Kevin Pietersen got a rough decision but could not impose himself
© Getty Images|
England's bid to regain momentum after last week's Test series defeat hit the buffers as they were routed by six wickets with two overs to spare in what is rapidly becoming their least favourite form of the game. In a match that evoked memories of their Stanford stuffing in Antigua in November, England were bowled out for 121 in 19.1 overs, with Sulieman Benn once again picking up three wickets in an exemplary spell, before Ramnaresh Sarwan guided their run-chase in front of a euphoric crowd with 59 from 46 balls.
England never really came close to having any momentum. Their most impressive performer was their debutant wicketkeeper, Worcestershire's Steven Davies, who was a surprise selection ahead of Matt Prior, but acquitted himself well with a healthy 27 from 21 balls. But when he stepped across his stumps to be bowled by the local hero, Dwayne Bravo, England's innings shuddered. Having at one stage been 55 for 1 after seven overs, they lost their remaining nine wickets for 66 in 12.1.
Kevin Pietersen, whose distaste for slow and low pitches is well known, may have been unfortunate with an lbw decision that would have missed leg stump, but he had struggled to assert himself during a fitful 12 from 16 balls with Darren Sammy keeping his expansive strokeplay under wraps with a tight wicket-to-wicket line. Owais Shah couldn't lift the tempo either, and with Benn and Bravo cutting down the boundary options, he gave himself room and lofted a quicker, flatter delivery straight into the hands of Kieron Pollard on the long-on boundary.
With the big-hitters gone and the recalled captain, Andrew Strauss, still adjusting to the pace of the shorter game, the onus was on Paul Collingwood to find the boundary. He did so with the final delivery of Bravo's spell, a rank leg-side full-toss that he helped over the ropes, but Sammy scuppered him with a cunning slower ball that was launched high into the sky at midwicket, and straight down the throat of Lendl Simmons, ten yards in from the rope.
Then, before the dangerous Dimitri Mascarenhas could unfurl his full repertoire, he was involved in a disastrous mix-up with his captain, and run out for a third-ball duck, as he pushed for a run into the off side, hesitated for a fatal instant, and was easily beaten as the throw came back into the bowler, Sammy. Then Strauss, having just struck two fours in three balls off Kieron Pollard, was also nailed by arguably the most outstanding piece of fielding of the whole tour. Shivnarine Chanderpaul fielded a scudding on-drive at his bootlaces and unleashed a flat throw to the bowler's end, for Sammy to scoop low and take off the bails in one motion.
At 114 for 7, England were in freefall. Before the next over was out, Sarwan produced his own moment of brilliance, pinging down the stumps with a direct hit from cover to send Gareth Batty back for 4, before Benn bowled Amjad Khan with the last ball of his spell. One delivery later, Broad drove uppishly against Fidel Edwards, and Benn in the covers put his personal seal on a fine team performance.
England took the field needing to be on top of their game from the very first delivery. Instead James Anderson launched their reply with a leg-side wide, and followed up with two more in the same over before Andre Fletcher swiped his final ball through the leg side for four. Fletcher didn't last much longer, as he skied a Stuart Broad cutter to deep midwicket, but Chanderpaul emerged at No. 3 with his dour Test persona left back in the dressing-room, as he crashed his first ball superbly through the covers for four.
At the other end, Sarwan hurtled back into the fray after his triumphant Test series. Amjad's first two deliveries in limited-overs internationals were both crunched through the covers, and though Sarwan required treatment after inside-edging an attempted drive onto his knee, he soon showed he was back up and running by thumping the first ball of Anderson's second over (and spell) into the long-off stands for the first six of the match.
Anderson did respond with the wicket of Chanderpaul, caught at point off a rising delivery for 12, but at 45 for 2 after five overs, the back of the run chase had already been broken. With barely five runs an over required for the remainder of the innings, West Indies could afford to settle into a more relaxed gameplan as the slower bowlers entered the attack. Sarwan smacked Gareth Batty over midwicket for his second six, just to keep his innings ticking along, but on 38 he was horribly dropped by Amjad as he spooned a drive off Mascarenhas to mid-off.
That was the end of England's faint hopes. Sarwan brought up his fifty from 40 balls with an open-faced drive through point off Broad, then celebrated with two fours in two balls - a slog through third man and a drive through the covers that left the bowler less than impressed with the application of his fielders. Broad's ire was further stoked when a bouncer in the same over was called wide, although Sarwan himself couldn't hang around to capitalise, as he missed a slog at Amjad and was bowled for 59 with 16 still needed for victory.
Sarwan's departure did at least mean that the Trini faithful were able to watch their favourite son, Bravo, return to the fray, and he delighted his fans by flicking Amjad off the pads for four. But then, with a boundary needed to seal the match, Bravo picked the wrong ball and holed out to Pietersen at square leg to cause a momentary deflation around the ground. It didn't last, however. Pollard slapped his first and only ball over midwicket to seal the contest, and reconfirm West Indies' renaissance. For England, their search for victory goes on. Ever since that Stanford match in November, they've lost the art of winning.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo