England's top-order mindset needs a rethink
Eoin Morgan awoke to headlines that it was time for him to deliver. At least he did if it is his habit of scouring the English papers online when he is on tour. He did deliver, too, with 71 from 36 balls, which would win most games, but England still fell 15 runs short. It felt like a lot more. Something was amiss.
England needed 180 to win, but as their captain, Stuart Broad observed, the pitch was a belter and the ground was "postage stamp." On the postage stamp ground, Morgan failed honourably with an attempted special delivery. The rest of England's batsmen barely got out of the sorting office, other than Alex Hales and even he was stamped second class, tiring as his innings progressed.
England were up against it from the outset, 0 for 2 after three balls, Craig Kieswetter and Luke Wright both falling to Ravi Rampaul for ducks, Kieswetter to a badly-executed pull against the second ball he faced, Wright steering a catch to slip as he tried to leave a delivery.
Kieswetter persistently looks fretful in the first few balls, as if uncertain how to go about building a first over, which is not a great career move for an opening batsman. As for Wright, not too many batsmen in Twenty20 are caught at slip trying to leave one.
England talk constantly about the need not to lose wickets in the early overs, which might be statistically proven to be an advantage, but it seems to be confusing Kieswetter and Wright, who only seemed suited to a role in the top three if they are allowed licence to attack. Neither would claim to be technically watertight, both need to be encouraged to go big.
England, with this emphasis on not losing early wickets, would have been better picking Alastair Cook, who disproved the notion that he could not play ODIs and would probably make a decent fist of T20 too. If that meant omitting Kieswetter, England could have always entrusted the gloves to Jonny Bairstow.
On this occasion, though, Bairstow's innings was also misconceived. He had been promoted to No 4 to try to allow Morgan to wreak havoc in the closing overs when the field would be more defensive. It was a plan that had a logic to it.
Samuel Badree, a legspinner who opens the bowling for Trinidad and Tobago, but whose international experience was limited to two T20s against New Zealand in Florida, was the vulnerable player who England had to target. But Badree had more confidence than England and, after opening the bowling, he got away with four overs for 20.
With advice about not losing early wickets also ringing in his ears, Bairstow limped to 18 from 29 balls, his ebullience for once lacking. In 20 balls against West Indies' spinners, he made nine runs and a leg bye. His sweeps malfunctioned, his attempted cuts died and when he raced down the pitch to Badree he ended up kicking it away.
The first time he went for broke, he got out. He fell at long-off, trying to lift Chris Gayle down the ground and succumbing to an excellent catch running around the boundary by Kieron Pollard, England were 55 for 3 at halfway, still 125 short. That was not as much a platform as a siding.
West Indies bowled 15 overs of spin, pricking England's frailties, aware that their collapse to 80 all out against India would be bound to have left scars. But how much of it was truly high-class spin? Sunil Narine's talent is unquestionable, but since May he now has one wicket against England for 232. Badree got away with it because England were more worried than he was, Gayle and Marlon Samuels are part-time spinners and on a small ground they were risky options.
This felt like an innings overly ruled by endless advice about keeping wickets in hand, and it felt like that particularly when Bairstow was at the crease. Nobody doubts that the advice is generally sound, but England batted themselves into a position where they could not win the match, not even with Morgan's heroics.
If Hales was seeking to bat through - and, as he tired as his innings progressed and became less effective as a result, even that approach was questionable - then better than run-a-ball innings were essential at the other end.
Hales was dismissed for 68 from 51 balls, stumped by Dinesh Ramdin as he failed in what had become an onerous task to hit the last three balls for six. He spoke about what a good influence Morgan was at the crease, encouraging him to have fun in trying to win a match for England from a virtually impossible position.
Jos Buttler, presented as a potentially destructive No. 6, got one ball. Samit Patel, an experienced finisher, never got in. Graeme Swann is as dangerous a tail-ender as there is in the tournament and perhaps this was a night when from 0 for 2 England were naturally going to have to bat deep.
The danger for England is that Morgan's brilliant knock will persuade them they got close. It never felt like that. When Morgan plays with such wonderful abandon, England should win more often than not. This England run chase was not the story of Morgan's brilliance, it was the story of a very English type of failure.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo