If the first ODI was a boxing match, England would have scored a TKO in the final round. The result was pretty much as expected, with a few notable displays in England’s largely workaday performance, but West Indies will have been encouraged by pretty much going the distance. A 45-run defeat was certainly not the mismatched mauling some may have feared.
Shannon Gabriel’s new-ball spell had England in trouble, while Ashley Nurse did a decent containing job in the middle overs; then with the bat, Jason Mohammed led the resistance after West Indies looked to be in trouble at 39 for 3. Mohammed and Jonathan Carter combined composure with power – particularly in the case of the latter – and perhaps only the difficulty of chasing on a slow surface undermined them towards the end.
Stuart Law, West Indies’ new coach, will surely feel he has some ingredients to work with as he tries to marshal a rise from No. 9 in the rankings and secure automatic World Cup qualification. Narrow defeats are not worth any more ranking points than heavy ones, however, and immediate improvement could be required as the tourists warm to the conditions and the task at hand.
England may not have blasted away their opponent in the opening rounds but they did show some improved ringcraft. Eoin Morgan’s hundred showed the savvy that has not always been so apparent in the hard-hitting approach favoured by this side; Ben Stokes, too, applied himself to the situation and England were therefore able to grind their way to the brink of 300 without overreaching. A more ruthless performance with the ball will be on Morgan’s tick list for the rematch.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies: LLLTW
In the spotlight
Jason Mohammed had only played two ODIs for his country – spread over four years and yielding six runs – before making his maiden half-century for West Indies in Antigua. After a strong Regional Super 50 for Trinidad, in which he was fifth on the run-scorers’ charts, Mohammed has been preferred in the middle order to the younger, more dynamic Rovman Powell. He showed the value of his experience in the first match, during partnerships of 69 and 82 with Shai Hope and Carter respectively, and almost single-handedly milked Moeen Ali’s offspin, scoring 30 of the 37 Moeen conceded to keep West Indies in the hunt. At 30, now is his chance to demand a run in the side.
It might be counterintuitive to suggest that one of the three men who passed 50 for England on Friday is under pressure – but that is the case for Sam Billings, who is attempting to hold on to his billeting as a makeshift opener while Alex Hales recovers from a hand injury. Billings has two fifties in three ODI outings at the top of the order but the sense here was of an opportunity missed after he had made it through the tricky initial stages against the new ball. Morgan has described Hales as a “very formidable player in our side” and Billings may need to produce something spectacular if he is not to drop straight back into England’s very competitive pack of white-ball reserve batsmen.
The XI West Indies selected in the first ODI probably did enough to warrant another outing together. Rovman Powell offers another all-round option, while Alzarri Joseph offers extra pace with the ball.
West Indies (probable) 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Jonathan Carter, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Carlos Brathwaite, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Ashley Nurse, 11 Shannon Gabriel
England are also likely to stick with the same side, although Hales could return at Billings’ expense if passed fit. The teams did not train on Saturday but Jake Ball is not thought ready to play after injuring his knee in a warm-up match.
England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Sam Billings, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Steven Finn.
Pitch and conditions
The same pitch is to be used for the second ODI, which could make run-scoring even more of a struggle. Rainfall on Friday had contributed to a slightly damp surface in the morning but it quickly dried out and is likely to become more and more receptive to spin. There is again a forecast for early showers on Sunday but the day should otherwise be clear.
Stats and trivia
- England now lead West Indies 43-42 on head-to-head results in ODIs – the first time they have done so since winning their very first encounter in 1973. England have won ten of the last 11 against West Indies.
- The team West Indies played in the first ODI had 169 caps between them – fewer than Morgan, who has played 174 times for Ireland and England.
- Steven Finn needs two more wickets to reach 100; if he gets there in this series, he will be the third-fastest to do so for England. (EspnCricinfo)