Smiths put the smile back on West Indies' faces
West Indies 208 for 7 (Devon Smith 61, Samuels 51, Chanderpaul 41) beat England 193 for 7 (Collingwood 79, Dwayne Smith 3-24) by 15 runs
Two Smiths - Devon the batsman and Dwayne the bowler - finally gave the tourists something to smile about, even if the Man-of-the-Match award went to Paul Collingwood for his 79 in a losing cause. It underlined the farce of allowing TV viewers from one country to vote by text for the award.
Winning the toss and batting on a perfect pitch, West Indies smashed 208 for 7 thanks to a blistering 61 from 34 balls from Devon Smith and a 26-ball half-century from Marlon Samuels that included one of the biggest hits ever seen at The Oval. And with the ball they didn't allow England to move out of second gear until it was too late - Dwayne Smith reducing the tempo to perfection with 3 for 24 . It was hard to believe that England were the side with heaps of Twenty20 know-how and West Indies were the novices.
England were behind the eight-ball at the halftime pause-for-breath. Poor bowling had let West Indies off the leash and allowed them to climb, for once, into the box seat, and they took full advantage. England started too slowly but Twenty20 is like a one-lap Formula One race - get behind and there's no time to catch up.
There were moments of excitement for the 23,000 capacity crowd as the evening gloom descended. Matt Prior briefly looked dangerous, but their best hope was snuffed out when Kevin Pietersen was well beaten by a throw from third man to what appeared the safe non-striker's end.
Paul Collingwood, in his first match as captain, kept the flame flickering and the PA pumping with some crisp straight hitting, smacking two sixes and a four off Samuels and then a six and a four off the next over from Darren Sammy. Even after that onslaught England needed 45 off 18 balls, and some late biffing did little other than make the result appear much tighter than it was.
West Indies' innings had all started so quietly. A distracted Chris Gayle, for whom Twenty20 cricket might have been designed, came and went tamely, and it was down to a second-wicket stand of 84 in just under nine overs between Devon Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to kick-start things.
While Smith started like a man with a train to catch, slashing four fours and a six off his first half-dozen balls, Chanderpaul looked briefly as if he was at the wrong party before using the pace of the opening bowlers to swish and flick boundaries behind square, including four in five balls off the wayward James Anderson. That was very much the pattern while the quicks were on - nudges, flicks and nurdles.
Collingwood took a while to twig that the secret of this format is to take all the pace off the ball. The crowd already knew that, as shown by the boos that greeted the announcement that Monty Panesar had been left out. Gayle watched scowling from the dugout and took note.
Chanderpaul was well caught by an in-rushing Alastair Cook at deep midwicket, but Smith cracked on, hitting a second six before being well caught, inevitably in the deep, by Yardy. Yardy then fired a deliberate leg-side wide as Dwayne Bravo gave him the charge and Matt Prior did the rest.
But England's bowlers gifted too much width and too many extras, and an embarrassed Collingwood showed his inexperience by giving away a no-ball after positioning too few fielders inside the circle. As if his start couldn't get worse, he brought himself on to bowl and was promptly thumped for two straight sixes.
Samuels and Ramdin thrashed whatever came their way towards the end in a breezy stand of 59 in 4.1 overs, and even Gayle, still in his pads, managed a grin at a particularly deft reverse tickle from Ramdin.
More wickets fell and boundaries came in a frenetic final flurry - the most memorable moment when Samuels brought up his fifty with a back-foot slash over long-off - but England's horse had by then bolted.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo