dealt with the conditions the worst.

England’s innings began inauspiciously, as Mathurin’s high action and appreciable turn gave Friday’s matchwinner Alex Hales a strokeless start to his innings. He had managed just two runs from his first eight balls when Krishnar Santoke, another West Indian debutant, and this time one who hasn’t played first-class cricket, bowled him with a beauty that nipped through his defences and into off stump.

Four balls later, Mathurin made his first big impression, as Craig Kieswetter – with two fours to his name – was so bamboozled by a slider that he stood his ground after being bowled, in the vain hope that the keeper had been the one to whip off the bails. Ravi Bopara was then spun out by a beauty in Mathurin’s next over, and at 26 for 3 at the end of the Powerplay, the match was exquisitely in the balance.

Ben Stokes did his utmost to change the dynamic of the innings, as he greeted Devendra Bishoo with the most violent assault of the night – a six and two fours in the space of a first over that went for 17, but at the other end, Mathurin twirled away without anything being allowed to break his zone. Jonny Bairstow, the hero of the Cardiff ODI, might have been tempted to block out the final four balls of his spell, but instead he dropped to his knees for a sweep, and was bowled for 4.

Stokes continued to provide England with a boundary-finding option, but as had been the case in the West Indian innings, working the singles proved to be a problem, not least when the less-than-fleet-footed Samit Patel entered the fray. He was run out by a direct hit from gully as he belatedly set off for a leg bye and, one over later, Stokes responded to three dot balls in a row with a missed sweep that left him lbw for 31.

The arrival of Tim Bresnan at No. 8 was arguably the most encouraging sight for England at such a stage, but even his big-match experience couldn’t rescue his side. He drove on the up to that man Mathurin at long-off to depart for 2 from 4, and instead it was the rookie alliance of Jos Buttler and Scott Borthwick who hauled England back from the depths of 60 for 7. With more pace on the ball now that the spinners’ overs were running out, they added 23 in 17 balls before a brilliant shy from Darren Sammy at mid-on left Buttler stranded short of his crease, and England deep in the mire.

Another calamitous run-out followed one over later as England began to panic. Graeme Swann turned down a single to cover with Borthwick stranded at the wrong end of the pitch, and the captain hadn’t scored from either of his two deliveries by the time England’s No. 11, Jade Dernbach, was also sent on his way via a run-out. Earlier in the match, Swann had chosen not to bowl his full quota of overs to give his team-mates the practice. It was a quiet night for the noisiest man in the camp.

On a bad night for England full-stop, Borthwick’s performance with the ball was undoubtedly the highlight. In a solitary over against Ireland last month, he conceded 13 runs in unfavourable conditions. Tonight he went for 15 in a full four-over quota, without conceding a single boundary. His maiden international wicket was a collector’s item as well, a perfectly pitched googly that bamboozled Johnson Charles, West Indies’ opener, and bowled him for 21.

After allowing West Indies to rattle to 42 for 0 in four overs against the seamers on Friday, Swann cannily chose to open with the spin of Patel. His first ball was swept for four by Charles, the last of his quota was nailed through the covers for another boundary, and in between whiles he was clubbed for six by Charles over long-on. But the remainder of his 21 deliveries conceded a grand total of six runs, as West Indies found no way to keep the strike rotating.

Even Marlon Samuels, the most renowned batsman on display, found it tough to raise his game in the circumstances. He struggled for timing initially and had made 11 from 20 balls before drilling his first boundary at the end of the 15th over, and though he lifted his game in the closing stages, a run-a-ball 35 appeared to have done little more than hoist the West Indies total into triple figures. That, however, proved to be decisive.

England’s fielding, such a strong factor in their victory on Friday, was once again sharp, with Hales sliding round the deep midwicket boundary to cling onto a slog from Christopher Barnwell, before Borthwick at long-off swallowed a firm lofted drive off Sammy to give Bopara his fifth wicket of the series, and his first of the night. Dernbach was England’s other wicket-taker, with an early lbw to remove Dwayne Smith, but at the end of a memorable summer, it was West Indies who were left to cavort around the outfield. Their season is only just beginning, but what a fillip this will be as they head off towards Dubai, Bangladesh and beyond.

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