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September 25, 2011
England's captain, Graeme Swann, admitted that a "bit of pressure, a bit of inexperience and a bit of ineptitude all added up to a horror show", as an entirely unfancied West Indian team rallied round in defence of a below-par target of 114, and pulled off an impressive 25-run victory thanks to a Man-of-the-Match spell of 3 for 9 in four overs from the debutant left-arm spinner, Garey Mathurin.
Needing less than a run-a-ball from the outset, and with the memory of their ten-wicket cruise in the first Twenty20 on Friday night, England began their run-chase fully expecting to seal a 2-0 series win and conclude their international summer on another upbeat note. But Mathurin's nerveless spell, in his very first appearance in any form of cricket in England, choked their ambition from the Powerplay onwards, and left the lower-order with too much momentum to claw back.
"God works in mysterious ways," said Mathurin, a childhood friend of the captain, and fellow St Lucian, Darren Sammy. "Everybody has their turn and it's just that my turn came at the age of 28. The English people hadn't seen me before so I knew I could go out and get the job done. We have a good team unity going on and the cohesiveness just worked."
The result left Swann feeling a touch humbled at the end of what has been a remarkable season for England, but even after being bowled out for 88, he felt that his side had been "exceptional" in the first half of the contest, and believed they would probably learn more from this setback than could ever have been learnt in victory.
"For half the game we were exceptional and we put ourselves in a position where we should never ever lose a game of cricket," said Swann. "Let's face it, to not chase 113 in international cricket is unacceptable. West Indies bowled and fielded well, but not well enough to bowl a team out for 88. It was good fielding mixed with a bit of panic, and four run-outs is crazy chasing such a small total on such a big field."
After a short end-of-season break, England head off to the subcontinent next week to embark on a five-ODI tour of India, where their failure to deal with a turning surface will doubtless impact on the type of wickets they can expect to face when they arrive. Further down the line, England will be defending their World Twenty20 crown on the spin-friendly surfaces of Sri Lanka next year, and on this evidence, they need to work on their manipulation of the field as much as their boundary-clearing ability.
"For all the positives of Friday night, there were quite a few negatives that need to be ironed out of our game before we play on pretty similar tracks over the next 12 months," said Swann. "We are going to face spin in the first six overs again, and if we can take one good thing out of the way we batted, it's that it's completely unacceptable, and won't be allowed to happen again.
"It's a harsh environment in international cricket and you find out a few things about people when they are under the pump," he added. "Today, one or two guys didn't respond that well, but I'm sure, knowing this team as I do and the way they have trained, it's a mere blip. I wouldn't write off any of this XI who have played tonight, or indeed any of the 14 in the squad, because they are all superb cricketers."
In England's defence, their side was missing several of its most experienced campaigners, not least Eoin Morgan, whose deft use of the angles would have been ideal for keeping the run-rate moving. But Swann believed the chosen team should still have performed much, much better. "I'd love to find an excuse for them and say they're inexperienced, but they're not inexperienced in Twenty20 cricket," he said. "I'm not just blaming the top six, I'm blaming the 11 players with the bat because we were pretty appalling.
"The left-arm spinner, you can't argue with 3 for 9, but the three guys who got out to him will probably look at the shots they played and be pretty horrified," he added. "We allowed him to get exceptional figures and he did catch us on the hop. But I'd hope each batsman who got out will look at it and think 'I won't do that again'. We were still in the game at six-seven down at a run-a-ball, but of the wickets that fell, very few were caused by the ball deviating. It was poor shots and poor execution of those shots."
For Mathurin and his team-mates, however, the result was the ideal tonic for their defeat on Friday night, and went a long way towards answering their many critics - in the Caribbean and worldwide. "Yeah, we had a point to prove," said Mathurin. "England played really, really well on Friday, so we were playing for some pride, and then we were coming back hard at them. We knew we could do it. Hopefully this shows everyone the energy and enthusiasm we have got, and hopefully everyone sees what we can do."
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