England v West Indies, Twenty20, Trent Bridge

England tick off each new challenge

Victory in the Twenty20, led by Alex Hales, capped a fine start to the season by England who continue to find new matchwinners

George Dobell at Trent Bridge

June 24, 2012

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Alex Hales made 99, the highest score by an England player in T20 internationals, England v West Indies, T20I, Trent Bridge, June, 24, 2012
Alex Hales has big shoes to fill after Kevin Pietersen's retirement but made the ideal start against West Indies © AFP
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It is true that sterner tests await, but the first portion of England's summer could hardly have gone better. Victorious in Tests, ODIs and their only Twenty20 international, they have once again made decent opposition look deceptively poor. Whatever their issues in Asian conditions, England remain desperately tough to beat in their own backyard.

Their Test success was not, perhaps, surprising. West Indies were lacking several senior players and, in these conditions, England were always likely to prove too strong. Still, it is worth remembering how England struggled in the winter. No victory should be taken for granted.

But the limited-overs success is particularly impressive. West Indies, blessed with the return of most of their leading payers, looked strong and confident and England were forced to confront a series of unforeseen challenges. The sudden retirement of Kevin Pietersen, for example, could have unsettled both the ODI and the T20I teams.

Instead England adapted with admirable aplomb. Indeed, such was the way that Ian Bell embraced opening in ODIs and Alex Hales flourished in this T20I that Pietersen's departure left barely a ripple. There will, no doubt, be times in the months ahead when he is sorely missed - talents like Pietersen are rare and precious - but it is testament to the strength of the entire England set-up - the county game, the Lions, the England team management, the success of the three-captain experiment et al. - that such a blow can be born so lightly.

"It is an inexperienced batting line-up," Stuart Broad, England's Twenty20 captain admitted afterwards, "but with inexperience you also get fearlessness. Guys just go out and hit the ball. Chasing 170 is quite daunting, but I don't think we ever had any negative thoughts in our mind. We just expected to get it; 170, on that wicket, was very gettable, and we had guys left in the changing room who could have won that game.

"On paper we would all have looked at their line-up, with Gayle and Smith and Samuels and Bravo and Narine all successful in the IPL, and thought of them as favourites. So to have won in the manner we did was hugely pleasing.

"We have guys who are consistently performing on the county circuit and it is good to see them step-up and do it on the international stage as well. It's great to see young players come into the team and perform. It's a sign of the team developing that you give guys responsibility and they really grab their opportunities."

There were some areas of concern for England. Jade Dernbach's last two overs cost 33 runs; Craig Kieswetter has passed 18 only twice in 11 innings and his strike-rate is an underwhelming 113.85; Jos Buttler was unable, through no fault of his own, to provide any further clues of his readiness to prosper at this level. Generally, however, this was an impressive performance with Steven Finn, with the ball, Jonny Bairstow, in the field, and Hales and Ravi Bopara, with the bat, providing the match-winning contributions.

Hales needed this innings. Under some pressure for his place from Alastair Cook - Broad admitted that a recall for Cook had been discussed - he has not made a century in Championship, T20 or one-day cricket for Nottinghamshire this season. Here, however, he showed a welcome ability to play on both sides of the wickets - his reputation as a predominantly off-side player looked silly as he pulled and hooked and worked to leg - and, as his innings progressed, some unusually deft touches which hinted at real class. Aged just 23, too, he has time on his side.


Ravi Bopara gets down to sweep during his innings of 59, England v West Indies, T20I, Trent Bridge, June, 24, 2012
Ravi Bopara played a mature innings to suggest he is finally settling at the top level © Getty Images
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But if is Hales who will win the headlines, Bopara was just as impressive. He timed his innings perfectly, played selflessly and looked a player of some composure and maturity. For a man whose temperament has been question in the past, it was another demonstration that he may well be on the cusp of finally fulfilling his talent in all forms of international cricket.

It was, perhaps, fitting that the moment of defeat should be secured by a West Indies' misfield. For all the hints of improvement West Indies have shown during this tour, the fact is they have lost all five international games in which there was meaningful play. On each occasion, they have promised for a while only to let themselves down with a poor passage of play.

Darren Sammy, looking exhausted, admitted his side had been out played and offered warm praise to England.

"We have just been dominated by the number-one team in the world in all formats of the game," he said. "On paper we had a really strong team, but you need to go out and string together consistently good performances and that's what England have done throughout the series and we haven't.

"We have got to be consistently good in all three departments, batting, bowling and fielding. We are doing some good stuff but we are not doing it consistently for long enough. We have to string together performances that will get the team to win."

Nor will Sammy and his team enjoy any respite. They fly out of England on Monday and start another T20 series against New Zealand, in Florida, on Saturday. "We don't get a break until the August 7," Sammy said with the air of a man who had circled the date in his diary with some anticipation.

Sammy also defended the performance of Sunil Narine, who has been disappointingly innocuous in all formats in England. There was just a suggestion that the mystery of Narine, like Ajantha Mendis before him, had quickly been dispelled.

"To be fair to Sunil, the wickets he's played on haven't always suited his play," Sammy said. "The more he plays out there on the international scene, there is more footage, so batsman find ways to score off you. It happened to Mendis: when he first came out he was very difficult to pick but after a while people got used to him. But I know once Sunil gets the type of wickets that really suit him he will be very difficult to play. Swann has not been so effective in this series and he has been playing here throughout his career. It is Sunil's first away tour, so he will learn from this experience."

