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West Indies 104 for 1 (King 52*) beat England 103 (Holder 4-7) by nine wickets
Someone at the ECB needs to have an urgent word about that red-ball "reset"… because on this evidence, they've only gone and restored the factory settings on their world-beating white-ball side.
Barely a week after the Test team lost ten wickets for 56 runs to sign off from the Ashes with a whimper, Eoin Morgan's T20I men latched onto the theme of decay and futility with their own apology of a performance at Kensington Oval.
From a nadir of 49 for 7, England just about cadged a triple-figure total, but their eventual 103 was still their fourth-lowest in the format, and all too easily picked off by an opposition that had themselves been routed for 55 in their most recent meeting, at the T20 World Cup in November.
Victory came by nine wickets with 17 balls to spare, with Brandon King's 47-ball fifty putting the seal on a stunning morale boost for a home team that had been facing its own reckoning after losing an ODI series to Ireland only last week.
The hero, not for the first time in matches against England at Bridgetown, was the former Test captain Jason Holder, who slammed a remarkable double-century when West Indies crushed England in the first Test on their 2019 tour, and served early notice this time too with a career-best 4 for 7 in 3.4 overs, including a Powerplay display in which England could scarcely lay a bat on his line and high-kicking length.
As the lights kicked in, so did West Indies' openers. It took until the ninth over for Adil Rashid to break through with a legbreak that ripped past Shai Hope's outside edge, but by that stage he and King had knocked off 52 runs, exactly half of the requirement. There was no looking back from there.
Powerplay power failure
The high point of England's Powerplay came from the fifth ball of Sheldon Cottrell's first over. After taking four balls to gauge the pace of a high-kicking surface, Jason Roy galloped down the pitch to slam a half-tracker through midwicket for six, only for Cottrell to respond one ball later by plucking out Roy's middle stump with a fuller-length inswinger.
That set the tone for a startling first six overs, in which a succession of England batters were lined up for the sucker punch - unable to nudge the singles to defer their impending fate, and all too complicit in their own demises as Cottrell and Holder piled in on an impeccable line and length.
Tom Banton, preferred to the former Barbados resident Phil Salt at the top of the order, clouted his third ball from Holder through the line for four before nicking his next to Nicholas Pooran at a solitary wide slip, whereupon Moeen Ali made it more wickets than scoring shots by gliding an open-faced drive to backward point, to leave England 10 for 3 after 12 balls.
Though Holder missed out on the hat-trick, that score had not progressed by the end of his next over, after back-to-back maidens including a reprieve for Morgan after an erroneous caught-behind. James Vince then clattered 14 runs in the space of five balls, including a top-edged pull for six over fine leg, before following Roy's lead by making it six and out, and leathering a half-tracker from Cottrell straight to short cover. England were in the soup at 24 for 4.
After 33 balls, England finally found their first single of the match - a stat that rather put into context West Indies' apparent obsession with boundaries over strike rotation. But it wasn't exactly a moment of triumph, as Morgan edged inches past slip to escape a nine-ball duck.
Scrounge a score, any score
It would get oh-so-much worse for England before the innings started to get better. After an incredible journey, spanning a nine-hour drive down Australia's East Coast and 15,000km of flying across the Pacific and North America, what was an extra ten yards to Sam Billings? On 2, he galloped to the pitch of the spinner Akeal Hosein, was beaten by the turn and bounce, and carried on galloping straight back to the pavilion after being comprehensively stumped.
England did at least make it to the drinks break without further damage, as Morgan set himself for survival, and Liam Dawson - playing his first England match since 2018 - attempted to find his bearings in a chaotic situation. Suffice to say, he failed. One ball after the resumption, he took off for a non-existent single to cover, slipped as Morgan sent him back, and wasn't in the frame as Kieron Pollard's shy rolled in.
One over later, his eye seemingly in, Morgan slammed Romario Shepherd up and over extra cover for England's third six of the innings … only to then become their third six-and-out of the innings too, as Shepherd slipped in a well-pitched offcutter, and Pollard in the covers made no mistake.
At least Chris Jordan broke the spell, serving up a canny display of long-handling on his return to his native island. His three sixes in as many overs included a monster off Shepherd that rebounded off the scoreboard, but his quest for a fourth ended in the hands of Cottrell to leave England on a still-sickly 85 for 8. And hard though Rashid tried as he chivvied England into triple figures, even reaching double-figures for the first time in his 13-year T20I career, Holder returned with two in two to strut off his home ground with the stunning figures of 4 for 7.
No messing from the outset
England needed wickets to have any hope of staying in touch, but that slight hint of desperation played into the hands of West Indies' openers, Hope and King, who found the singles from the outset that had eluded their opponents, as well as a boundary an over in the first four to pick off a quarter of the requirement almost before England were able to react.
At least Dawson slotted into the faultlessly professional standards that England have left on ice for the past three years. He was able to exploit the overspin on offer to twirl straight through his four overs for 12 runs, without conceding a single boundary.
The quicks, however, skidded all too comfortably onto the bat, as Pollard had hoped they might after choosing to chase under the lights, and Pooran's appearance at No.3 did little to encourage England that a Dubai-style collapse was forthcoming. A run-a-ball denouement was all that West Indies needed. No panic, no rush, just a comfortable countdown to a preordained win.
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