Chris Gayle: led from the front with the bat
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Owais Shah reignited his England one-day career with a classy unbeaten 55, bringing up his half-century from just 30 deliveries, as England squared the two-match Twenty20 series with a hard-earned five-wicket victory at The Oval. It was a consummate performance from England, who learned their lessons well after a heavy beating in the first match, and kept their nerve - both with the ball as Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels teed off, and later with the bat after slumping to 68 for 4 in the ninth over.
West Indies won the toss and chose to bat first on the same strip of turf on which they had scythed an imposing 208 for 7 in Thursday's opening fixture. They produced another power-packed performance in a form of the game they have taken to like ducks on the square at New Road, but crucially, this innings took a little bit longer to reach top speed, then petered out in the final overs as the momentum returned to England's bowlers.
Needing 170 for victory, England began their reply briskly. Alastair Cook slotted the last two balls of Dwayne Smith's first over through the covers for four, while Matt Prior at the other end took the long handle to Ravi Rampaul, almost decapitating the square-leg umpire, Ian Gould, with the second of his two fours in three balls. But the introduction of Daren Powell in the third over changed the tempo of the innings. Touching 90mph with each delivery, he found the edge of Cook's bat before plucking out his off stump in arguably his most hostile over of the tour.
Prior kept on swinging, making room against Rampaul to clobber him twice through the covers. But Rampaul kept his nerve and his line, and when Prior sized up his third boundary of the over, he lost his leg stump to a wild heave. Kevin Pietersen emerged to a massive ovation from a merry crowd, but his fellow South African import, Jonathan Trott, was soon heading off in the other direction, looping a gloved hook off Rampaul into Ramdin's hands behind the stumps.
England brought up their fifty at the end of the sixth over, as Paul Collingwood thumped Ramdin through midwicket, and on that cue Pietersen decided to up the ante. He pulled Powell twice through the leg-side for four, but neither shot was quite timed to perfection - a sign perhaps that the pitch wasn't quite as true as it had been on Thursday. Either way, after trading frustrated singles for an over-and-a-half, Pietersen chipped a tame return catch to a delighted Darren Sammy, who danced a jig of delight as West Indies resumed the upper hand.
That, however, brought Shah to the crease, and he was gifted a first-ball boundary when Austin Richards fumbled horribly at third man. At the other end, Collingwood had a hairy couple of balls when he was first caught-behind off a no-ball beamer, then prodded uncertainly in the air and away through the covers, but with a run-rate still at a manageable nine an over, England were still content to deal in ones and twos.
After four overs of such measured tactics, Collingwood signalled the charge by launching Samuels over long-on for six, but with his dander up, he was beaten by a quicker delivery next ball, and Ramdin - who had been so convinced of a caught-behind in the previous over he forgot to pull off the stumping - this time made no mistake in whipping the bails off. It looked like being a terminal blow as Shah and Mascarenhas struggled to pick up their tempo as Powell came back to complete a fine spell.
Powell's last ball, however, was loose and Mascarenhas latched onto it for a welcome boundary, and suddenly England were up and running again. Shah creamed Samuels for 16 in an over, including three fours of varying subtlety, and suddenly the requirement had plummeted to a manageable 40 from 25. That became 24 from 18 as Smith lost his line horribly, allowing Shah to belt a full-toss through the covers and tickle a leg-stump delivery off the pads in an over that culminated in five costly wides down the leg side.
Shah and Mascarenhas never looked back after that. Another pulled four brought the requirement down to nearly a run a ball, and the pair were able to trade in singles, even as Gayle brought his ultra-slow spin into play for a nervy final over. However, a missed swipe down the leg-side gave England victory with two balls to spare.
It was a harsh way to finish for Gayle, who had led from the front in his most forceful innings of the tour. Unfortunately he lacked the support of Devon Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, both of whom had been rested after their heroics on Thursday. Instead Gayle had blazed to 33 from 17 balls before his new partner Simmons had managed to squeeze his first run, and Richards was equally cagey before being pinned lbw by Stuart Broad for 10 - via a suspected inside edge.
From that moment on, however, West Indies were back to their unfettered best. Samuels was the next in line, and he picked up in the vein he left off on Thursday night, clubbing his first delivery from Broad clean into the pavilion, before launching Michael Yardy onto the roof of the press box.
Gayle by this time had reached his half-century from 29 deliveries - again with a six, this time off a Dimitri Mascarenhas slower ball - but it was the lack of pace that eventually made the breakthrough. Collingwood brought himself into the attack and struck with his fourth delivery, as Gayle heaved manically and Broad at short third man trotted in to take a steepling top-edge.
Samuels was utterly unfazed by the demise of his skipper, back-cutting Collingwood's next ball for four, before launching Mascarenhas off the back foot for the third six of his innings. But he too succumbed to the slower ball, mowing a slog-sweep into the hands of a back-pedalling Mascarenhas just inside the long-on rope. After that, West Indies' momentum vanished, with just 31 runs coming from the last five overs of the innings. It ultimately proved to be the difference between the sides.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo