A remarkable fourth-wicket stand of 107 in 58 balls between Alex Hales, who scored 68 from 51 balls, andEoin Morgan, who made a brilliant, unbeaten 71 from 36 balls, gave England an outside chance of victory, but the pair were left too much to do by another lacklustre performance from their top-order colleagues.
This was England’s second successive defeat following the 90-run thrashing India inflicted in their final group game and leaves their hopes of retaining the World T20 trophy hanging by a thread. England will probably need to win both their remaining Super Eights matches, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka respectively, to progress to the semi-finals.
England were always behind in their run chase. Set a demading 180 to win – they have never chased more than 173 to win a T20I – they knew they required a good start. But, while they were expecting a challenge from the spinners, it was the seam of Ravi Rampaul that provided the killer punch.
After three balls of England’s reply, Rampaul was on a hat-trick after Craig Kieswetter, attempting to pull a delivery too full for the shot, top-edged to point and Luke Wright, attempting to withdraw his bat from a short delivery, guided the ball off the bat face to slip. A double-wicket maiden never represents a good start for a batting side; when they are chasing nine an over it is likely to prove fatal.
Hales took legspinner Samuel Badree, in the side instead of the pace of Fidel Edwards, for consecutive boundaries – skipping down the pitch to drill a drive through mid-off before cutting the next ball for four when the bowler compensated – and cut Sunil Narine for another. But, at the end of their six Powerplay overs, England had scored just 29 for 2. West Indies, by comparison, had been 47 without loss. It was a gap that England could never completely close.
Hales pulled Darren Sammy for one six and then drove and pulled Samuels for a four followed by a six. But though Jonny Bairstow helped Hales add 55 in 9.3 overs for the third-wicket, Bairstow’s struggles against the spin bowling – he made just 18 in 29 balls – put England even further behind the rate and left Morgan a vast amount of ground to make up.
West Indies’ selection policy was certainly vindicated. Not only did Charles, the 23-year-old from St Lucia who has little obvious pedigree as an opening batsman, fully justify his position, but the control offered by the quartet of spin bowlers – Badree, Gayle and Narine, in particular – ensured that England were always behind the run-rate and, despite Morgan slogging a Gayle full toss for six over square leg, driving Narine for another and then top-edging another off Rampaul, West Indies always had breathing space.
With three overs remaining, England required 46; with two remaining they required 39. Even though Morgan drove two sixes off Rampaul from the first four balls of the penultimate over, the last over, entrusted to Marlon Samuels, began with England still requiring 23 to win. Morgan drove the first delivery for four, but could manage only a single from the next two deliveries and, when Hales was stumped from the fourth ball, dragged wide as Hales advanced down the pitch, England’s hopes were extinguished.They produced some outstanding fielding, too. Andre Russell, catching the ball in the air over the midwicket boundary and throwing it back into play before he landed, limited Morgan to two when he must have thought he had a six and Sammy, having picked himself up having dived to parry a clip from Hales, raced after the ball and dived full length to turn a four into a three.
Earlier a career-best performance from Charles hastened West Indies towards their total. Charles, overcoming an uncertain start, scored 84 from 56 deliveries and shared in an opening stand of 103 in 11 overs with Gayle to allow West Indies to seize the initiative they never really relinquished.
While Steven Finn, bowling with sharp pace, produced a tight first over with Charles’ first boundary coming when he top-edged an attempted pull over slip, Gayle was soon into his stride. Having patted back his first two deliverires from Jade Dernbach, he then crashed three fours from the rest of the over: two pulls and a fierce drive.
Gayle dealt with the pace of Finn comfortably, giving himself room to cut a short ball over point, and greeted the introduction of Stuart Broad, also bowling at a sharp pace and with good control, with a thick-edged over third man and then a flick over mid-wicket.
But it was Samit Patel’s introduction for the eighth over that marked a sharp acceleration from West Indies. Patel’s third delivery, something of a long-hop, was pulled over mid-on, the fifth was slog-swept over square leg and the final delivery, a quicker ball, was driven over mid-on as Gayle thrashed three sixes from the over.
Johnson followed suit in the following over from Graeme Swann. Having seized on to a poor ball down the leg side with a sweep for four, he followed it with two sixes over the long-on boundary to complete a period of five sixes in 10 balls for West Indies.
Gayle reached his 50 in just 29 deliveries and brought up the 100 stand from 63 balls with another six driven over extra cover. So when Finn, running in from long-off, put down a simple chance offered by Charles on 39 off Swann, it seemed there would be no respite for England. But it turned out to be a moment of fortune for England. The next delivery, Gayle mistimed a thump over long-on and, this time, Finn made no mistake with the catch.
Broad clawed back a little control with a wicket maiden in the 14th over when he had Samuels taken at point as he attempted to slash over the off side, but Charles, who reached his half-century from 36 balls, was back on strike for the next over and skipped down the wicket to drive Patel for another six then latched onto both Finn and Dernbach
Clearly showing the effects of weariness he then drove a full toss to mid-on to depart 16 short of a century. His work was done, though, and despite Morgan’s heroics, West Indies were always just one step ahead.