Perhaps the most important lesson on this tour from a West Indies perspective was that there will be no quick-fixes to their problems. It will take more than the return of a big-hitting opening batsman or the emergence of a mystery spinner to paper over the cracks of a Caribbean cricket system that is fatally flawed. Sammy has been asked to put out a forest fire with a mug of water. He has an almost impossible task.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (June 27, 2012, 8:30 GMT)

@Valavan on (June 26 2012, 17:02 PM GMT) - British weathermen are more accurate with their predictions

Posted by JG2704 on (June 26, 2012, 21:40 GMT)

@CS - I too would be delighted with any sort of win but admit Aus start as slight favourites. I'm not sure they do put that much emphasis on speed and we all know which particular Oz fan(s) made a big deal about speed and how seriously do we take those comms? I think Lee is like Gul in that on his day he can do serious damage but if his radar is off he can go for runs. Finn can also be like that. Aus are not invincible or unvulnerable as you put it but like Eng in T20 are prob better on the pitch than they look on paper. I also think they could have had just a 3 match OD series and had a few T20s but it is what it is. As an Eng fan I'm still sceptical as we've had so many false alarms in the past. BTW I believe you'll have been happy with the Crusaders performance this evening. Happy with the Sabres - Kirby has become an unlikely Mr Consistent in T20s this year while Alfy seems to be going for quite a few

Posted by Valavan on (June 26, 2012, 17:02 GMT)

@rahulcricket007, though you were predicting Windies fightback about 10 days ago, still you and your mates continue to lick your wounds and biting dust. We have a team and we get it done that way. OK, T20 WC will happen in sometime, then we can speak of it instead tendulkar,india and all your looser stuffs. cricinfo please publish.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (June 26, 2012, 16:49 GMT)

JG, this is going to be a tough series. For both sides. It will not finish 5-0. To be honest, even a 3-2 England win would be an amazing result while, personally, I think that Australia have to start favourites, but they are not as good, nor as invulnerable in this format as they think. Rather than seeing a Lee/Johnson/Doherty attack, which we know all about, I wish that they would play the young bowlers and give us a sighter of the next Ashes squad, which I cannot believe will feature any of the three. Anyway, I continue to feel that the emphasis placed on having "four bowlers who can get up to 150km/h" is probably the wrong one (remember when England tried it in 2006/07 and found that the "quality" part of "quality pace" was fundamental?). An attack like that could blow England away for under 100 but, equally, it could go for 350 if the radar is faulty and the pitch flat.

Posted by JG2704 on (June 26, 2012, 13:18 GMT)

@CS - I guess you are talking about Lee as retired or is Hogg in the squad. To be fair I think Lee is still decent in ODIs and I think Mitchell has been surprisingly consistent in ODIs. The way I see it is that Aus must be consistent in this format for a reason. We'll see what happens and re gloating comms I've seen a similar number of English posters who have been as guilty on this one. If we beat Aus it will be a great result.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (June 26, 2012, 10:02 GMT)

@JG, plenty in the parallel threads. And not just from the usual suspects. It seems that this series is hardly worth Australia's time and effort because it will be too easy :-). It is going to be interesting because having told us about the amazing new crop of young fast bowlers for the last year, the attack is going to rest on a bowler who I had thought was retired (honest!!) and another who gives a whole new meaning to "paintspray-like control". Brett Lee is going to be an interesting one to watch because he has never been especially successful in England (in the 2005 Ashes he took a lot of wickets, but at well over 40 each). It looks like the Australians are going for pace, rather than the West Indian mantra of "quality pace": badly directed fast bowling just flies to the boundary faster. It will be interesting to see if Brett Lee, Mitch Johnson, Cummins and the like will be able to deliver quality pace. I am also very interested to see the badly mauled Doherty in action again.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (June 26, 2012, 8:48 GMT)

@Karen, exactly! DRS was not conclusive. There was no obvious error, so the decision stood. DRS worked perfectly, as it does when there is a review and the ball is just clipping leg stump... the decision remains "umpire's call", as it should be.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (June 26, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

Easy to check the Hales lbw. Here is the 1st over from Rampaul: 0.1 Rampaul to Kieswetter, 1 wide, slides down the leg side and makes a dent in the extras column straight up; 0.1 Rampaul to Kieswetter, no run, good length and in line with off stump this time, shows it the full face of the bat; 0.2 Rampaul to Kieswetter, no run, length ball, on the stumps, forward defensive ... Rampaul thinks it was pad first. It might have been but height was also a question; 0.3 Rampaul to Kieswetter, 1 run, length and Kieswetter tries to launch this one out of the park, the ball instead looping just over mid-on running back; First look at Hales for the Windies today; 0.4 Rampaul to Hales, 1 run, straight, good length, nudged wide of mid-on; 0.5 Rampaul to Kieswetter, 1 run, length delivery, swivel pulled to midwicket - they only get one, even though Chris Gayle slips over whilst backing up; 0.6 Rampaul to Hales, 1 run, on the stumps, ticked into the leg side. Don't see too many Hales lbws there.

Posted by JG2704 on (June 26, 2012, 8:25 GMT)

@CS - Don't actually see any Aus gloating comms on this thread apart from the usual suspect and does anyone still take him seriously ?

Posted by jmcilhinney on (June 26, 2012, 3:50 GMT)

@Karen Fabien on (June 25 2012, 16:19 PM GMT), you are mistaken. Hales faced two balls in Rampaul's first over and took a single off each of them. You're thinking of Kieswetter, who was out a few balls later anyway, so it made basically no difference. Nice try but you might want to get your facts straight next time.

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